Study: Inactivity cost U.S. private sector $10B

Private-sector entities, including health insurance companies, bore 41 percent--or $10.1 billion--of the costs imposed by insufficient exercise in 2013, according to a public health study published in The Lancet.

For the study, researchers measured the expenditures for treatment of major diseases connected to being inactive. Melody Ding, a University of Sydney public health research and lead author of the report, estimates the total cost of inactivity to be $24.7 billion for the U.S. in 2013. It cost the public sector $11.6 billion in 2013, and cost households $2.9 billion.

Globally, she estimates the cost was $67.5 billion.

Ding compiled healthcare expenditures for five major diseases associated with inactivity--heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and colon cancer--ultimately concluding type 2 diabetes is the highest cost condition. She notes that at least 17 other diseases and conditions are related to inactivity, and probably many more.

Moving forward, the study says that estimates of the true costs of inactivity will likely be much higher as data collection techniques improve and more data becomes available. Thus, it might be important to investigate a coordinated policy initiative to promote physical activity, Ding says.

For their part, U.S. health insurers are increasingly striving to make members more active. One way insurers have attempted to encourage fitness is by offering financial incentives tracked to data accumulated from wearables, as UnitedHealth has done. Oscar also sent members free wearables attached with incentives to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

- read the research paper