Despite the very strong evidence of health benefits, two thirds of Irish adults do not meet the national physical activity guidelines and more than one in ten adults are classified as sedentary. Physical activity report cards show that Ireland scores low on physical activity for children and youths.
Physical activity is essential for healthy growth and development of children and also healthy ageing of older adults. With Ireland’s ageing population and the rise in the prevalence of non-communicable diseases, the need to focus on prevention strategies has never been more pressing.
As a healthcare organisation representing thousands of doctors on the frontline of health services, we represent a patient-focused, independent voice in the national debate around the importance of physical activity.
Members of the new RCPI Policy Group on Physical Activity were doctors and allied health professionals working in the Irish health system, many of whom were seeing increasing numbers of patients presenting with illnesses and injuries caused or exacerbated by sedentary behaviour.
Our doctors wanted to take action to prevent and reduce ill-health caused by sedentary behaviour by reviewing the latest evidence and proposing practical ways to increase physical activity.
The RCPI Policy Group on Physical Activity was established in November 2015 and was co-chaired by Dr Peter Wright and Prof Seán Gaine.
Physical Activity really is a wonder drug. The benefits are far reaching, with significant impacts across physical and mental conditions. It can reduce the risk of developing heart diseases, stroke, diabetes and some cancers such as colon and breast cancer. It can reduce the risk of depression and dementia by up to 30%.
Prof Sean GaineCo-chair, Policy Group on Physical Activity
Only 19% of primary and 12% of post-primary school children receive the daily amount of physical education recommended by the Department of Health and Children. More than one in five Irish adults report being inactive.
A national action plan to increase physical activity levels to a minimum recommended level of 10% of the population of Ireland could result in economic savings of €67.5 - €135 million annually.
The Department of Health and Children recommends that all children and young people should be active, at a moderate to vigorous level, for at least 60 minutes every day. This should include muscle-strengthening, flexibility and bone-strengthening exercises three times a week. The guidelines for adults recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate activity on five days a week (or 150 minutes a week).
We want to see more people meeting those guidelines, and we want physicians and other health professionals to play an active role in increasing national physical activity levels. To achieve this, we will:
In October 2017 the Minister for Health Promotion, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy launched our report A prescription for a wonder drug which calls on doctors and other healthcare professionals to start proactively informing their patients on the benefits of physical activity and advising them on increasing their levels of physical activity.
Doctors and other healthcare professionals
Read more about these recommendations and the scientific evidence behind them in the reports below.
The recommendations of this report fully support the implementation of the National Physical Activity Action Plan launched earlier this year as part of the Healthy Ireland Initiative. It contains many relevant and potentially powerful actions to increase physical activity across the population. The National Physical Activity Action should be implemented promptly and in full. We must, as healthcare providers, lead the change and get people more active. It is time to recognise the health benefits of physical activity and to make changes, big or small, to incorporate it into all our lives.
Dr Peter WrightCo-chair, Policy Group on Physical Activity
* co-opted members
|Dr Peter Wright (Co-Chair)||Director of Public Health, HSE|
|Prof Sean Gaine (Co-Chair)||Consultant Respiratory Physician, Mater Misericordiae University Hospital|
|Dr Pádraig Sheeran||Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine, RCPI/RCSI|
|Dr Emer O‘Connell||Faculty of Public Health Medicine, RCPI|
|Dr Robert Ryan||Faculty of Occupational Medicine, RCPI|
|Prof Edna Roche||Faculty of Paediatrics, RCPI|
|Dr Brendan O’Brien||Irish College of General Practitioners|
|Ms Amy Mulkerns||Irish Thoracic Society|
|Dr Francis Finucane||Irish Endocrine Society|
|Prof Juliette Hussey||Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists|
|Dr Ciaran Corcoran||College of Psychiatrists of Ireland|
|Dr Morgan Crowe||National Clinical Programme for Older People|
|Mr Donal Buggy||Irish Cancer Society|
|Dr Vincent Maher||Irish Cardiac Society|
|Prof Michael Molloy||Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine, RCPI/RCSI *|
|Dr Niamh Daly||Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists|
|Dr Fiona Cianci||SpR in Public Health Medicine *|
For information on our policy work on physical activity contact: