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Get active for Self Care Week

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Self Care Week poster

Seven days with benefits that last a lifetime

The Royal College of General Practitioners’ Active Practice Charter is the perfect initiative to help you get involved in Self Care Week. It’s seven days of awareness raising organised by the Self Care Forum and taking place 18 – 24 November 2019. The theme is long term and transformative: “Think self care for life”.

Working with Sport England, the RCGP recently launched the Active Practice Charter to encourage surgeries to help patients and staff move more.

We all know that being more active can help us live healthier, happier, independent lives for longer and there’s volumes of research to support this theory.

The latest tells us that doing regular physical activity can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke by 35% and decrease the risk of early death by as much as 30%.

It’s not just our physical health that benefits, being active also helps our mental wellbeing. Research found exercise, even a short burst of 10 minutes brisk walking, can increase our self-esteem, reduce stress and anxiety and prevent the development of mental health problems. So just 10 minutes a day can make all the difference.

GP and practice colleague in discussion
Getting your practice colleagues on board and demonstrating enthusiasm for self care activities yourself is what the active practice charter is all about.

For the avoidance of disease...

With each passing decade, I am diagnosing more and more people with avoidable long-term conditions such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, coronary heart disease and preventable forms of cancer.

These diseases are a high price to pay for our sedentary lifestyles which are cumulatively costing the NHS almost £1bn a year. It’s time we did something about it.

With one in four patients saying they would be more active if their GP or nurse recommended regular exercise, this seems like a good incentive for health and care professionals to actively make the case to patients. This so-called social prescribing has the potential to be an effective addition to general practice with a positive community focus and a focus on prevention.

Struggling for ideas? This Physical Activity and Lifestyle Toolkit is a good place to start. I would also recommend joining in with national Self Care Week, as a hook to kick-start your Active Practice Charter.

Of course, your practice might want to go it alone and plan something simple – or you could hold a series of activities to support your local population. This might involve collaborating with local organisations including patient participation groups, CCGs or the local authority - whatever works for you and your colleagues.

Older man on a park run with other runners
Getting active promotes self care as a lifestyle choice and helps create a sense of community.

Resource? Of course!

Self Care Week resources including images, case studies, fact sheets are available on the Self Care Forum’s website but here are some ideas of what you could do:

  • Arrange a family and pet park-walk
  • Organise free classes such as yoga, tai chi, meditation at the surgery, local community hall or the local park
  • Hold a five-aside football match, netball game or rounders
  • Organise a sponsored fun-run for a local charity
  • Invite your physio colleagues to hold exercise sessions for people with specific conditions such as back pain or for people with disabilities such as those that are wheelchair bound

Consider a breadth of activities that can be targeted to ensure the widest accessibility in your local population.

Whilst these activities don’t have to be confined to just one week of the year, it is not always possible to run full-scale Self Care Week programmes on a regular basis. However, to change behaviour, it is important to constantly remind people what they can do to help themselves.

Self care for life 2019 poster
Self care is for all ages and all communities, embracing diversity, inclusiveness and social connections.

Signposting to self care

I would recommend finding some easier, quick wins to ensure your practice is regularly communicating the importance of exercise to staff, patients and the public.  Here are some further suggestions:

  • Display posters including physical activity infographics for different age groups and consider when to give these out during consultations
  • Lead by example and join colleagues for a walk in the park at lunchtime
  • Make practice team meetings active either by arranging to have them as standing meetings or walking ones
  • Print physical activity guidelines on your FP10 prescriptions – on the right-hand side
  • Target patients with certain diseases, including hypertension, joint pain etc, with specific exercise advice and include details of activities happening in the local area
  • Display details of local walks, cycle routes and gyms in the waiting area
  • If your practice is able to show video content, a series of short films are available on YouTube, including Let’s make our day harder and 23 and a half hours.

Good luck with your activities and don’t forget to apply to be an Active Practice. If you and your colleagues do decide to participate in Self Care Week, you’ll be in with a chance of winning a cash prize of £500.

Click on the links in this blog or contact for more information.

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