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The Cost of Being Inactive or Overweight

November 12, 2009 0 Comments

r-OBESITY-AMERICA-COST-hugeThe state of our nation’s health is a hot topic at the debates held during this election year.  As a nation, our health and subsequent health care is diminishing and with no real plan of action to turn it around.  But health is only one of the factors that should be considered when determining the full impact of carrying around a few extra pounds and/or choosing to sit in front of the TV instead of engaging in physical activity.  There is an economic cost to all of this, too, one that hits your pockets, health care providers and employers alike.  A recent study shed some light on the subject and the resulting analyses are quite staggering.

In a recent study by Chenowith and Leutzinger, data was evaluated related to medical conditions commonly associated with being overweight or inactive.  From this data, they computed estimated costs for medical care, worker’s compensation, and lost productivity associated with these conditions.  Just to give you an idea of what we are looking at, a recent study by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood institute estimated that as many as 113 million Americans (that’s 61% of the U.S. adult population) are either overweight or obese.  The associated costs for this condition alone climb to more than $200 billion.

Information in this analysis was collected from 7 states (California, Texas, Massachusetts, Washington, New York, North Carolina, and Michigan) in 2003.  The data represents roughly 77 million adults, or approximately one third of the adult population in the United States.  Geographically, the states that were analyzed are spread across the country, and, demographically their make-up reflects that of the United States as a whole.  For each injury or illness that was associated with being overweight or inactive, the authors computed a monetary cost for estimated medical expenses and /or lost productivity at work.  When these analyses were performed, the results showed the following:

  • In 2003, the costs associated with physical inactivity were estimated at $92.3 billion dollars in the states that were analyzed.  When scaled to reflect the entire U.S. population, this represents a cost of more than $250 billion.
  • For the same period, the costs associated with excessive weight were estimated at $94.3 billion in the 7 states analyzed, or approximately $257 billion for the country as a whole
  • If the current trends related to increased health care costs and increased weight gain continue, the projected costs related to inactivity and being overweight will increase by more than 40%, to more than $700 billion in 2008.
  • If the number of physically inactive and overweight Americans could be reduced by 5%, the cost savings would be in excess of $151 billion over the next 5 years.

In any case, the costs associated with obesity and inactivity are immense.  These costs affect all Americans through increased health care costs, lost productivity, or both.  Even a small reduction in the number of people who are inactive or overweight would bring down the number of medical and workmen’s compensation claims considerably.  The question then begs, so what do we have to do?

We need to be more personally responsible for our health.  We need to be more personally accountable for our nutritional choices and getting regular physical activity.  We need to stop making excuses and start coming up with solutions.  We need to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and see that we have had the power all along.  We need to start taking better care of the only thing no one else can – ourselves!

Featured in April 2008 Issue of 422 Business Advisor

About the Author:

Jeff Harrison is a fitness coach based in Pottstown, PA. He received a BS in Exercise and Sport Science from Penn State University and is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), NSCA Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT) and ACE Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist (ACE-AHFS). Jeff's articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals as well as consumer oriented websites and magazines.

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