The results of a new academic study on the relationship between global economic growth and physical activity, carried out by Vitality and RAND Europe, reveal significant benefits to the economy and life expectancy if people adopted a more active lifestyle. The study suggests that the world’s GDP would gain more than $100bn (£80bn) each year until 2050 if people adopted a more active daily routine that could involve simple choices such as walking 15 minutes more a day, jogging slowly for half a mile a day, or walking 1,500 extra steps a day.
The study sets out to enhance the understanding of how inactivity affects all parts of the economy, beyond simply the traditional considerations of healthcare and mortality. It analysed several scenarios to formulate a global picture of how increased physical activity can benefit not only individuals, but also businesses and global economies. The economic improvement arises from lower mortality rates (more people alive and contributing to the economy), reduced absenteeism, and lower presenteeism driven largely by the impact of physical activity on mental health.
The productivity data stems from data collected as part of Vitality UK’s Britain’s Healthiest Workplace (BHW) Survey, as well as AIA’s Asian Healthiest Workplace Survey. In both, employers are asked about their provision of health and well-being interventions, while employees are asked over 100 questions related to demographic factors (age, gender, education, income), lifestyle and health behaviour (nutrition, smoking habits, physical activity, sleep behaviour), health factors (mental and physical health indicators, chronic and musculoskeletal conditions), as well as workplace productivity and job and life satisfaction. Overall, the sample pool was significant, yielding a collective sample size of 120,143 across seven countries.