Higher direct medical costs associated with physical inactivity
Phys Sportsmed, 28(10):63-70. doi: 10.3810/psm.2000.10.1237
Background: The benefits of physical activity in reducing morbidity and mortality are well-established, but the effect of physical inactivity on direct medical costs is less clear.
Objective: To describe the direct medical expenditures associated with physical inactivity.
Design: Cross-sectional stratified analysis of the 1987 National Medical Expenditures Survey that included US civilian men and nonpregnant women aged 15 and older who were not in institutions in 1987. Main outcome measure was direct medical costs.
Results: For those 15 and older without physical limitations, the average annual direct medical costs were $1,019 for those who were regularly physically active and $1,349 for those who reported being inactive. The costs were lower for active persons among smokers ($1,079 vs $1,448) and nonsmokers ($953 vs $1,234) and were consistent across age-groups and by sex. Medical care use (hospitalizations, physician visits, and medications) was also lower for physically active people than for inactive people.
Conclusion: The mean net annual benefit of physical activity was $330 per person in 1987 dollars. Our results suggest that increasing participation in regular moderate physical activity among the more than 88 million inactive Americans over the age of 15 might reduce annual national medical costs by as much as $29.9 billion in 1987 dollars–$76.7 billion in 2000 dollars.