Emma Berry: A new collaboration supporting physical activity for long term health

Our Senior Development Officer Emma Berry discusses our initiative to address the high level of inactivity amongst the estimated 40% of the Scottish population living with a health condition.

Walkers at Aberdeen's cancer-friendly Move More health walk

In our professional world of physical activity promotion, it is well known that if you have a long term condition being active can help manage symptoms, stop progression and improve wellbeing. With around two million people in Scotland having at least one long term condition, increasing levels of activity could have a huge impact on individuals, health professionals, NHS budgets and society. Sounds great, doesn't it? So let's get everyone moving then!

Back in the real world, we know that as individuals, patients, health promotion specialists and policy makers, increasing physical activity is actually really difficult. This is exacerbated when you have a long term condition.

Anecdotally, I have heard examples where health care professionals have given different advice about physical activity, sometimes contradicting each other about whether it is safe or not. This can result in confusion for patients as to whether or not to be active.

We recognise there are complex barriers to people taking part in physical activity. With so much to gain from supporting people with health conditions to move more, we’ve been considering how to make it happen.

Collaborating with Scottish health charities to improve support for physical activity

There are a many great organisations in Scotland supporting people with long term conditions and promoting physical activity and health. However, we think there is an opportunity to work more closely as a coalition to address the challenge of inactivity.

We see benefits including:

  • To communicate physical activity messaging effectively and consistently
  • To share good practice, learning and expertise
  • To increase awareness of the benefits of physical activity for the management and prevention of long term conditions with individuals and the professionals who influence them
  • To champion physical activity in national policy.

The Scottish Coalition for Physical Activity and Long Term Conditions

Paths for All have taken an initial step in bringing together a group of Scotland’s leading health charities that support people with long term conditions.

Our initial gathering included representatives from the third sector including: The ALLIANCE, Age Scotland, Breast Cancer Now, Chest Heart & Stroke, British Lung Foundation, Diabetes Scotland, Macmillan Cancer Support, MS Society, SAMH, Scotland Versus Arthritis, The Stroke Association, Voluntary Health Scotland and Waverley Care.

We also had input from stakeholders including sportscotland, Edinburgh University’s Physical Activity for Health Research Centre (PAHRC) and NHS Health Scotland.

These organisations bring a wealth of experience and crucial understanding of the complex nature of support required for people with long term condition to become active. Here at Paths for All we bring our passion and expertise for physical activity promotion, particularly walking, to the coalition.

At this initial session, we agreed that there’s an appetite to share our learning, create consistent messaging and use our combined expertise to make the case for further investment in physical activity promotion in Scotland.

From here, we will be looking to ensure we have members representing the population of people with health conditions sufficiently and agree the role and activities of the proposed coalition.

If you would like to learn more about this new collaboration, contact Emma Berry.