Impact of physical activity and diet on health - Health Contents


Diet, obesity, and physical activity all have important impacts on health. For too long however, physical activity has been seen merely in the light of its benefits in tackling obesity. A core message from this inquiry is the compelling evidence that physical activity in its own right has huge health benefits totally independent of a person's weight. The importance of this—regardless of weight, age, gender or other factors—needs to be clearly communicated.

Interventions focused on encouraging individuals to change their behaviour with regard to diet and physical activity need to be underpinned by broader, population-level measures. Whilst both are important, population-level interventions have the advantage of impacting on far greater numbers than could ever benefit from individual interventions. We recommend that the next Government prioritises prevention, health promotion and early intervention to tackle the health inequalities and avoidable harm resulting from poor diet and physical inactivity. Tackling these problems will require action at all levels and must also be core business for the NHS and local authorities.

The Committee regards it as inexplicable and unacceptable that the NHS is now spending more on bariatric surgery for obesity than on a national roll-out of intensive lifestyle intervention programmes that were first shown to cut obesity and prevent diabetes over a decade ago. All tiers of weight management services should be universally available and individual clinicians should use every opportunity to help their patients to recognise and address the problems caused by obesity and poor diet, and to promote the benefits of physical activity.

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Prepared 25 March 2015