The Economical Burden of Physical Inactivity

Given the convincing scientific evidence that physical inactivity leads to a host of chronic degenerative conditions and premature death, it is clear that the promotion of physically active lifestyles is both an important health and economic objective.

In financial terms, the health care cost in 2009 was 183.1 billion dollars or 11.9 % of the total GDP in Canada. Of its total, the direct health care costs that were attributable to physical inactivity were 4.6 billion or 2.5% of healthcare spending. Furthermore, a slight increase in the prevalence of physical activity (such as 10%) could cut the health care costs by over $450 million dollars per annum.

My interpretation is that physical inactivity represents a significant public health burden in Canada. Even modest reductions in inactivity levels could result in substantial cost savings to each and every Canadian.

By preventing, delaying, or at the very least, reducing the severity of chronic conditions and physical inactivity related illness, we would not only enhance individuals’ quality of life as they age, but also will ease demand on health care resources.

There are certain factors in which individuals have control over that are associated with good health. Not smoking, weight control, regular exercise, fruit/vegetable consumption, sleeping well, oral health, stress reduction, and participation in activities with family, friends, and co-workers have a cumulative association with good health.

Unfortunately, not all these factors of good health are at the forefront of employee culture and businesses today. Even with over 2/3 of Canadians in the work force, issues like accessibility, time, regular habit, knowledge, and commitment to reinforcing positive behaviors from management are somewhat absent. Researchers have also proven beyond a doubt that it is the personal behaviors concerning diet and physical activity are likely to play the largest role other than genetic factors in determining obesity and chronic health conditions.

So, what can you business do to help change the climate of physical inactivity and reduce the health burden in Canada?

To directly address this issue the Bentall Centre Athletic Club has developed the HFA. This tool utilizes a mobile Health and Fitness Appraisal team, which comes to your place of business, to provide the employees of your company with feedback about their current state of health and wellness. The HFA also identifies those workers at risk of declining health, as well as providing information on the types and amount of physical activity required to maintain wellness, and a good quality of life. In addition, we seek to develop and execute, specific health wellness programming to suit your company’s needs and objectives for now, and for the future.

So how is the value of this expense added back into the company? The International Healthclub and Racquet Sports Association, has shown that there is a $3 return for every dollar spent on employee health and wellness. By allocating funds towards programs like the Bentall HFA, a company will increase the day to day productivity of its workers, build sharper happier minds, and directly reduce absenteeism, chronic injury, stress, and employee turnover. These issues affect any company’s bottom line. By initiating a health and wellness program for your company, you will not only be doing your part in endorsing wellness in your workplace, but also contributing to reducing the financial burden of health care in Canada.

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