This week I watched the 2 part BBC documentary “The doctor who gave up drugs”.
It’s still available for 2 weeks on BBC iPlayer if you want to watch it.
Dr Chris van Tulleken explored how as a nation we may be taking too many drugs. His argument was based on the fact that although many drugs do good as in they save and sustain life, they can also do harm. He argues that drug side affects can cause more harmful problems, cause super resistant viruses and in some cases, particularly pain killers, they just don’t work.
Dr Chris also interviewed Professor Muir Gray - Chief Knowledge Officer for Department of Health. Professor Gray talked about how the NHS has 40,000 doctors who have 10 minute appointments to solve patient problems along with patient expectation that the solution to their sickness often comes in a prescription.
He said the pressure on GP’s to dish out prescriptions is tremendous;
“patients just want a quick fix - people are busy and they prefer to pop a pill than motivate themselves to make lifestyle changes”
He went on to say ”we need a revolution; to change the way we think, and change the way we do things” explaining that in his opinion many people are suffering with the problem of the modern environment; suffering from ‘walking deficiency syndrome’, or ‘hyper-sitting syndrome’.
He proposed that there is a simple way to treat these conditions caused by modern life:
by giving people support for exercise - not just a bit of info on a bit of paper.
Giving people support can be as effective or more effective than medication. He even noted a report by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges that he’d never thought he’d see in his lifetime “Exercise: the miracle cure…”
Later in the programme Dr Chris proposed a simple solution for a group of patients who were at risk - not just to reduce their risk of heart attack or stroke, but also improve; mood, reduce risk of all sorts of cancers, providing essentially a miracle cure free from negative side effects. In fact - the side effects of this treatment not only prevents illnesses and reduces risk of a heart attacks or strokes, it can also improve our mental, and emotional health too.
His proposition ?
going for a brisk walk 5 x 30 mins a week!
The groups fears included lack of commitment, lack of motivation and fitting all that into a busy lifestyle. Understandably, each of these are real reasons for not participating in regular physical activity.
But as a simple, cheap and almost too good to be true solution to managing and preventing ill health in exercise, - brisk walking may well be a good place to start a health revolution!
One of the patients on the film recognised that whilst we know we can go for a walk, we don’t and because no one makes us do it we sit in the chair instead…
Dr Chris’s objective is to get people off drugs… but whilst exploring this he mentioned that “exercise is a pain killer for almost everything" - and exercise is risk free! He then said “what we need is someone to hold our hand, just like Doctors appointments and nurses and pharmacists do when we start a course of prescription medication”.
This reminded of the Samuel Johnson quote;
"People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed"
If we think of health as a single continuum - it might have sickness at one end and good health and fitness at the other. There is obviously much sickness that we can't control or that no amount of fitness or intentionality can help with. But the nearer to the fitness end of the continuum we are, the stronger our bodies will be at preventing, managing and recovering from sickness and disease.
I am honoured to have been asked to be a panel representative as part of the diocese roadshow next week. The topic under discussion is exploring how faith and health are connected and I've been asked because our Intentional Health programme helps volunteers from the local church do some of what Professor Muir suggests: change the way we think; "providing support for exercise - not just a bit of info on a bit of paper".
Intentional Health helps anyone begin to understand what the government guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise might actually look and feel like for them, and to begin to follow some of Dr Chris advice: walking alongside, providing encouragement and literally or metaphorically holding people’s hand, with support and reminders to keep “physical activities appointments like doctors appointments"
What a fantastic opportunity for the local church to; help provide a miracle cure in their community, support health practitioners, and love thy neighbour!
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