Getting health professionals active is essential to good healthcare

On the 1st August #WeActive launches across the #Wecommunities of healthcare professionals. It’s a fantastic campaign to encourage a bit of friendly competition between the tribes of healthcare professionals and promote allied health professionals, nurses, doctors, pharmacists and commissioners to take part.

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#WeActive is peer led and community driven. It’s a great example of using social media as an activator to behaviour change and plugging into the inherent tribal nature of health care professional groups.

The ask, simple really:

1. Do a little more to look after ourselves & promote a healthy lifestyle.

2. Take a pic of you doing so.

3. Share your pic via a tweet using #WEActive and the relevant #we community

4. Join in the discussion to motivate & inspire!

So why is it so important for healthcare professionals to get active every day?

There is no argument that being physically active every day is good for your health.  All of us can benefit from doing regular moderate physical activity and muscle and strength building to prevent disease, improve mental wellbeing and improve the outcomes of chronic diseases.

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Image source: PHE

International research suggests that healthcare professionals are just as human as the rest of us when it comes to healthy lifestyle behaviours like activity, and the picture of inactivity among doctors for example mirrors that of the general population.

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Source: PHE

There is also growing visibility in the UK that mental health issues for healthcare professionals are a significant issue, from stress and burnout to depression and addiction, the picture is pretty bleak. Although physical activity isn’t going to be the silver bullet for mental health and wellbeing, it can play a really important evidence-based role in prevention and treatment.

Many healthcare professionals, myself included when I walked the wards, would say that they are very active during their daily job. Although healthcare professionals are rarely sedentary it may be that they are also often not moving fast enough to benefit their health during their daily work. As the Active10 app showed me recently, I might be doing the step counts every day but most of those steps are not fast enough to be having a positive impact on my cardio-vascular health.

So perhaps #WeActive is a good way to get healthcare professionals active for their own health. Another angle is that this is all about promoting healthcare professionals as role models and encouraging them to promote physical activity to their patients.

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Image source: Exercise Works

Interestingly the research on the importance of healthcare professionals behaviours as role models is mixed and focused primarily on obesity and smoking. For a behaviour like physical activity where patients would have to make significant assumptions based on body shape, movement and perhaps even clothing, it’s likely to be really unreliable both in terms of the patients judgement and whether it has an impact on the credibility of the clinician.

However where there is more coherent evidence is about how the lifestyles of healthcare professionals influences their conversations with patients. There suggests that those who practice what they preach are more likely to preach it to their patients when it comes to healthy behaviours, i.e. more active healthcare professionals are more likely to discuss physical activity in routine clinical consultations.

So if we can help more healthcare professionals to experience the benefits of physical activity for themselves, whether in health terms or in social terms, it may play out in terms of their likelihood to promote activity to patients – and this is something we desperately need to do!

Finally, and for me this is perhaps the most important part of #WeActive, is that builds community and connection across healthcare professionals.

When I trained and first entered the workplace there was a strong sense of ‘team NHS’, whether I was on a rotation which was primarily ward based or in a clinical team that came on and off shift together on the same shift pattern, I had my tribe. There were regular mess parties and social events and an annual Christmas party and sometimes even a staff panto, carol concert or summer sports day. However few of the trainees I meet these days experience that same sense of community at work, and I think that is one of the big factors that underpins the poor mental health across the system.

The great thing about following the #WEActive tag is that you see all the activity across the tribes of professional groups, and there is usually a tracker so you can see how #wedocs is doing against #weahp to drive some friendly rivalry or encouragement. It is a real celebration of the diversity and energy across healthcare professional groups and coming together through something thats fun and engaging.

Sharing on social media isn’t a panacea for physical connection but its a start and through the sharing of personal experiences and journeys of physical activity perhaps those participating can get some of that sense of togetherness that supports resilience and wellbeing.

Whether for self-care, improving patient care or building connection and community among healthcare professionals, there is undoubted benefit for the health service from #weactive. This grass roots social movement for activity can only be a good a thing, especially when the crystal ball gazing for the future is pretty bleak.

So this year look out for me, and thousands of other healthcare professionals this August as we get active with #weactive 

 

 

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