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Fitter or fatter? – Exercise can contribute to a healthier SA economy

A ground-breaking, global study by Vitality and RAND Europe shows that an extra 15 minutes of walking daily could add close to 3 years to your life and grow the world economy by $100bn a year.

The 23-country study assesses how different physical activity improvement scenarios may affect the economy of countries up to 2050, and shows the significant influence of regular exercise on economic growth, workforce productivity and life expectancy. It shows that if the inactive population walked ±20 min a day, the world economy would gain $220bn annually, the individual 2.5 years of life and business 5 additional productive days a year.

If South Africa succeeds in getting 20% of adults 20% more active over the next 30 years, the average GDP will increase by USD$500 million (+R7 billion); and if all inactive people reach the minimum WHO physical activity levels, GDP will increase by between USD$1.6 and USD$2.1 billion.

“Physical inactivity, and the devastating impact it has on people’s quality of life, mortality and morbidity, is one of the key public health challenges we face. Considering that 28% of the global population are not physically active enough – 38% in South Africa – Vitality’s commitment to get people moving is more relevant than ever,” Dinesh Govender, Discovery Vitality Chief Executive shared during a live broadcast from London.

Govender further shares that independent research has validated the efficacy of incentives combined with a behaviour-change programme. “In 2018, we released the largest study on behaviour change and incentives with RAND Europe. This study showed that members with Vitality Active Rewards and Apple Watch were 34% more active – illustrating the power of incentives designed to achieve lasting behaviour change,” Govender explains.

Similarly, the 2019 study aims to further deepen the global understanding of the real economic impact of a physically inactive population. It assesses how different physical activity improvement scenarios may affect the economy of countries up to 2050 and shows the significant influence of regular exercise on economic growth, workforce productivity and life expectancy.

Govender continues: “This ground-breaking study provides proof of the relationship between exercise, productivity, mortality and economic growth. It strengthens our resolve to continue to encourage people to ‘Move More’ and become part of a global health movement.”

There is of course another challenge in South Africa, as evidenced by the recently released statistics on sick leave in the public sector. The private sector is not far behind. It is almost as if people believe that that sick leave is an extension of their annual leave, and feel obliged to utilise it to the full. The following anecdote is perhaps both funny and true:

The employee phones his supervisor to say that she won’t be in due to illness.

What is wrong?

It is my eyes. I do not see myself coming to work today.

Click here to download the Discovery media release

Click here to download the findings of the global study.

Click here to view a recording of the live broadcast.

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