The Economic Impact of a Little Exercise: Billions and Billions of Dollars

Andy Peloquin

Personal Training


The Economic Impact of a Little Exercise: Billions and Billions of Dollars - Fitness, fitness, Children, movement, medical coverage, physical fitness, Trending


Do you have any idea how much is spent on medical and healthcare costs in the U.S. every year? In 2016, the nation's health care expenses rose as high as $10,000 per person, with more than $3.35 trillion going into medical costs. That's a lot of money invested in keeping the U.S. population healthy.



That begs the question: how much of that money could be saved if more Americans took their health into their own hands? According to research from Johns Hopkins University and the Bloomberg School of Public Health, there's an easy way to save billions of dollars in medical costs every year. The solution is to get kids to move around more.


The research found that getting more kids involved in daily physical exercise and activity could lead to significant healthcare savings. A computational simulation model examined how changes in daily activity could impact not only the kids' health but also how the improvement in the kids' health could lead to less lost wages (from time spent at hospitals or home for kids' sick days).



It's estimated that roughly 32% of children engage in 25 minutes of exercise three days each week. If that number rose to 50% of children, there could be up to 340,000 fewer obese children (4% decrease). How much money will this save? It's estimated that $21.9 billion dollars in medical costs and lost wages could be saved.


If all children could get involved in the daily physical exercise, the number of obese children would decrease by 1.2 million, and the country would save close to $62.3 billion in lost wages and medical costs. That's a lot of money being saved, just because kids are doing a bit more exercise.


“Physical activity not only makes kids feel better and helps them develop healthy habits, it’s also good for the nation’s bottom line,” says study leader Bruce Y. Lee, MD, MBA, executive director of the Global Obesity Prevention Center at the Bloomberg School. “Our findings show that encouraging exercise and investing in physical activity such as school recess and youth sports leagues when kids are young pays big dividends as they grow up.”


Studies have shown that a high body mass index (BMI) at 18 is associated with a high BMI throughout adulthood and increases the subsequent risk of developing maladies such as diabetes and heart disease associated with being overweight or obese, which can lead to high medical costs and productivity losses due to illness. In recent decades, there has been a growing epidemic of obesity in the United States.


If you want to live a long and happy life, you know it's time to get moving. But, you need to get your kids moving as well. By encouraging them to engage in physical activity every day, you can help save money and improve their quality of life as teenagers and adults.



1. Bruce Y. Lee, Atif Adam, Eli Zenkov, Daniel Hertenstein, Marie C. Ferguson, Peggy I. Wang, Michelle S. Wong, Patrick Wedlock, Sindiso Nyathi, Joel Gittelsohn, Saeideh Falah-Fini, Sarah M. Bartsch, Lawrence J. Cheskin, Shawn T. Brown. "Modeling The Economic And Health Impact Of Increasing Children’s Physical Activity In The United States." Health Affairs, 2017; 36 (5): 902. 

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