The Sports and Fitness Industry Association's (SFIA) "active to a healthy level," is just 25 minutes of high-calorie-burning physical activity three times a week. So how much is children's failure to meet recommended levels costing society? Well, our team at the Global Obesity Prevention Center (GOPC) at Johns Hopkins University developed a computational simulation model of all the children in the United States. 

As reported on Johns Hopkins University's The Hub, getting all children to that level would decrease obesity and overweight prevalence by 14.89%, averting $26.3 billion in direct medical costs and $36 billion in lost productivity...again every year that these new levels are attained.

Who will pay for these costs? Everyone who pays taxes or pays for insurance. All medical costs that go to insurance companies, Medicare, Medicaid and other types of third-party payers eventually make their way to the wallets of taxpayers and those who pay for insurance. Also, productivity losses affect businesses across the country as long as they employ people and not all robots. When employees can't be as productive because they don't feel well, are sick, are hospitalized or are no longer alive, the economy and the entire country suffer. 

(Yes, children's physical activity is also linked to jobs.) Our country may seem big (geographically...but the problem is that it seems to be getting bigger physically, too), but we are all intimately connected when it comes to health and healthcare.

Since the 1980s, kids' physical activity has been going down WHILE OBESITY HAS BEEN GOING UP. But why should you care, especially if you don't have kids or don't like kids (if you have kids, it is better if you like kids)? Well, a study, just published in Health Affairs, shows you why these trends are going to cost you regardless.

A lack of physical activity among children is not somebody else's problem. Investing in programs and initiatives to get children more active may actually provide significant cost savings ((e.g., Brutal Fitness Challenge Family Training). While some organizations and individuals have advocated for more physical activity, getting children more physically active hasn't been enough of a national priority--and that's costing everyone.

These days children are spending nine hours a day on different types of media, including social media and television, as reported by CNN, which translates to 63 hours a week. And physical activity numbers have been trending downward with increasing time in front of computers, television and smartphones, more time on social media, less time directly interacting with each other, school districts cutting physical education classes and recesses, sports programs struggling to find funding, etc.

While physical activity is not the only factor that affects weight (e.g., certainly diet plays a major role), staying physically active can go a long way to preventing obesity. In fact, in a study recently published in PLoS Genetics, researchers from many different institutions (the author list is quite long) conducted a meta-analysis of over 200,000 individuals and found that physical activity could help reduce weight, even for individuals genetically predisposed toward obesity.


Global Obesity Prevention Center (GOPC) at Johns Hopkins University