Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Movement for Movement: a practical insight into embedding physical activity into the undergraduate medical curriculum exemplified by Lancaster Medical School
  1. Ann Bernadette Gates1,2,
  2. Michelle Grace Swainson3,
  3. Rachel Isba3,
  4. Robert G Wheatley3,
  5. Fiona Anne Curtis3
  1. 1 School of Health Sciences, The University of Nottingham, Derby, UK
  2. 2 Faculty of Sport, Health and Wellbeing, Plymouth Marjon University, Plymouth, UK
  3. 3 Lancaster Medical School, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Michelle Grace Swainson, Lancaster Medical School, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YD, UK; m.swainson1{at}

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


Getting people active and staying active is a major implementation challenge.1 Despite international and national strategic intent, most countries fall woefully short on delivery.2 The objectives of the 2018 WHO Global Action Plan for Physical Activity (GAPPA) clearly require improved education and communication to patients, communities and society on the benefits of physical activity (PA).

The Movement for Movement ‘community of practice’ was specifically created to deliver this complex, interrelated system change.3

What is the Movement for Movement?

Movement for Movement3 embeds PA into the undergraduate healthcare curriculum4 5 and provides current, clinically valuable, evidence-based resources developed by: curators, authors, peer reviewers and student reviewers, and endorsed by the UK Council of Deans of Health. These resources are free to providers of undergraduate medical and healthcare education to support capacity building in the healthcare workforce. An implementation plan in a sample of English medical schools (funded by Public Health England/Sport England in 2017/2018) is complete.6

This work is recognised as a UK best practice exemplar by the 2018 WHO Europe Physical Activity Fact Sheets7 and the 2018 WHO Europe Physical Activity in the Health Sector report.8 There is also considerable ongoing collaboration to deliver further strategic support and leadership focusing on the valuable ‘social capital’ that healthcare professionals provide across all the GAPPA objectives and specifically the social determinants of health.

Lancaster University Medical School’s novel approach to embedding PA in the curricula

Lancaster Medical School pioneered the full implementation of the Movement for Movement resources and is empowering future doctors with the knowledge and skills to positively impact individual and population health. Each student can and should make every contact count and make every influence matter across their future career. This amounts to half a million opportunities to improve PA, per doctor, per medical school.

Sharing good practice: a practical guide from Lancaster

The first step to embedding PA into an undergraduate curriculum is to access the Movement for Movement resources (sent to all UK medical schools each year). These are fully integrated into the existing virtual learning environment/s for staff and students. Engaging the Dean and curricula leads supports successful implementation. With students—provide the generic resources in year 1 and specific resources in years 2/3 to enhance learning on non-communicable diseases (NCD). Assess and examine PA knowledge and communication skill competencies, capabilities and confidence.

The provision of resources does not necessarily lead to engagement; instead students need to be directed to them by including specific PA-related learning outcomes and communication assessments. Practical insights recommend that links and references to the resources are embedded within lectures and workshops, or better still include one dedicated PA lecture per NCD or societally challenging issue (online supplementary file). As an example, modules at Lancaster Medical School adopt problem-based learning scenarios, each focusing on a major NCD or age-related condition, while addressing associated comorbidities and psychosocial challenges.

Supplementary file 1

Lessons learnt at Lancaster Medical School

Leadership and action were fundamental to successful implementation. Lancaster was strongly commended in the commission report6 for embedding the resources at all levels of the curriculum and achieving all framework criteria.

Lessons learnt across the English sample of medical schools

Twelve out of a sample of 16 medical schools have provided evidence that there is now access to resources and teaching on PA. Knowledge transfer, assessment and examination of key clinical skills regarding brief intervention on PA and the wider public health determinants are also being explored by each university (and collectively by the UK Medical Schools Assessment Alliance). The lesson is that direct contact with each curricula team and skilled implementation support works.

Future for the Movement for Movement

Empowering medical schools, schools of health and students to access and engage with the resources is an ongoing priority. With many English medical schools now teaching, assessing and examining on PA in the curriculum, the future is indeed bright. We thank the Lancaster University Medical School for their example and all the other English medical schools and UK schools of health for their leadership and work.

There is increasing access to the resources worldwide, for example, in the USA, Canada, Australia and low/middle-income continents such as Africa and South America through a variety of online educational tools and student courses.

Undergraduate medical and health education on making every contact count and every influence matter for PA is happening in England.7 8 120 000 healthcare students across the UK: competent, capable and confident of delivering PA influence is our goal.

But the future for embedding PA in the curriculum is very bright: and going global!

For access to the Movement for Movement resources, contact Ann Gates.

Programme card

  • Country

    • An England-wide educational initiative targeting medical schools and UK schools of health.

  • Target population

    • Undergraduate students on medicine and healthcare degree programmes.

  • Physical activity promotion

    • The Movement for Movement (M4M) curriculum promotes physical activity (PA) through medical education, with specific guidance provided for various non-communicable diseases.

  • Investments for PA

    • Encourages communication and public education (investment 1), healthcare and health education (investment 4), and education (investment 5).

  • Sectors

    • Available to universities and undergraduate students in UK medical and healthcare education.

  • Estimated programme reach

    • M4M resources have been offered to all UK medical schools and schools of health with a reach of 120 000 students. This set of presentations and associated resources is planned for dissemination into Europe with future ambition to reach a global audience.

  • What is special about the programme?

    • Embedding PA in the undergraduate healthcare curriculum is an important step to building capacity in the future workforce to promote PA, with every contact. This is the first development of PA for health resources that can be implemented into UK undergraduate medical and health programmes.

  • Key contact

    • Michelle Swainson:

    • Ann Gates: for access to the resources.

  • Programme website/Twitter/Facebook


ABG thanks all the deans of medicine and health, faculty staff, students and fellow PA advocates in England for their support for the project and their facilitation of a warm welcome at each of the visits. Thanks and recognition are also due to PHE and Sport England for the commission to teach PA to the healthcare workforce. A special mention is warranted for the UK Council of Deans of Health for leading on the work with HEIs. But lastly, we extend our heartfelt appreciation to all the past and present contributors to the physical activity resources, the #MovementForMovement community of practice team of over 40 authors and nearly 30 peer reviewers.



  • Contributors ABG was the main author for final submission. MGS produced the initial manuscript, provided final review and created the infographic produced for this article. RI and FAC provided both written contribution and editorial review. FAC and RGW have been key to the planning and practical implementation of these resources, and identification of good practice examples, and provided further reviews of the content and style.

  • Funding ABG was originally commissioned and funded by PHE and Sport England.

  • Competing interests ABG is an Honorary Visiting Professor at Plymouth Marjon University, Honorary Associate Professor at The University of Nottingham, a World Heart Federation Emerging Leader’s Programme 2014, Associate Editor for The British Journal of Sports Medicine, a Certified NHS Change Agent and Founder and CEO of Exercise Works! MGS has contributed to the 2018 update of Movement for Movement resources. RI, RGW and FAC have no competing interests.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.