The Cost of Sedentary Lifestyles

Tom Wirbel - Employee Benefits Broker Ohio“AMERICANS BLOW $27.8 BILLION A YEAR BY BEING LAZY” – I stumbled across that headline this week and it really grabbed my attention!  I’ve always thought that it’s better to be active than not.  I’ve been “tracking steps” with my Fitbit for a couple years; and during my first 90 days of use, I forced myself to take at least 10,000 steps each day.  I remember a few nights when bedtime approached and my step count hadn’t yet reached 10,000 – I begrudgingly hit the treadmill in order to keep my 10,000 steps / day streak alive.  The use of the Fitbit has caused me to realize that 10,000 steps / day doesn’t just happen naturally or automatically with my sedentary work life – I have to walk / run / exercise in some way (at least a little every day) to clear that 10,000 step hurdle.  Although I haven’t played “Pokemon Go,” I have to admit that there seems to be some health benefit to participating players walking more than they otherwise might.

The Problem:

On July 27, 2016, a health journal called The Lancet published a study titled “The economic burden of physical inactivity: a global analysis of major non-communicable diseases.”  Researchers found that although the United States represents less than 5% of the world’s population, the United States shoulders the burden of more than 40% of the world’s economic costs related to inactivity.  The most costly health condition, economically speaking, is Type 2 Diabetes – accounting for 70% of healthcare costs that the researchers linked to inactivity.  Melody Ding, lead researcher for the study, pointed out that worldwide, the “expense” related to inactivity varies dramatically.  “In wealthy countries, people pay with their pockets.  In less wealthy countries, they’re paying with their lives.”

A previous study published by Emory University researchers documents healthcare costs associated with inactivity; not globally, but rather in the United States.  They found the economic impact of inactivity as it relates to direct medical expense to be staggering – in excess of $300 Billion, about 10% of total domestic healthcare spending.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that adults “engage in moderate-intensity physical activity for at least 30 minutes on five or more days of the week,” or “engage in vigorous-intensity physical activity for at least 20 minutes on three or more days of the week”. Examples of moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity physical activities can be found on the CDC Physical Activity Web site at

Unfortunately, driving employees towards more active lifestyles isn’t easy; but the rewards for doing so are enormous.  EDUCATE, EDUCATE, EDUCATE……  For information about how you can help your employees embrace more active lifestyles, please contact your CPI-HR benefits consultant, or call 440-542-7800.


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