Objective: To quantify the cost-benefit relationship of walking to prevent coronary heart disease.
Design: Cost-benefit analysis.
Participants: Hypothetical cohorts of sedentary men and women aged 35 to 74 years.
Main outcome measures: Decision-analysis simulation was used to evaluate the cost-benefit relationship of walking, varying level of benefit from exercise, frequency of exercise to achieve benefit, participation rates, and costs of exercise and injury.
Results: At a relative risk of 1.9 for heart disease associated with sedentary behavior, $5.6 billion would be saved annually if 10% of adults began a regular walking program. A $4.3 billion savings is predicted if the entire sedentary population began walking regularly and the cost of the time an individual spends exercising is accounted for in those who dislike exercising. According to our baseline assumptions, walking is economically beneficial for men aged 35 to 64 years and for women aged 55 to 64 years. The threshold of relative risk at which economic benefit is found for walking in this population overall is estimated at 1.7, and under a volunteer model, most adults would benefit even at a relative risk of 1.15.
Conclusions: There are significant sex and age differences in the economic benefits of walking to prevent heart disease. The value assigned to the time an individual spends exercising has a significant impact on the results. Overall, a substantial savings is predicted from encouraging sedentary individuals to participate in a regular walking program.