Lack Of Physical Activity Is Costing America Billions In Healthcare Costs

Physical inactivity is doing much more to amplify the obesity problem. A new global report, published in the U.K. journal the Lancet, puts the cost of physical inactivity in the United States at a whopping $27.8 billion. Globally, Money Magazine reports the cost as $67.5 billion.

To gather this vital information, 142 countries were studied, allowing the Physical Activity Report to account for 93.2 percent of the world's population. With this extensive data, researchers were able to measure direct healthcare costs for conditions like coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, colon cancer, and others that are normally a result of physical inactivity.

The Physical Activity Report is part of a series that the Lancet has published since 2012. Based on previous reports, the current cost figures were inevitable. In 2013, the global cost was $53.8 billion, which shows that even after these reports began, the problem with physical inactivity has only gotten worse.

[Photo by YakobchuckOlena/iStock]
[Photo by YakobchuckOlena/iStock]

The report had many shocking findings. It mentioned that "physical inactivity related deaths contribute to $13.7 billion in productivity losses, and physical inactivity was responsible for 13.4 million DALYs worldwide." This means that people worldwide are more likely to miss work or school due to the slothfulness caused by the lack of physical activity.

What one of the study authors considers that most unfortunate finding is that much of the cost for diseases caused by physical inactivity isn't paid for by the government. Instead, the money is taken from the pockets of wealthier citizens. Even more unfortunate, those who are poor and cannot carry the cost of the healthcare they need are dying at alarming rates.

In a recent interview with Bloomberg, lead study author Melody Ding, a senior research fellow at the University of Sydney, explained these findings.

"The most striking finding is not the actual number, it's the distribution of the economic burden across regions. In wealthy countries, people pay with their pockets. In less wealthy countries, they're paying with their lives."

The Physical Activity Report also finds that type 2 diabetes is the most expensive disease caused, in part, by physical inactivity. The cost of type 2 diabetes globally is $37.6 billion, which is 70 percent of all healthcare costs. In the United States, that number is disturbingly larger. Here, 88.8 percent of healthcare costs goes to the treatment of Type 2 Diabetes.

Because many of the diseases that attribute to healthcare costs can also have a lot to do with nutrition, the researchers looked at previous figures on how physical inactivity relates to health. As a result of including this data, researchers discovered that 22 diseases and conditions were directly linked to the lack of physical activity.

[Photo by innovatedcaptures/iStock]
[Photo by innovatedcaptures/iStock]

On a global scale, the World Health Organization (WHO) found that in most countries, adults do not get the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity each week. In the United States, it has been estimated that only one in three adults gets enough weekly exercise.

According to Ding, this amount of physical inactivity could become much worse, very quickly.

"This is really just the tip of the iceberg."

Based on a previous estimate made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the healthcare costs associated with physical inactivity will soon be $330 billion. Although government programs have begun interventions in America's schools, adults also need to become more physically activity in order for costs to go down. Melody Ding calls for a larger intervention, stating, "we need more investment to make physical activity accessible to all."

The Physical Activity Reports proves that currently, there is zero funding for programs to help Americans with physical activity. The study concludes that "in addition to morbidity and premature mortality, physical inactivity is responsible for a substantial economic burden."

[Photo by David Clark/iStock]