Physical activity must be promoted more in health care settings

More attention is needed to the benefits that increasing physical activity in health care settings has for the prevention and management of health problems, especially in the case of chronic conditions. In the WHO European Region alone, one million deaths per year (about 10 % of the total) are estimated to be attributable to physical inactivity. Health care solutions include education reform and active workplace support for health care professionals; guided prescriptions of physical activity for patients, and the design of health care facilities to have both indoor and outdoor healing environments. These were among the conclusions drawn at the 10th Annual Meeting and 5th Conference of HEPA Europe, the European Network for the promotion of Health-Enhancing Physical Activity, held in Zurich, Switzerland, from 27–29 August 2014. The event was hosted by the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine of the University of Zurich, with support from the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health, and was attended by over 220 participants from the European region, as well as North America, Japan and Australia.

This HEPA Europe event featured best practices, research and policies under the theme of “Physical activity promotion in health care settings”. Keynote presentations emphasized the importance of physical activity for patients’ healing and coping abilities; current barriers to increased physical activity in health care settings; and promising interventions for sustaining success, such as providing attractive walking circuits for patients and the use of pedometers. A summary of state-of–the-art knowledge on physical activity and health was shared, along with cutting-edge research on the relationship between genetics and physical activity behaviours.

Sessions on current topics in research included active transport health outcomes; socio-economic determinates of physical activity and sedentary behaviours; medical students’ perception of the health risks of physical inactivity; exercise programs for fall prevention; and workplace interventions to reduce sitting time.

Major policy developments presented for discussion were the adoption of a Council Recommendation on Health Enhancing Physical Activity by the Council of the European Union and the on-going work of the WHO European Region towards a European Strategy on Physical Activity.