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Call for health professionals to "get patients moving"

The UK must move from "relegation candidates to play-off contenders" in the international physical activity league tables to improve health and cut costs – that's the message from Health Secretary Andy Burnham today as he set out his vision for a fitter England.

In his speech, the Health Secretary called on the NHS to make the promotion of active lifestyles "core business and not a peripheral concern". Health professionals should see improving activity rates and getting their patients moving as central to their work.

This builds on the Olympic legacy and aims to move Britain up the European league table in terms of physical activity. Britain is in 21st place in Europe when levels of physical activity are compared.

Andy Burnham said: "We need an ambition for physical activity commensurate with the ambition we've already showed in hosting this decade of sport.

"Just as five years ago, we set ourselves the target of coming fourth in the 2012 Olympic medal tables, now I want us to aspire to fourth place in the physical activity league tables over the next ten years.

"This would be an unprecedented achievement, but I believe it is achievable and vital for dealing with the big challenges of our day."

"We are a sport-loving nation but we are simply nowhere near as active as we should be.

"Promoting active lifestyles is the simple answer to many of the big challenges facing our country today. It can save us money and ease the burden on public services. The NHS has the green light to be bold and creative to help people to be fitter and more healthy."

With more than two and half million people on incapacity benefit in Britain, if just one per cent of those people adopted healthier lifestyles, significant savings could be made to the economy. Combined, they cost the Exchequer £13 billion and industry £11 billion a year. More than a third of these people are on benefits because of mental health problems or muscular or skeletal disorders – both of which are known to respond well to tailored physical activity programmes.

Department of Health

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