In the first Series paper, Sport and exercise as contributors to the health of nations, an international team of researchers set out to examine whether sport and exercise contribute to the health of nations. They argue that although country-wide data on participation in sports are too scarce to draw any firm conclusions in this respect, the existing evidence suggests that regular participation in sports and / or exercise has clear benefits for physical and mental health, and that health professionals need to pay more attention to their patients’ fitness.
“Low fitness is a better predictor of mortality than obesity or hypertension, which are health risk factors afforded far greater emphasis than fitness by the media and most health professionals,” according to Professor Karim Khan of the University of British Columbia, Canada, one of the paper’s authors.
The researchers suggest that if health professionals were to consider exercise levels as a “vital sign”, they could provide more help for patients to adopt exercise regimes. This could result in dramatic improvements in the number of people who regularly exercise, in the same way that smoking cessation advice has resulted in reductions in the number of people who smoke in many countries.