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Being a couch potato may be more expensive than you might think.
A new study published in the British medical journal, The Lancet, suggests that the worldwide economic cost associated with physical inactivity is at least 67.5 billion dollars a year. And the United States alone accounts for 40 percent of that price tag (27.8 billion).
While physical inactivity has long been recognized as a leading risk factor for serious health problems, including premature mortality, the economic burden that it creates has always been harder to estimate. This latest study looked at overall expenses, lost work productivity, and disability-adjusted survival rates for five serious medical conditions linked to inactivity. These conditions include Type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, colon cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Type 2 diabetes remains the most expensive disease accounting for 37.6 billion alone.
According to lead researcher Melanie Ding, a senior research fellow at the University of Sydney's school of public health, there are more than twenty different diseases and conditions that can be linked to inactivity meaning that these current results likely underestimate the actual costs involved. Still their research examined 122 countries making up over 90 percent of the total world popuulation. She also pointed out that these findings show the serious gap between high and low-income countries. While high-income countries account for most of the economic costs associated with inactivity, low-income countries accounted for most of the disease burden.
"The most striking finding is not the actual number, it's the distribution of the economic burden across regions," Dr. Ding said. "In wealthy countries, people pay with their pockets. In less wealthy countries, they're paying with their lives."
According to the World Health Organization guidelines, adults need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week to offset medical problems linked to inactivity. The reality in most countries is very different though. In the United States alone, the President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition estimates that only one-third of all adults meet minimum standards for physical activity. Though these numbers likely represent only the tip of the iceberg according to most health experts, programs designed to increase physical activity in adults may save billions of dollars a year in lost productivity and health care costs.
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