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Pharmacy Training

How to Offer Diet and Fitness Advice in your Pharmacy

By January 30, 2020No Comments

This course has been created to help you train your pharmacy team on Diet and Fitness. The goal is to confidently engage with customers to offer the best advice and products for managing weight and keeping active. After completing this course you will be able to:

  • Advise on the risks linked with being overweight or obese
  • Help customers to calculate their Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Advise customers on weight management programmes and fitness regimes

The obesity epidemic is a huge burden on the NHS. Pharmacies are obliged to offer public health advice as part of the Healthy Living Pharmacy scheme. Therefore, pharmacy is in a prime place to help customers manage their weight and offer products related to diet and fitness.

It’s also highly profitable with the UK’s health and wellness market valued at around £25billion. This value is rising year on year as people invest more in their mental and physical health.

Obesity on the rise

Most people in England are now overweight or obese and the numbers are rising (see below).

Being overweight has far-reaching medical consequences, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. These diseases are predicted to cost the NHS £10 billion by 2050. So, the government is turning to pharmacy for help in tackling this.

Pharmacies are now offering a range of weight management services, some linked to HLP and others as part of the pharmacy’s wider health and fitness category. By getting involved in this area and getting behind local and national campaigns you can ensure the best possible outcomes for your customers and make your pharmacy the ‘go-to’ place for quality care.

New Year. New You.

The New Year heralds the start of a new health drive for a lot of people and you are ideally placed to help them on that journey.

Although this course focuses on weight loss and fitness, be prepared to extend the conversation to the wider topic of health and wellbeing. These include:

… all areas that you will be familiar with as part of Healthy Living Pharmacy (HLP).

The pharmacy contract announced in July 2019 has given more emphasis to public health and prevention in the following ways:

  • HLP is becoming a vital service and all pharmacies will be required to become an HLP Level 1 by 1st April 2020.
  • As part of the Pharmacy Quality Payment (PQS), all sales of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSB) must account for no more than 10% (by volume in litres) of all drinks sold in your pharmacy by 31st March 2020.

In addition, in 2019/2020 all pharmacies have to take part in mandatory public health campaigns as decided by PSNC and NHS England. This included awareness around alcohol and sugar-related dental health.

Engaging customers

It’s important to remember that New Year resolutions are hard to sustain because people go about them the wrong way. For most, the resolution does not last beyond the first month.  Speak to your pharmacy’s Health Champion about motivational tips you can give customers. Meanwhile, here are some simple suggestions that will help them sustain good habits for the long term:

  • Be realistic
  • Take small steps
  • Tackle one aspect of health at a time
  • Celebrate small achievements
  • Learn to accept setbacks and learn how to move on
  • Set SMART goals [specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based]
  • Share your plans with friends and family
  • Join a support group to motivate each other

For more tips, refer to the related courses on Stop Smoking, Alcohol, and Mental Health.

Health apps

The use of tech to help people’s health and wellbeing is on the rise. Many apps are useful in giving support to your customers between pharmacy visits, especially in diet and fitness. In fact, the PSNC says that recommending that patients use high-quality apps for health may become a common activity for pharmacy staff in the future.

An ‘app’ is a digital application. Apps work on smartphone or tablets but can also be web-based applications. Health apps are digital services that support health and healthcare. Examples include Fitbit and Garmin. Some smartphones already come with features that help people track different aspects of wellbeing, such as steps walked and sleep patterns. Tracking helps people be informed and can be a motivator for change.

As well as general apps there are also targeted apps such as meal planners or apps that support brands e.g. Slimfast app.

The NHS One You initiative promotes the following series of apps for weight loss and fitness:

  • Active 10
  • Couch to 5K
  • Easy Meals

These are available for apple and android devices and can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play.

The PSNC has given general guidance on the use of apps.

Why not download one of the ‘One You’ apps and have a play so you can explain it to customers?

Starting conversations on diet and fitness

Making every contact count (MECC) is an approach to healthcare delivery. MECC encourages all those who have contact with the public to talk about their health and wellbeing.

Pharmacy assistants working on the counter can make a huge impact here. Especially when it involves customers changing their lifestyles and adopting good habits, for example around diet and fitness.

Starting conversations is all about using opening lines that make an impact – these are called ‘brief interventions’.

You need a hook, for example, a national campaign, something you noticed or New Year resolutions.

Use the following opportunities to raise the subject of weight loss:

  • A customer asks for advice on symptoms that might be made worse by being overweight e.g. back or knee pain
  • If a customer asks about blood pressure, cholesterol testing or diabetic testing
  • The customer wants to quit smoking and is concerned about weight gain
  • When customers ask for certain products or medicines e.g. slimming aids, stop-snoring products, analgesics for joint pain or blood pressure monitors

You can recommend the following products (or services) in relation to diet and fitness:

  • Vitamin supplements – particularly for people taking orlistat which may affect the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (not to be taken at the same time).
  • Monitors – many overweight people also have high blood pressure or diabetes and may want to keep an eye on their measurements.
  • Other OTC medicines – relieve associated symptoms such as indigestion and backache with short term treatments e.g. antacids, painkillers.
  • Healthy living services – sign up people to your diabetes testing service, smoking cessation or NHS Health Check service if you run them.
  • Support bandages – people starting to exercise may find these useful in protecting themselves from injuries.

Weight management

Helping customers manage their weight begins by getting them to understand how diet and exercise impact their weight.

Weight gain happens because the amount of calories that someone takes in by eating exceeds the number of calories that the body uses up. Eating too much of the wrong foods and not getting enough exercise or daily physical activity also contribute to this.

Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist measurement are tools for measuring obesity in adults. Using both helps give a better idea of health risks.

A healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9.  For waist measurement, men should aim for less than 94cm (37ins) and for women less than 80cm (31.5ins).

Special considerations:

  • Black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups with a BMI of 23 or more have a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes and other long term illnesses.
  • For children and young people aged 2 to 18, BMI should take into account age and gender as well as height and weight.

Following a balanced healthy diet will help maintain a healthy weight. The Eatwell Guide below outlines the key principles of a healthy diet. You may want to download this and refer to it with customers.

Keeping active

Keeping active can help maintain a healthy weight. But exercise also has further health benefits such as building muscle and strength, improving mobility, boosting brain function and having a positive effect on mental health.

According to Public Health England, physical inactivity claims 1 in 6 of deaths in the UK. In other words, inactivity is as dangerous as smoking. However, a quarter of people are still inactive and are not achieving the minimum activity a week. In some minority communities, this falls to 1 in 10 adults.

The guidance from the Chief Medical Officer include:

  1. Adults should aim to be active daily. Over a week, activity should add up to at least 150 minutes (2½ hours) of moderate-intensity activity in bouts of 10 minutes or more – one way to approach this is to do 30 minutes on at least 5 days a week.
  2. Adults should also undertake physical activity to improve muscle strength on at least two days a week.
  3. Minimise the amount of time spent being sedentary (sitting) for extended periods.
  4. Older adults (65+) can benefit from physical activity, including maintenance of good physical and cognitive function. They should also incorporate physical activity to improve balance and co-ordination on at least two days a week.

The best advice on losing weight is to make long-term lifestyle changes (i.e. balanced diet and moderate activity) that result in a steady rate of weight loss (0.5-1kg or 1-2lb per week). People wanting to lose weight will also need to reduce their calorie intake (from the normal 2000 for women and 2500 for men) so the body uses up its reserves.

Specific advice includes:


  • Follow the Eatwell Guide for a balanced diet (but reduce calorie intake from carbohydrates when losing rather than maintaining weight)
  • Eat at least 5 portions a day of fruit and vegetables (NB: a portion is a handful in size)
  • Eat at least two portions a week of fish (one should be oily fish)
  • Limit saturated fat, sugar and salt
  • Watch portion sizes
  • Limit alcohol
  • Eat breakfast


  • Do 150 minutes/week at moderate intensity
  • Moderate intensity is working hard enough to raise the heart rate and break a sweat
  • Incorporate into daily life e.g. walking to work

Diet and Fitness Public Health Campaigns

‘One You’ and Change4Life are the main public health campaigns related to diet and fitness. Both these offer apps to help people engage and this may be a good way to making sure they follow up on advice you give in the pharmacy.

Remember to promote your pharmacy’s involvement in these campaigns by displaying the latest posters and leaflets. Plus refer to the campaign in your conversations. Watch the adverts (they will be on the campaign websites) so you can prepare for any customer questions about the campaigns. Other things you can do:

  • Look out for campaign materials – these may be national or local events
  • Download additional materials – there are additional free resources available from the NHS, Public Health England and from related charities.
  • Display the materials – support this campaign by displaying the resources in public areas, such as the window, counter, dispensary reception and shop floor.
  • Tell your customers about it – use ‘brief interventions’ to strike up a conversation about weight loss and keeping active.

One You

‘One You’ is a Public Health England campaign that helps adults avoid future diseases caused by modern lifestyles. It encourages people to think about their lifestyle choices, to put themselves first and take action to improve their health.

Adults are encouraged to start by taking part in a free ‘How Are You’ online health quiz that will identify where they can make small changes. The quiz also provides personalised tips plus directs people to tools and advice. The ‘How are You’ website is subdivided into topics on diet (Eat Better), exercise (Active10) and mental health (Every Mind Matters).

Eat Better

You can direct customers to the Eat Better for recipes and tips on managing weight through healthy eating.

Active 10

Active 10 is another campaign from One You aimed at getting people to be more active. It focuses on getting people to do just 10 minutes of brisk walking, demonstrating to people that even that counts as exercise


The Change4Life campaign on nutrition relaunches every January. This national campaign focuses on children and is backed by big public advertising so your customers are likely to be aware of it.

The NHS One You initiative promotes the following series of apps for weight loss, a healthy diet and fitness:

  • Active 10
  • Couch to 5K
  • Easy Meals

This content was taken from MediaPharm’s certificated Diet and Fitness Champion course. The full course includes:

  • Video tutorials to enhance learning
  • Interactive content to increase engagement
  • Links to relevant campaign materials for easy access
  • Built-in reporting dashboard to track completions
  • Certificate of completion

The full course is available for free on Mediapharm’s unique pharmacy training platform. Or you can buy the diet and fitness course for full access to the above content below:

This post was created on behalf of MediaPharm by Nicola Hasted from Pharmacy Mentor