Modest increases in kids' physical activity could avert billions in medical costs

May 01, 2017

Increasing the percentage of elementary school children in the United States who participate in 25 minutes of physical activity three times a week from 32 percent to 50 percent would avoid $21.9 billion in medical costs and lost wages over the course of their lifetimes, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research suggests.

The findings, published May 1 in Health Affairs, suggest that just a small increase in the frequency of exercise among children ages eight through 11 would also result in 340,000 fewer obese and overweight youth, a reduction of more than four percent. If all current eight- through 11-year-olds in the United States exercised 25 minutes a day, three times a week, the researchers suggest that $62.3 billion in medical costs and lost wages over the course of their lifetimes could be avoided and in 1.2 million fewer youths would be overweight or obese.

These numbers represent cost savings for one cohort of eight-to-11 year olds, so every year that children in this age group reach those levels of physical activity, over $60 billion more will be saved.

"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 diseases 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.

For the study, Lee and his colleagues, including team members from the Bloomberg School and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center at Carnegie Mellon University, developed a computational simulation model utilizing their VPOP (Virtual Population for Obesity Prevention) software platform to represent the current population of U.S. children and to show how changes in levels of physical activity could affect them throughout their lifetime and the resulting economic impact. The model relied on data from the 2005 and 2013 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) as well as information from the National Center for Health Statistics. The medical costs and the lost wages were calculated in the second model, which looked at the lifetime effects of physical activity.

The researchers also looked at various levels of healthy physical activity, starting with the current average of 32 percent of children ages eight to 11 who exercise for 25 minutes a day, three days a week, up to 100 percent doing so. That is a guideline developed by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. The researchers found that maintaining the current level of physical activity would result in 8.1 million of these youths being overweight or obese by 2020, which would cost $2.8 trillion in additional medical costs and lost wages over their lifetimes. An overweight person's lifetime medical costs average $62,331 and lost wages average $93,075. For an obese person, these amounts are even greater.

"Even modest increases in physical activity could yield billions of dollars in savings," Lee says. The costs averted are likely an underestimate, he says, as there are other benefits of physical activity that don't impact weight, such as improving bone density, improving mood and building muscle.

Lee says that the spending averted by healthy levels of physical activity would more than make up for costs of programs designed to increase activity levels.

"As the prevalence of childhood obesity grows, so will the value of increasing physical activity," he says. "We need to be adding physical education programs and not cutting them. We need to encourage kids to be active, to reduce screen time and get them running around again. It's important for their physical health -- and the nation's financial health."
-end-
"Modeling the Economic and Health Impact of Increasing Children's Physical Activity in the United States" was written by 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 Fala-Fini; Sarah M. Bartsch; Lawrence J. Cheskin; and Shawn T. Brown.

The research was funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (U01 HD086861, R01 HD08601301 and U54HD070725) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (R01HS023317).

Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health

Related Obesity Articles from Brightsurf:

11 years of data add to the evidence for using testosterone therapy to treat obesity, including as an alternative to obesity surgery
New research covering 11 years of data presented at this year's European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) show that, in obese men suffering from hypogonadism (low testosterone), treatment with testosterone injections lowers their weight and improves a wide range of other metabolic parameters.

Overlap between immunology of COVID-19 and obesity could explain the increased risk of death in people living with obesity, and also older patients
Data presented in a special COVID-19 session at the European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) suggests that there are overlaps between the immunological disturbances found in both COVID-19 disease and patients with obesity, which could explain the increased disease severity and mortality risk faced by obese patients, and also elderly patients, who are infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease.

New obesity guideline: Address root causes as foundation of obesity management
besity management should focus on outcomes that patients consider to be important, not weight loss alone, and include a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of obesity, according to a new clinical practice guideline published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) http://www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.191707.

Changing the debate around obesity
The UK's National Health Service (NHS) needs to do more to address the ingrained stigma and discrimination faced by people with obesity, says a leading health psychologist.

Study links longer exposure to obesity and earlier development of obesity to increased risk of type 2 diabetes
Cumulative exposure to obesity could be at least as important as actually being obese in terms of risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D), concludes new research published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes [EASD]).

How much do obesity and addictions overlap?
A large analysis of personality studies has found that people with obesity behave somewhat like people with addictions to alcohol or drugs.

Should obesity be recognized as a disease?
With obesity now affecting almost a third (29%) of the population in England, and expected to rise to 35% by 2030, should we now recognize it as a disease?

Is obesity associated with risk of pediatric MS?
A single-center study of 453 children in Germany with multiple sclerosis (MS) investigated the association of obesity with pediatric MS risk and with the response of first-line therapy in children with MS.

Women with obesity prior to conception are more likely to have children with obesity
A systematic review and meta-analysis identified significantly increased odds of child obesity when mothers have obesity before conception, according to a study published June 11, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine by Nicola Heslehurst of Newcastle University in the UK, and colleagues.

Obesity medicine association announces major updates to its adult obesity algorithm
The Obesity Medicine Association (OMA) announced the immediate availability of the 2019 OMA Adult Obesity Algorithm, with new information for clinicians including the relationship between Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Dyslipidemia, and Cancer; information on investigational Anti-Obesity Pharmacotherapy; treatments for Lipodystrophy; and Pharmacokinetics and Obesity.

Read More: Obesity News and Obesity Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.