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US Warning on Scottish Obesity Levels

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07 Feb 2014


Doctors gathering at a major conference in Edinburgh today on Sports & Exercise Medicine will be warned by a leading international expert that too many Scots are "sleepwalking into obesity" and that Scottish obesity rates could reach that of the U.S. if we do not change our approach to obesity and consider creative solutions such as prescribing exercise to increase physical activity. They will also hear about the latest developments in anti-doping and the use of these measures internationally.    


The event has been organised by the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (in collaboration with the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh), as Scotland prepares to host the Commonwealth Games in July 2014.



During his keynote presentation a leading international expert on obesity, Professor Steven Blair, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, USA, will challenge scientific and medical understanding about the causes of obesity. He will highlight that much of our understanding about obesity is flawed as the majority of the published international evidence in relation to the causes of obesity focuses primarily on increased dietary intake and consistently ignores the positive effect of total energy expenditure.

Professor Steven Blair, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina, USA, said:

"Regrettably, much of the international published scientific literature on the causes of obesity is flawed as it places an over-emphasis on dietary intake, at the expense of measuring the positive effect of physical activity. Obesity rates continue to rise and in international obesity terms, Scotland is not far behind the US. If we wish to prevent levels in Scotland reaching that of the US, greater emphasis has to be placed on exercise. This could involve creative solutions such as considering the provision of exercise advice, or indeed the prescribing of exercise, to patients by doctors and other health professionals. An entire industry has built up around diet, but reducing our dietary intake alone will not solve our problems with obesity. Physical inactivity has become the biggest public health challenge of the 21st century and we have to become more active if we are to stop collectively sleepwalking into obesity. In simple terms, we are talking about changing the mind set from thinking “I must go on a diet” to “I must become more active”.



Delegates attending the event will also learn how innovative “intelligence-led” anti-doping programmes have been developed following numerous recent high profile anti-doping scandals, including that of record-breaking cyclist Lance Armstrong. New and fruitful partnerships with law enforcement, including such organisations as the UK Borders Agency, are anticipated in the vision of ‘intelligence-led’ anti-doping work visualised in the new 2015 World Anti-Doping Code.

Graham Arthur, Director of Legal, UK Anti Doping, said:

"The intelligence-led techniques in the 2015 Code provide for a robust anti-doping programme which leaves those tempted to dope with nowhere to hide. We are currently seeing how the IOC is employing these techniques to provide the watching public with every confidence that the performances they are seeing in Sochi are clean and free from doping.”


Other speakers at the event include:

  • Prof Sir Harry Burns, Chief Medical Officer for Scotland (on Bringing Physical Activity to the Nation)
  • Dr Michael Turner, recently retired Chief Medical Adviser, British Horseracing Authority (on the highly topical issue of treating concussion in sport)
  • Prof Stewart Hillis, Emeritus Professor of Cardiovascular and Exercise Medicine, Glasgow University (on pre-participation cardiovascular screening for all athletes – should we or shouldn’t we?)
  • Mrs Lindsay Thomson, Lead Physiotherapist Sportscotland Institute of Sport Women’s Hockey, Lawn Bowls. Head Physiotherapist, Deputy Head of Medical Services, Team Scotland, Glasgow 2014 (on Preparation of our athletes: how can we beat the opposition?)
  • Craig Brown and Pat Nevin (on the perspective of a Coach and Football Player)


Prof Stewart Hillis, Lead Organiser of the Symposium, and Emeritus Professor of Cardiovascular and Exercise Medicine, Glasgow University said:

"Sport and exercise play a vital part in our physical and mental wellbeing, ranging from the casual jogger to the elite athlete. The wider positive impact of exercise on health has often been under-estimated, particularly in reducing obesity. By bringing together leading experts in the field of sports medicine in the year of the Commonwealth Games, we hope to shine a light on developments in sports medicine, stimulate wider awareness about the many benefits of physical activity and creative thinking about this can be applied to improve health.”


For further information visit the Royal College of Physicians (RCPE) website.

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