How can Olympic legacy investment in sports and exercise science and medicine improve public health in the UK? Lords to investigate

11 June 2012

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has launched a new short inquiry into sports and exercise science and medicine. It will consider how the legacy of London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games can be used to improve understanding of the benefits exercise can provide both for the wider public and in treating a wide range of chronic conditions.

The Government spend approximately £100m a year on high performance sport and recently invested £30m in the establishment of a UK National Centre of Excellence for Sports and Exercise Medicine. The Committee will explore how robust this science is and how lessons learnt from the study of elite athletes can be applied to improve the health of the population generally.  

Research suggests that increased exercise can provide significant health benefits for a range of health conditions, from heart disease and diabetes, to mental health problems such as depression. However, the Committee is concerned that medical practitioners may not be adequately trained and resourced to understand how to include increased exercise in treatment programmes and will look at how the Olympics can be used to deliver wider access to sports medicine.

The Committee starts taking oral evidence on Tuesday 12 June with officials from the Department of Health and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport giving evidence. Over the course of the inquiry the Committee also expect to hear from representatives of the NHS and UK Sport, and others.

Commenting, Lord Krebs, Chairman of the Committee, said:

“There is significant interest in the Olympics right across the country and the Government have committed to providing a lasting legacy from the games.

“The Committee will consider how the significant sums of money that are being invested in improving the performance of elite athletes in a range of sports, can provide transferable knowledge that can be of benefit for the whole population.

“There is an ever-growing body of evidence showing that increasing the amount of exercise people take can be of huge benefit in treating a wide range of chronic conditions. However, we are not convinced that health professionals currently have the skills or support to prescribe appropriate training regimes for their patients.

“It is widely agreed that the London Olympics must deliver a legacy. Our inquiry will seek to establish how the Government can ensure that improved public health is a significant part of that legacy.”

Image: iStockphoto

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