Tatiana Andreyeva and Roland Sturm
Physical activity has clear health benefits but there remains uncertainty about how it affects health care costs.
To examine how physical activity is associated with changes in health expenditure for a national sample age 54 to 69 y, and estimate how this association varies across people with different chronic diseases and health behaviors.
Data were from the Health and Retirement Study, a national longitudinal survey of late middle age Americans.
Correcting for baseline differences in active and inactive groups, physical activity was associated with reduced health care costs of about 7% over 2 y (or $483 annually).
Regular physical activity in late middle age may lower health expenditure over time, and the effect is likely to be more pronounced for the obese, smokers, and individuals with some baseline health problems. While substantially large for the health care system, our estimates are much smaller than health-unadjusted comparisons or cross-sectional effects.
Meenakshi Maria Fernandes and Roland Sturm
Physical activity at school can support obesity prevention among youth. This paper assesses the role of existing school physical activity programs for a national cohort from first grade to fifth grade.
We analyzed a cohort from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey—Kindergarten Cohort which included 8246 children in 970 schools across the country. Growth curve models estimate the effect of physical education (PE) and recess on individual child body mass trajectories controlling for child and school characteristics. Hierarchical models allow for unobserved school and child effects.
Among first graders, 7.0% met the National Association of Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) recommended time for PE and 70.7% met the recommended time for recess in the previous week. Boys experienced a greater increase in body mass than girls. Meeting the NASPE recommended time for recess was associated with a 0.74 unit decrease in BMI (body mass index) percentile for children overall. Meeting the NASPE recommendation for physical education was associated with 1.56 unit decrease in BMI percentile among boys but not girls.
We find evidence that meeting the national recommendations for PE and recess is effective in mitigating body mass increase among children.