Want to Lower Your Healthcare Costs? Here’s How

Want to Lower Your Healthcare Costs? Here’s How

Jim Windell

             Typically, the older you become, the greater your healthcare expenses. That’s only commonsense, of course, because as you age your body begins to deteriorate.

            But what if there was a way to delay or avoid the inevitable? What if you could maintain your good health while avoiding skyrocketing healthcare costs?

            You could discover the mythical fountain or youth. Or you could exercise.

           That is the finding of a study led by researchers from the U.K. The research, headed up by Diarmuid Coughlan, Research Associate in Health Economics, Newcastle University. The study found that adults who maintained or increased their physical activity from adolescence throughout adulthood had lower average annual healthcare costs than adults who were consistently inactive over time.

           For the study, Coughlan and his associates drew on data from the National Cancer Institute’s study on diet and health, which looked at over half a million adults. As part of this study, adults in 1996 who were aged 50-71 were asked how physically active they were during this time in their life. These same adults were also asked to estimate how much exercise they got in late adolescence and early and middle adulthood.

           Following up with participants between the period 2004 to 2006, their responses were linked with Medicare data. Medicare is the major health insurance program for American adults aged 65 years and older. In order to ensure accurate results, the researchers only looked at respondents who were 65 years of age. They also adjusted the results to take into account other things that could influence the outcome, such as ethnicity, education, marital status, and whether a person smoked. They wanted to be fairly certain that they were only examining the effect of physical activity on healthcare costs.

           The results?

           The individuals who maintained or increased their exercise habits over the decades spent less for healthcare as compared to those who were physically inactive or had decreased their exercise as they got older. Physically active participants, over the age of 65, had healthcare costs 10 to 22% lower than those who were less active or inactive. Even those people who had been active and engaged in physical exercise in adolescence or early adulthood had increased Medicare costs. It was as if they had been consistently inactive their whole life.

           Diarmuid Coughlan, who is accomplished health economist, cancer researcher and pharmacist with over 10 years experience conducting health services research internationally, recently wrote an article in The Conversation, an online opinion website. In the article he states that exercise is good for your health at every age – and it doesn’t matter at what age or how late in life you start exercising.

           “Given that one in four adults worldwide don’t get enough exercise, large-scale efforts to improve physical activity – especially among adolescents and young adults – could help reduce healthcare costs and improve health later in life,” he writes. “Strategies such as working with people one on one, in small groups, or on a community level, to change their physical activity levels are all proven to work.”

           To read the original article, click here.



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