“Love activity, Hate exercise?” Campaign

As the “Love activity, Hate exercise?” campaign from the CSP starts, Stephanie Mansell, Consultant Physiotherapist at the Royal Free Hosptial brings her considered and thoughtful perspectives on this guest blog.


The “Love activity, Hate exercise?” campaign from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) launches on the 6thJuly. This campaign encompasses and supersedes several previous campaigns including “older people day” and “workout at work day”. The CSP report that significant resource and market research was employed in developing the campaign, with engagement from physical activity experts and members of the public. Data were collected from more than 10 focus groups, via face-to-face, online and phone consultations from across the UK. At its heart, the campaign is a public health initiative, based upon harnessing the collective power of the physiotherapy profession to affect health behaviour change of the population. As a CSP member, I observe how this is in keeping with the CSP’s mission “to transform the health and well-being of individuals and communities by empowering our members and exerting our influence” and vision to“transform lives, maximise independence and empower populations.” 

The “Love activity, Hate exercise?” campaign aims to empower physiotherapists to have conversations with their patients to enable health behaviour change, specifically around physical activity. Certainly, if members engage it would seem it should be feasible to achieve this. And herein lies a potential hurdle to the campaign’s success. There appears to be significant reticence from some clinicians about the “Love activity, Hate exercise?” campaign, especially regarding the strap-line, whilst there is a sense of apathy from others with only 2,000 members signed up. And so I find myself inspired to find a forum to raise some of the points I simply can’t raise in a 140 character limit.

So before we go any further I asked myself: “what’s the difference between exercise and physical activity?” Captain Google revealed a few top definitions:


Activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness” Oxford Dictionary (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/exercise)

“Exercise is physical activity that is planned, structured, and repetitive for the purpose of conditioning any part of the body. Exercise is used to improve health, maintain fitness and is important as a means of physical rehabilitation.” Medical Dictionary (https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/exercise)

Physical Activity:

“Physical activity is defined as any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure.” World Health Organisation (http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/pa/en/)

“Any form of physical exerciseCollins Dictionary (https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/physical-activity)

“Physical activity includes everyday activity such as walking and cycling to get from A to B, work-related activity, housework, DIY and gardening. It also includes recreational activities such as working out in a gym, dancing, or playing active games, as well as organised and competitive sport.” NICE (https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ph44/chapter/recommendations#Box-1-Physical-activity-definition-and-current-UK-recommendations)

Based on the above definitions one could argue exercise and physical activity are not all that different.

So why the “Love activity, Hate exercise?” strapline?

I’m sure all physiotherapists will have used exercise or physical activity in a treatment plan, after all, that is our bread and butter. I’m sure therefore that you’ll all have seen the shutters go down and patients glaze over at the mention of the word “exercise”. In a recent PhysioTalk Twitter chat clinicians and patients gave a whole host of reasons for this. Every patient will have their own reason for disengaging with this terminology. Personally, I suspect it’s partly because “exercise” has become a medicalised term, but mostly for psychosocial reasons. The “Hate exercise?” aspect of the strapline was born from the focus groups with the aims of engaging members of the public, demonstrating empathy and generating debate and discussion. The strapline certainly seems to be generating debate already.

Physical activity guidelines currently recommend adults should participate in 150mins of moderate, or 75mins of vigorous activity a week, with 2 days of strength training(1). There are also guidelines for children and over 65s. (I love the infographics, by the way, they’re so accessible(2)). Where adults are already achieving these targets, they will only see greater physical fitness gains when they increase their activity levels to 300mins a week(3). The health benefits of physical activity are clear: reduced cardiovascular disease, enhanced mood, reduced chance of diabetes, reduced chances of developing breast and bowel cancer, reduced chance of premature death, lower risk of osteoarthritis, lower risk of hip fractures, lower risk of falls and reduced chance of dementia(3). And these are just the benefits where there is evidence to back these powerful claims. I’m sure you can all name further benefits to physical activity, perhaps some less health-related and more psychosocial. Despite these known benefits, adherence to physical activity level guidelines in UK adults is very poor, with high levels of sedentary behavior and as little as 50% of adults meeting the physical activity guidelines(4). Working as a respiratory physiotherapist I estimate at least 50% of my caseload are people with obesity. What we do know is where people are very sedentary, even small increases in physical activity levels will be beneficial(5)and certainly my cohort of patients are prime examples of such patients. It is in the highly sedentary group of patients in particular, the CSP hope the “Love activity, Hate exercise?” campaign can have the biggest impact.


The concept suggested by the CSP of the “power of a conversation” is not new. Very Brief Advice (VBA) has been utilised within smoking cessation public health campaigns for many years. VBA involves very simple clinician training and is easy to implement. It involves an AAA approach:


Ask: Are you smoking? Would you like to quit smoking?

Advice: Stopping smoking is the single biggest change you can make to improve your health. The best way to quit is with a combination of medication and support.

ActRefer the patient to smoking cessation services


The numbers need to treat for VBA is estimated at 40(6). So as a respiratory physiotherapist I have to employ VBA for smoking cessation 40 times before that results in a successful quit attempt. To give you some context the number needed to treat for cervical cancer screening programmes to prevent a death over 10 years is 1140.  So a number needed to treat of 40 is pretty powerful and increases my job satisfaction knowing the short time I take in the appointment with my patients makes a difference.

Whilst those figures may seem moderately impressive, the impact of similar VBA on physical activity levels are even greater. Public Health England report one in four people would be more physically active on the advice of a healthcare professional(7). Additionally, a systematic review and meta-analysis reported a number needed to treat of 12 for VBA for physical activity(8).

I’ve adapted the NICE(9)recommendations for VBA for physical activity to fit the AAA approach (because it’s easier to remember then!):


  • Ask: Identify patients who are physically inactive
  • Advice: Advice patients on the physical activity guidelines and emphasise the health benefits.
    • Tailor advise to patients motivations and goals, current activity levels, circumstances, preferences and barriers to being physically active and health status
  • Act: Provide personalised information about local opportunities.
    • Consider providing written information on goal setting. Document the outcome of the consultation. Follow up at the next opportunity, this could involve reviewing progress towards goals


There are 57,000 CSP members. So imagine the impact we could have on the activity levels and subsequent health of the nation if we all engaged in the “Love activity, Hate exercise?” campaign. Whichever area of physiotherapy you are working in the physical activity message is of relevance to you and your patients. If one in four people would increase their physical activity levels as a result of your advice, and numbers needed to treat for VBA for physical activity are 12, then we could very quickly start to see the impact of a more active nation. Think of the benefits a sustained change could have. And then think of the benefit that could have on our highly strained and stretched NHS and health services. And then think of the extra job satisfaction you’ll gain from taking a few minutes of your time with your patient to make use of VBA for physical activity. I’d like you, however, to consider how much more powerful the impact could be if other therapists, AHPs, nursing and healthcare professionals joined in too. Certainly, physiotherapists are experts in “exercise” and so we’re best placed to pave the way for other healthcare professional to join in our wake. I do however make a plea to the CSP to work with other professional bodies to generate a greater impact of this (and other!) campaigns and resources. There are very few physiotherapists working in silo physiotherapy departments these days, with most working in integrated therapy departments or as part of wider MDTs. So to truly reap the benefits of the “Love activity, Hate Exercise?” campaign I would implore you to share the message and the resources with your team members,

We live in a world where the complexity of our patients is ever growing. We’re living in the 4thindustrial revolution and an associated changing social structure. Many of our patients have challenging health behaviours and struggle to engage in their care. In order to instigate health behaviour change we need to move beyond a biomedical approach to treatment and towards a biopsychosocial model of care. In fact, the biopsychosocial model of care is not new, having been proposed by Engel in 1977(10). The biopsychosocial model of care should be particularly appealing to physiotherapists, as it allows and encourages holistic assessment and collaborative treatment plans, whilst ensuring the patient is the focus of attention. You will all be aware from your clinical experience how psychology and society impact on the precipitating health behaviours of our patients, as well as their concordance with treatment plans. It is imperative therefore that physiotherapists arm themselves with techniques to empower patients to make sustained health behaviour changes, or else many of our other treatment techniques will become ineffective or academic.

Motivational Interviewing is a simple technique which uses a guiding approach to establish patients’ strengths and aspirations, evoke their motivation for change and promote autonomous decision making(11). Motivational interviewing is based on the principles that; how we speak to patients is as important as what we say, feeling listened to is an important part of instigating change and that behaviour change is intrinsic and patients won’t make those changes simply because we’ve told them to.  If the patients have found the solutions themselves, then the behavioural change is far more likely to result in long-term and sustained change. There is an evidence base for the impact of motivational interviewing on health behaviour change in a number of different clinical scenarios(12). Implementing motivational interviewing can seem like it might cause a time pressure in a busy clinic. But I would argue that in the long run the time benefits are in its favour. Try following the RULE acronym the next time you start a conversation about physical activity levels with a patient(13):


Resist the urge to be didactic in your interaction

Understand it’s the patient’s reasons for change (not yours!) that will elicit behaviour change

Listening is important; the patient will find their own solutions

Empower the patient to realise they have the power to change their behaviour (try not to think of He-man or She-Ra  chanting “I have the power!”)


In summary; the CSP’s “Love activity, Hate exercise?” is an evidence-based and worthy campaign. If all CSP members engaged we would potentially make a huge difference. We could make a bigger difference if we engaged other MDT members and healthcare professionals. A biopsychosocial model to care is more effective than a biomedical model one and motivational interviewing can be a useful tool in this approach.

Stephanie Mansell, Consultant Physiotherapist, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, July 2018



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