Increasing physical activity among children is a potentially important public health intervention. Quantifying the economic and health effects of the intervention would help decision makers understand its impact and priority. Using a computational simulation model that we developed to represent all US children ages 8-11 years, we estimated that maintaining the current physical activity levels (only 31.9 percent of children get twenty-five minutes of high-calorie-burning physical activity three times a week) would result each year in a net present value of $1.1 trillion in direct medical costs and $1.7 trillion in lost productivity over the course of their lifetimes. If 50 percent of children would exercise, the number of obese and overweight youth would decrease by 4.18 percent, averting $8.1 billion in direct medical costs and $13.8 billion in lost productivity. Increasing the proportion of children who exercised to 75 percent would avert $16.6 billion and $23.6 billion, respectively.
Keywords: Children’s Health; healthcare costs; obesity; physical activity.
Project HOPE—The People-to-People Health Foundation, Inc.