GUEST BLOG - "The single best thing you can do for your health" - Dr Andrew Murray

I'm delighted that Dr Andrew Murray, accomplished athlete and leading sport & expedition doctor, and his colleague Dr Nathan Stephens have written a guest blog for my website about the importance of exercise to prevent ill-health.

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Health is getting better worldwide.  We might not think it, but it is.  Just 200 years ago, people on average worldwide lived for 20-30 years , whilst now the average is 71 worldwide, and closer to 80 in Edinburgh. And this improvement has been helped massively by the contribution of Scots inventing antibiotics, anaesthesia, scanning machines and much more. 

Nowadays, when we think about medical advances we think about fancy medications and robots, and these will play their part, but the next big increase in health and happiness for us and our children can be driven by ourselves.

Think of the best present you have ever received. How about one you can give yourself. This would make you live 7 years longer on average, make you happier, and help prevent over 40 chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes,  heart attacks and some types of cancer. The good news is all this can be yours, simply by taking any form of exercise 150 minutes a week, equivalent to 30 minutes walking five times per week. This might be playing tennis, football, dancing or running, but it could just as well be walking to school or work or taking your bike.

Now the sheer scale of the benefits are known, we as health professionals are trying to promote the get active message more strongly.  A few key facts are

  • 30 minutes 5 times per week for adults
  • An hour a day for school age children are what gets you the full benefits
  • Although something is better than nothing
  • Each step is a step to health

Good news is that Scotland is one of 3 countries worldwide that levels of exercise are going up- so we are part of the exercise revolution!  Edinburgh city council under Cllr Andrew Burns have promoted exercise strongly, and further improvements to cycle lanes, and walking opportunities planned.

In Edinburgh South there are great opportunities for walking. I really enjoy hearing the sights and sounds taking my wee girl to nursery this way, or having a stroll round the duck pond, or the meadows.  And although our schools could do more to promote exercise, and healthy eating, there are some great efforts being made, and I really enjoyed the recent Sciennes Science fair.   We also have brilliant facilities to swim, cycle, play football, and a range of other sports.  I know Ian (no relation) as our MP is keen to promote ideas to help improve happiness and health in Edinburgh South, and would be keen to hear your ideas, and of things that are working well.

Dr Andrew Murray, GP, and Scottish International Runner @docandrewmurray / www.docandrewmurray.com

Dr Nathan Stephens, Surgeon, and leadership fellow, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh

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