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Future medics 'not taught about exercise pros'

Medical students are “not taught activity benefits” BBC News has reported, based on a survey checking how many UK medical schools provided their students with information on the health benefits of physical activity.

This led The Daily Telegraph to claim “Doctors are failing to advise patients on the benefits of exercise because its teaching is ‘sparse or non-existent’ in medical schools”.

The survey assessed the provision of physical activity teaching in the curricula of all UK medical schools. The survey results uncovered what the authors call “alarming findings”, showing that there is widespread omission of basic teaching elements, such as the guidelines of the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) on physical activity. The survey found that just under half of the schools (44%) did not teach the CMO guidelines to their students.

The current study follows an earlier article by two of the same authors, in which they presented the exercise recommendations given by 39 national guidelines. The authors argued that medical professionals have a duty of care to promote exercise as inactivity is a known risk factor for many chronic diseases, such as heart disease. They suggested that one of the problems may be a lack of education on exercise in medical schools, which seems to be a valid criticism given the results of the survey.

The authors conclude that there is an urgent need for physical activity teaching to be adequately included in medical school education.

While this is a worthy call to action for doctors and medical educators and highlights the need for further research into the best ways of promoting physical activity, it is not exacting evidence that standards of medical education are poor or that doctors are neglecting to offer sensible and straightforward exercise advice to their patients.