What we did
Throughout December 2017 and January 2018, we held a national consultation asking for feedback on the current UK 2011 CMO physical activity guidelines, from a variety of stakeholders. Advice was sought on different areas:
- Strengths, weaknesses and thoughts on current guidelines
- Significant or important changes to the scientific evidence relevant to each age or working group that may suggest altering the recommendations
- Communication and dissemination of guidelines and how best to maximise their impact with professionals across sectors, media and the public
The call for the national consultation came primarily from Tweets by EWG Chairs and publicity through the University of Bristol’s School for Policy Studies. Stakeholders were then asked to share the consultation with colleagues to ‘spread the word’ about the feedback required. The consultation remained open for six weeks.
We would like to thank the 16 individuals and groups that responded to the national consultation. Responders included a wide range of people: lay people, Sports Partnerships, County Councils and Local Authorities, Public Health Departments, Charity groups, College Sport Organisations, PA specialists and groups from UK Universities.
What were the results?
The feedback we received was organised in to two key themes
1. The guidelines and recommendations themselves
The main strengths of the current guidelines were that they focused on physical activity throughout the life course, they have the flexibility of combining physical activity intensity to achieve recommendations and include advice on sedentary behaviour. Responders felt there were several weaknesses that could be improved upon. The guidelines are seen as overcomplicated and unattainable, with no upper or lower threshold dose for benefits to health. The intensities need more clarification, as well as the importance of different intensities and their impacts on health. Suggestions to overcome these limitations were to emphasis the dose-response relationship of physical activity and benefits to health, be more explicit on how people can achieve the guidelines (i.e. how they reach different intensities, how they can achieve activity across the day) and consider including the negative consequences of inactivity and sedentary behaviour.
2. The implementation of the guidelines
The biggest criticism was that there is a wide spread lack of awareness of the guidelines from the general public and schools, through to the health care sector. The guidelines have not been promoted effectively and as a result have failed to have any impact on public health. Key things to message to the public should include the negative consequences of inactivity, how to actually achieve the dose and intensity recommended (and the health benefits at different levels), as well as the muscle, bone and balance recommendations, and the upper/lower thresholds of physical activity and sedentary behaviour. There were an overwhelming number of suggestions on how to achieve more effective implementation:
- Engaging the media / social media from the start of the process to educate the public
- Conducting research with the public and health care professionals (HCPs) in to how best to translate the guidelines
- Use the latest technology (activity monitors and apps) to promote the guidelines
- Make the guidelines accessible - Consider who they are for and who the target audience is (different populations will need different methods and delivery of the message)
- Integrate the guidelines in to schools and colleges either through teacher training, the curriculum
- Promote the guidelines through the workplace or sports clubs
- Integrate in to health care more effectively by supporting HCPs promote it to patients, adding it to the medical school curriculum, and GP training
- Using interactive graphics and visualisations
Responders also suggested that we broaden the evidence search to include data from national campaigns and from other areas beyond academic disciplines. It was suggested that EWGs look at the emerging evidence from objective physical activity research, light and vigorous intensity activity and sedentary behaviour as an independent risk factor for negative health outcomes.
What will we do with this information?
These findings were summarised in a feedback document for each EWG. These will then be read an evaluated by EWG members and used, where applicable, in the process for updating the guidelines.
We will be holding a second national consultation throughout late summer 2018. During this consultation we wish to hear from the UK’s scientific and practice communities about their thoughts on the proposed, updated UK physical activity guidelines that will be put together by the EWGs and discussed at the Scientific Consensus meeting in late spring / early summer 2018.