Fitter Workforce Will add Billions a Year to World Economy

Health and life insurer Vitality has launched a new study which predicts the global economy could benefit by $220 billion a year if workers hit exercise targets.

The global study was commissioned and compiled by RAND Europe and Vitality to understand and define the economic impact of physical inactivity. It fond if workers were fitter the world’s economy would also be leaner and faster and with it more profitable and extend life expectancy.

It reported that if all adults aged 18-64 walked just 15 minutes more a day, the world economy would grow by an estimated $100 billion a year until 2050.

The study added if the physically inactive were to reach the World Health Organisation’s recommended levels of exercise, employees would gain up to 5 additional days of productive time each year, and the global economy would grow by an estimated $220 billion every year. Vitality estimates that life expectancy could increase by at least 2.5 years, on average, for a person aged 40 years in this scenario.

The study didn’t just look at the impact in the inactive. If currently active people increased their physical activity levels by 20%, the global economy could grow by in excess of $360 billion every year; equivalent to the size of the economy of Singapore’s economy. Economic gains for the US economy would add $95 billion (£73 billion) a year to the economy until 2050, and $11 billion (£8.5 billion) a year for the UK economy, in this scenario.

The economic gains would be down to the reduction of premature deaths in the working age population, improving rates of sick leave and improved levels of workplace productivity associated with regular exercise.

Neville Koopowitz, CEO of Vitality UK said: “This is further compelling evidence of the far-reaching benefits of healthy, active lifestyles. Every day at Vitality we see the transformative impact of exercise on people’s live, and this is yet another example of the positive effect that regular exercise can have on society, the workforce and the wider economy.”

Hans Pung, President of RAND Europe, said: “This is the first time that a multi-country macroeconomic model has been applied to the area of physical activity, facilitating a detailed assessment of the current and future implications of insufficient physical activity.”

Mr Pung highlighted the significance of the study for policymakers and employers alike, “The study points to a significant relationship between inactivity and productivity loss, driven largely by ill-health related presenteeism. We hope that these insights will support policy makers and employers with new perspectives on how to enhance the productivity of their populations.”