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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 November, 2003, 00:04 GMT
Doctors prescribe step-o-meters
Walking can cut the risk of heart disease, experts say
Step-o-meters, which measure the distance a person walks during the day, are set to be prescribed by doctors.

GPs will be able to prescribe them to patients in areas of England with high levels of heart disease.

It is hoped the move will encourage those who would benefit from increased levels of exercise to walk more.

The drive to distribute the pocket-sized devices - also known as pedometers - is part of the Walking the way to Health Initiative (WHI).

While experts recommend that people take 10,000 steps a day, the average adult is estimated to clock up about 3,000.

Currently, only 30% of men and 20% of women take enough exercise to keep their hearts healthy
Sir Charles George
British Heart Foundation
More than 85,000 step-o-meters were distributed by WHI last year to people wanting to increase the amount they walked.

The British Health Foundation, promoting the initiative with the Countryside Agency, says that 37% of deaths from coronary heart disease are due to lack of physical activity.

The foundation's medical director, Professor Sir Charles George, said: "Physical activity can cut the risk of developing CHD by up to half, it can also lower blood pressure, relieve stress and minimise the risk of stroke and diabetes.

"Currently, only 30% of men and 20% of women take enough exercise to keep their hearts healthy.

Time and enthusiasm

"By encouraging people to take more exercise, we hope to cut the number of deaths from heart disease."

Health Secretary John Reid is supporting the initiative, and said that with the help of GPs, patients could makes changes to their lifestyles which would have long-term benefits for their health.

"We all know that physical activity is good for us and can really make a difference to our health," he said.

"But, for many of us, finding the time and enthusiasm to exercise is not that easy. Over two thirds of adults don't take enough exercise to benefit their health.

"Tackling coronary heart disease and obesity are government priorities and lack of physical activity is a major contributory factor to both."

The BBC's Jane Warr
"GP's will be able to prescribe step-o-meters to patients"

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