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The cost of physical inactivity: $67.5 billion per year globally

More than 40 percent of the total is attributed to the United States.

By Ed Adamczyk
The cost of physical inactivity: $67.5 billion per year globally
A University of Sydney study placed the global cost of physical inactivity, leading to five major diseases, at $67.5 billion. Photo by Lolostock/Shutterstock

SYDNEY, July 29 (UPI) -- The first study to quantify the global cost of individuals' physical inactivity puts the tab at $67.5 billion per year.

Researchers at Australia's University of Sydney, using 2013 data from 142 countries, studied five major non-communicable diseases, incidences of which could be reduced by exercise -- coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and colon cancer. They calculated the direct cost of healthcare at about $54 billion and indirect costs, including lost productivity due to early death, at another $13.7 billion.

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More than 40 percent of the total, $27.8 billion, is attributed to the United States.

"After decades of research, we now have established knowledge about how physical inactivity contributes to premature deaths and chronic diseases, but the economic burden of physical inactivity remains unquantified at the global level. Through estimating the economic burden of physical inactivity for the first time, we hope to create a business case for investing in cost-effective actions to promote physical activity at the global levels," Melody Ding, leader of the study, told CBS News.

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The costliest disease was type 2 diabetes, which was determined to be $37.6 billion annually in direct costs.

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The results were published in the British medical journal The Lancet, which, in a commentary, called for the world to "get serious about physical activity."

The study covered five health conditions, instead of the 22 linked to physical inactivity, because of the lack of data in many countries. Ding said the true cost of inactivity, defined by the World Health Organization as less than 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity per week by adults, is likely two to three times higher.

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