Free Prescription for a Healthy Lifestyle

Roger Moore from Virtual College, discusses the increase in non-communicable disease as a result of physical inactivity and how a simple online course could help to encourage more people to get active.

Approximately 67% of men and 57% of women in the UK are overweight or obese. Moderate obesity, which is categorised at a BMI of 30-35, cuts life expectancy by two to four years and severe obesity, classified at a BMI of 40-45, cuts this to an entire decade1.

In the UK, the incidence of non-communicable disease which can be attributed to physical inactivity includes:

• 10.5% of coronary heart disease cases

 • 18.7% of colon cancer cases

• 17.9% of breast cancer cases

• 13.0% of type 2 diabetes cases

• 16.9% of premature all-cause mortality (2)

A report by the Health Committee in 2015, entitled 'Impact of physical activity and diet on health', urged GPs to promote the importance of exercise to their patients, rather than simply relying on technological advances to help tackle health problems.

Exercise has been seen for too long as merely helping to prevent obesity. Physical activity in its own right, though, has great health benefits regardless of a person's weight, age or gender, and this needs to be communicated.

To help get these messages over to inactive individuals, Virtual College has launched ‘Get Moving, Get Healthy’.  

This Vocational Online Open Course (VOOCâ) is free for everyone who would like to learn more about physical exercise and its health benefits and works on iPads and tablets.

Online learning can provide practical benefits when compared to traditional learning. If motivation to exercise is an issue, enthusiasm to attend a lesson about exercise may also be lacking! Online learning can be accessed anywhere and at any time – perhaps even on the commute into work? The added value is that learners can go at their own pace and they are not held back by slower learners, or left feeling embarrassed if they need to go over a section several times.

The course motivates individuals to get up and get active by describing the benefits of physical activity and leading a healthy life style. It also helps individuals to get started by providing easy to understand examples of physical activity categorised by sex, age range and aerobic fitness levels. The course also recommends individuals set themselves SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely) goals for their activities to help improve motivation levels. 

With subject matter expertise provided by Andrew Denton, CEO of the Outdoor Industries Association, the following organisations also help to contribute towards this course: University Hospitals of Leicester; University of Leicester NHS Trust; Leicester Diabetes Centre; Britain on Foot and the National Institute for Health Research Leicester-Loughborough Diet, Lifestyle and Physical Activity Biomedical Research Unit.

The e-learning takes approximately 45 minutes to an hour to complete, depending on how quickly you can absorb the material, and covers:

·         What is Physical Activity, why is it important and how can it reduce disease?

·         How much Physical Activity is enough and the role of diet?

·         How to increase activity levels, goal settings and pedometers

·         Safety and other considerations

·         Getting started

It includes many useful and practical links for those who would like to extend their knowledge.

To access the free ‘Get Moving, Get Healthy’ course, visit:

1 The Shape We're In by Sarah Boseley.

2 Lee I, Shiroma EJ, Lobelo F, Puska P, Blair SN, Katzmarzyk PT, for the Lancet Physical Activity Series Working Group