If just 10 per cent of Canadian adults reduced sedentary behaviour and become more active, national health-care costs could be lowered by about $2.6 billion, according to a report by the Conference Board of Canada and ParticipACTION.
This could also inject $7.5 billion into the economy, found the report, Moving Ahead: The Economic Impact of Reducing Physical Inactivity and Sedentary Behaviour.
The incidence of debilitating chronic diseases could be reduced, with the potential for 31,000 fewer cancer cases, 222,000 fewer hypertension cases, 120,000 fewer diabetes cases and 170 fewer heart disease cases over the next 25 years. Premature mortality could decline by 2.4 per cent by 2020.
These benefits could be achieved if that 10 per cent of Canadians sat less, walked more each week, and increased daily physical activity. The benefits could begin to be realized as early as 2020.
"The reduction in premature mortality and, to a lesser extent, reduced numbers of people on disability and fewer days lost to absenteeism, would mean more workers available for the labour force," said Thy Dinh, senior research associate at the Conference Board.
"As a result, economic activity would receive a substantial boost. Improving the health status of Canadians through increased physical activity and reduced sedentary behaviour can lead to longer, healthier lives, and the expected productivity gains would be of significant benefit to the entire country."
"Canadians spend most of their waking hours sitting and get insufficient activity, a recipe for the promotion of hypertension, diabetes and even premature mortality," said Dr. Mark Tremblay, director of healthy active living and obesity research (HALO) at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute (CHEO) and member of ParticipACTION's Research Advisory Group.
"These new findings show that modest, achievable changes in movement behaviours can produce substantial and important improvements in health, and should be embraced."