Move forward, move ahead, move any way…..just move! by Rin Cobb
Rin currently works for NHS Fife and is also the owner of PND Consulting. She is an experienced Dietitian and member of the sports and exercise nutrition register.
Okay so I’ll put my hand up and admit I was one of the 80% who hadn’t seen 23 ½ hrs video or completely familiar with the physical activity recommendations from the NICE physical activity guidelines but I soon remedied that after reading Ann Gates of Exercise Works blog last week. As a dietician with both an academic and personal love of all things sporty it got me thinking about what dietitians do as AHP’s, to promote physical activity with our patients and personally I think the majority of the time we only do the bare minimum. I’m sure some of you will protest to this sweeping generalisation and please do; you are the pioneers and inspiration our patients need to put an end to their sloth days! We all know as AHP’s how important physical activity is for a whole host of reasons; arthritis, diabetes, mental health, weight management and of course the one we all resort to when a patient can’t achieve any other goal; quality of life. Now, the dietitians amongst you may question whether we have appropriate training to give such advice and that perhaps physios are better suited however I would disagree wholeheartedly.
Promoting physical activity is not about designing an intensive gym program or advising on how to train for a marathon, it’s what it says on the tin; promoting and thus encouraging our patients to find practical ways to do 30mins of walking each day, to start with at least! As dietitians we’re all experienced in behaviour change to some degree, so how is encouraging a patient to walk to work or to use the stairs any different to encouraging them to make dietary changes? Perhaps our reluctance is in part down to our own lack of enthusiasm? How many of you meet this recommendation? For those of you who do, or hopefully do more than this I commend you but of course you don’t need my approval; you already feel the benefits of your daily exercise! For those who don’t, why don’t you? I am a firm believer we should practice what we preach and not just from a moral duty perspective but because it’s so much easier if you can give advice from personal experience. Your suggestions will be more practical and you’ll find building that rapport with your patient not such a potential uphill battle, as they’ll also understand you better. Some may also argue that promoting physical activity is one thing but the patient still needs to put this advice into practice, and that’s where the difficulty lies, but we also know that clear consistent messages do eventually filter through, 5 a day anyone?
For those of you who already promote physical activity in your daily practice and are perhaps interested in taking things to the next level, you may consider working with particularly sporty individuals or even patients whose chronic condition is being so well managed they still have the energy and inclination to exercise regularly; I thought I’d briefly discuss how you can make this happen. Ultimately, you need to have an interest in sport, how the body adapts to exercise and how nutrition and training can influence this. For the dietitians amongst you there are several higher education courses in sports nutrition, which can be, completed full or part time, which once completed make you eligible for the sports and exercise nutrition register. That’s when the real dedication begins. You may be fortunate to already have links to sporting individuals or teams, but if not, getting that initial experience can be quite challenging so most will need to combine their current work with some element of freelance work but don’t let this set you back or put you off; If you’ve started along this road then it’s obviously something you’re passionate about so keep going! Some of you may also find ways to incorporate your newly found knowledge into your clinical practice and not just with the obvious diabetics but I’ve known dialysis patients to run marathons too!
So, to sum up what I’ve been harping on about, as AHP’s who frequently work as part of multi-disciplinary teams, I hope you now feel empowered to start promoting physical activity with your patients or to even take the plunge and take things to the next level. More importantly, get out there, start doing it yourselves and lead from the front!