No short-term savings in health care expenditures for physically active adults

Prev Med. 2014 Jun;63:1-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.02.020. Epub 2014 Mar 5.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate the association of physical activity and health care expenditures in a nationally representative sample of non-disabled adults.

Methods: This was a secondary analysis of data from 8843 adults. Physical activity measures were derived from participants in the 2006 and 2007 National Health Interview Survey. Demographic and expenditure variables came from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey data files for panels 12 (2007-2008) and 13 (2008-2009). Multivariable regression models were used to determine the association between levels of physical activity participation and total health care expenditures, drug expenditures, and out-of-pocket health care expenditures.

Results: Unadjusted data revealed lower health care expenditures among those whose activity level met the CDC guidelines with greater savings apparent among those who exercised above recommended guidelines. However, in the models that adjusted for age, sex, race, income and health status these differences disappeared.

Conclusion: In the short-term, the amount of physical activity undertaken by an adult may have little effect on the expenditures for health services, drugs and the money expended directly out-of-pocket. However, given the benefits of physical activity in terms of chronic disease prevention there are very likely long-term expenditure savings to be had.

Keywords: Drug expenditures; Medical expenditures; Physical activity.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Drug Costs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Health Expenditures / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Income / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Reduction Behavior*
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States