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Sport and exercise medicine: leading the race towards net zero
  1. John W Orchard
  1. School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr John W Orchard, School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia; john.orchard{at}

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Climate change has a strong bilateral relationship with medicine and healthcare. The impacts of global warming will continue to have profound, increasing and mainly detrimental effects on human health. In the other direction, health systems are a major contributor to carbon emissions, depending on the country or calculation method being responsible from 2% to 10% of all emissions.1 Many health/doctor groups have set targets for health systems to reach carbon neutrality by 2040–2050 or even earlier.

Exercise prescription is already close to being a carbon neutral treatment

Sport and exercise medicine (SEM) is now a recognised stand-alone specialty in many countries and a subspecialty in others. One of the key differences between SEM and other clinical specialties is the emphasis of management. Traditionally, the signature treatment of surgical specialties is the surgical operation, and the signature treatment of most physician specialties is pharmaceutical prescription. The signature treatment of SEM is, however, exercise prescription.2 Exercise prescription is a component of three-quarters of SEM consultations, substantially more than any other diagnostic or management option.3 In this sense, SEM has overlap with physiotherapy and exercise physiology, allied health specialties where the signature treatment is also exercise prescription.2

Exercise prescription is not simply a matter of providing a list of exercises for the …

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  • Contributors JO is the sole author of this work.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

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