In 2013, the world suffered losses amounting to US$67.5 billion due to physical inactivity, calculated researchers at the University of Sydney.

In the first study of its kind, researchers found that a lack of regular physical activity for increasingly office-bound employees proved an economic burden on countries around the world, costing them billions in medical bills and lost productivity.

Based on data from 142 countries involving up to 93.2 percent of the global population, the study examined the direct healthcare costs and productivity losses for five major diseases linked to inactivity: coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and colon cancer.

The grand total of US$67.5 billion comprised US$58.8 billion in healthcare costs and US$13.7 billion in lost productivity.

The study’s lead author and senior research fellow at the university’s School of Public Health, Dr. Melody Ding, said: “Physical inactivity is recognized as a global pandemic that not only leads to diseases and early deaths, but imposes a major burden to the economy.”

She added that high-income countries were found to bear a larger proportion of the economic burden, but low and middle-income countries had a larger proportion of the disease burden.

“Generally, poorer countries don’t have their health needs met due to less developed health and economic systems. Ultimately, poor households pay the most in terms of premature death and disease, showing inequalities. As these countries develop economically, so too will the consequent economic burden, if the pandemic of physical inactivity spreads as expected,” explained Dr. Ding.

She warned that if no action is taken to get people up and moving, the economic burden of physical inactivity is likely to increase, especially in low and middle-income countries.

Professor Adrian Bauman of the University of Sydney highlighted the importance of the study, which was published on Wednesday in The Lancet as part of a series of papers on physical activity.

“This research provides further justification to prioritize promotion of regular physical activity worldwide as part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce non-communicable diseases,” he said.

Professor Bauman added that encouraging people to live healthier and more active lifestyles was a vital investment for governments and corporations, as it would save healthcare costs and boost productivity.

Another paper in the same issue revealed that the quickest and easiest fix to the problem is to incorporate at least one hour of physical activity a day … Guess this calls for a coffee run?

Image via Flickr 

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