Human Limits

Exploring performance and health with Michael J. Joyner, M.D.

Photo of Michael J. Joyner, M.D.

Health Care Costs and Physical Activity

Today’s post is brief and shows data on health care costs and physical activity in Medicare patients from about 10 years ago.



The figure shows average annual total health care costs for adults over age 65 who had either worked for General Motors or were spouses of former GM employees.    The subgroups in the figure are based on body mass index (a marker of obesity) and also those who were inactive (0/wk), active 1-3 times per week and active more than 4 times per week.   Over 40,000 people were involved in the study.   For each body mass index subgroup, health care costs were lower and there seemed to be a dose response effect.   In other words the most active people had lower costs than the moderately active people who had lower costs than the least active people.


While this data is interesting and certainly suggests that more activity equals lower health care costs, there are limitations.  For example, perhaps the most active people were simply healthier to begin with and as a result could be more active.   In future posts I will explore what is known about the effects of interventions that promote physical activity on overall population health and also health care spending.


One Response to “Health Care Costs and Physical Activity”

  1. December 7th, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Sandra Hunter says:

    Mike, this is very interesting data! Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

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