Czech doctors could soon prescribe exercise as part of treatment

An international Eurobarometer study shows that 5 percent of Czechs exercise regularly and 60 percent rarely or not at all.


Written by ČTK Published on 07.11.2023 15:43:00 (updated on 07.11.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Czech doctors want to be able to prescribe physical exercise as part of treatment, which could be covered by public health insurance prevention funds, Health Minister Vlastimil Válek said at a press conference today on the role of sports medicine.

Costs related to treating obesity account for up to one-tenth of health care spending in the 10.8 million-person Czech Republic, where almost one-fifth of residents are obese and three-quarters are overweight. Additionally, more than 1 million people are being treated for diabetes.

"A sports doctor working with physiotherapists and nutritional therapists can prescribe physical activity that will lead to better fitness and thus an improved prognosis. This will save not only financial resources for health care but also social care," said Martin Matoulek, head of the Czech Society of Sports Medicine of the Czech Medical Society of Jan Evangelista Purkyně.

So far, discussions on this plan have just begun, and there is still a long way to go before prescribed physical exercise under specialist supervision would be covered by public health insurance, experts say.

Currently, sports doctors already cooperate with the Czech Chamber of Fitness to ensure certified trainers can effectively work with patients, such as obese individuals, which can also relieve the overburdened health and rehabilitation system, Matoulek pointed out.

Válek said initial steps could come as part of an amendment to the public health insurance law his ministry is preparing. It plans to introduce a system of bonuses for healthy lifestyles, for example, for people who regularly attend preventative medical checkups.

Various studies show regular physical exercise prevents many diseases, including serious ones like diabetes and high blood pressure. Consequences of the low share of Czechs practicing sports cost the public health system around tens of billions of crowns per year, representatives of the Faculty of Physical Education and Sports at Charles University in Prague stated previously.

According to studies, obesity also means an 80 percent higher chance of diabetes and an 82 percent higher incidence of high blood pressure. More than half of deaths in the Czech Republic are linked to cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack, high blood pressure, and stroke. If obese people do not exercise, their life expectancy drops by an average of seven years.

Czechs are often ill towards the end of their lives due to a lack of exercise, with women living 20 years ill and men 15 years before dying.

An international Eurobarometer study shows that 5 percent of Czechs exercise regularly and 60 percent rarely or not at all. Experts recommend 150 to 300 minutes of exercise per week, while children need at least an hour per day, said MP Tom Philipp, chairman of the board of the General Health Insurance Company (VZP).

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