SPORT on prescription is being tried out in Strasbourg where doctors are prescribing diabetics, the chronically ill and obese and those with heart problems a new diet of swimming, rowing, Nordic walking or cycling.
The project, a pilot for France, is being run with the city, the Alsace health agency, the local Assurance Maladie, the prefecture and education authority.
It involves 50 volunteer doctors who will prescribe excercise for their patients after a check-up under the "Sport-santé sur Ordonnance" scheme.
The prescription will allow the patients to visit special trainers for a further check and to get a coupon for a free enrolment for an activity.
Strasbourg mayor Roland Ries said the city would cover the €129,000 cost of the experiment which could benefit around 400 people. It is also providing 200 bicycles for people to use.
The move comes after sports-health group Imaps calculated that spending €150 a year per patient on physical exercise could cut the healthcare costs of patients with long-term illnesses by 10%. This could save €56million a year for the social security budget.
President Hollande has already said he is in favour of doctors prescribing more sport and less medicines and the health minister will be watching the experiment's progress.
Former world 400m hurdles champion Stéphane Diagana, who wants to set up a sports-health centre near Nice, told Le Monde that doing a sport was known to cut diabetics' resistance towards insulin - and cut healthcare costs. He added: "Too much medicine is about care and not enough about prevention."
Photo: Kurhan - Fotolia.com