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The Cost of Inactivity

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

I subscribe to the Harvard School of Public Health newsletter and recently read an article that gave some staggering statistics regarding the cost of inactivity. The article stated that “according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, inactivity was associated with more than 9 million cases of cardiovascular disease in 2001, at an estimated direct medical cost of nearly $24 billion.  Another CDC analysis suggests that because individuals who are physically active have significantly lower annual direct medical costs than those who are inactive, getting people to become more active could cut yearly medical costs in the U.S. by more than $70 billion.” Take that to the bank…or should I say Federal Reserve.

The definition of being sedentary or physically inactive is this: expending less than 1.5 kcal/kg per day in leisure physical activities. This is the equivalent of walking a little over two kilometers or 1.3 miles, or approximately 3000 steps in one day. For most people, that is a walk of 25 minutes or less.

I find it interesting that despite all the promotion in this country to get active, “only about 30 percent of adult Americans report they get regular physical activity during their leisure time—and about 40 percent of Americans say they get no leisure-time physical activity at all.”

Yet according to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day. That’s quite a contrast!  And while many of us may feel perfectly okay with an evening in front of the TV, as long as we got our workout in, the article published by Harvard School of Public Health challenges our defense. It is not only important to to exercise more, it is actually more important to sit less! And in an article appropriately titled Meet the Active Couch Potato, Dr. Dunstan writes, “It is important the general public become more conscious about what they do in their nonexercise time. Almost everybody should look for opportunities to reduce their daily sitting time and move more, more often, throughout the day.”

I plan to give some thought to this. While my solution to inactivity is to go run for an hour, and then invite you to come take a class or try Pilates at the Butler Community School, it’s what we do with the rest of our time that appears to be even more important.

Check back next week. I’m quite intrigued with the possibility of saving 70 billion dollars a year.

 
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