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The Economic Cost of Physical Inactivity and Excess Weight in American Adults

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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Physical inactivity and excess weight in American adults have reached epidemic levels. This article describes how cost data from previously conducted analyses in several states were used to quantify the costs of physical inactivity and excess weight among American adults.


Medical and workers’ compensation cost data on selected medical conditions were obtained from various health plans and state agencies in seven states. Productivity loss norms were obtained from published studies.


The estimated financial burden which includes direct medical care, workers’ compensation, and productivity loss costs among the seven states is $93.32 billion for physical inactivity and $94.33 billion for excess weight. The estimated nationwide cost of these risk factors is approximately $507 billion with projected costs exceeding $708 billion in 2008. Projected cost-savings of $31 billion per year could be realized with a 5% drop in these risk factors.


The cost of physical inactivity and excess weight among American adults is significant. More research on best-of-class interventions to curtail the high prevalence of these risk factors is needed.

Chenoweth is President of Chenoweth & Associates, Inc. and Professor at East Carolina University, Greenville, NC 27858. Leutzinger is President of Health Improvement Solutions, Inc. and Academy for Health & Productivity Management, Omaha, NE.

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