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The Role of Physical activity in Health Care Costs.

With current advancements it is vital that physical activity (PA) is supported in both health care and work environments. Provided the strong impact of PA on disease prevention and treatment it leaves room for little doubt regarding necessity for regular PA promotion. PA levels are maintaining a consistent decline in the workplace due to the increasing population of people sitting longer and moving less. A broad range exists among different occupation types, however labor-saving devices and technological advances at home, work, school and in transportation have dramatically reduced daily energy expenditure and activity levels, affecting overall health.

Vital to the aspiration for increases in the supply of PA promotion and counseling is the potential cost savings realized by health care systems, payer’s and employers. One emerging area of research is to evaluate the effectiveness of different clinic-based PA assessment, counseling and/or referral interventions in affecting short and long-term changes in physical activity behavior. This relatively new area of research is beginning to show promising outcomes. From an individual standpoint monthly costs savings can range from $0-$300+ with an average around $140. Savings from a business standpoint can range between $1.50-$10.10 per dollar spent on WHP (workplace health programs), with an average of $3.50 ROI (return of investment) per dollar spent on WHP.

Although, cost effectiveness should not be restricted simply to ROI calculations of health care costs alone. The value of regular PA far exceeds the monetized benefits. Increases in PA behavior affect physical and mental functioning, quality of life and other dimensions of health and well being that often cannot be calculated as they occur in non-health related aspects or factors (i.e., the impact of exercise on income and family earnings, PA impact on mood states, etc.).


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