From Scotland to the Sahara – Guest Blog by the new Scottish Government Champion for physical activity, Dr Andrew Murray

What does running 2660 miles from Scotland to the Sahara teach you?

I learned a load of things running to the Sahara. Donkeys have a top speed of 25kms/hr, road signs hurt if you run into them, and the desert is extremely hot. I ate 7000 Kcalories per day, got through 16 pairs of socks, and averaged 34.5 miles per day for 77 days.  I also thought plenty about what I’d do as a General Practitioner and Sports and Exercise Medicine doctor when I got home.

I firmly believe that physical inactivity is the fundamental health challenge of our age.  Dr Mike Evans in his video 23 and a half hours  asks the question- ‘What is the single best thing we can do for our health?’ For its benefits both to physical and mental health, as well as to quality of life he concludes that taking regular physical activity comes out on top. Please do watch this video and forward it on.

One of the most satisfying parts of my journey south was that over 1300 people came and jogged part of the route with me.  My oldest companion was 81, and the youngest (being pushed by his mum) was 5 months, going to show that physical activity is achievable by all.

Steven Blair’s research proves that low fitness is equivalent in risk to smoking, diabetes, and obesity combined. This statistic is all the more frightening given that government figures show that only 39% of Scots hit minimum activity guidelines.This is too big a problem to ignore, and action is required. Many health care professionals recognise the health problems associated with physical inactivity, but feel that the solutions lie with public health rather than with grass roots professionals.

I was delighted to accept a role as Scottish Government Physical Activity Champion working with health professionals, and advocating that “Exercise is Medicine” on the back of a BBC documentary about my run, and my medical background.  A little background to the role is here. This role was created partially as a legacy to the 2014 Commenwealth Games that are coming to Scotland.  The government have stated that raising an awareness of the benefits of activity, and getting the nation on the move is just as important as the medals.

Preventative medicine is great medicine. The benefits are clear. The message is simple.


Blair, SN. 2009. Physical inactivity: the biggest public health problem of the 21st century. BJSM 43:1-2

Evans, Mike. Video ’23 and a half hours’

Follow Dr Andrew Murray on Twitter at @docandrewmurray ,  and on Facebook at Sports and Exercise Medicine Scotland.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment

About Chris Hughes
Associate Editor, Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: