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Sedentary behavior has become increasingly common in modern society, resulting in a general decrease of physical activity worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines physical activity as any bodily movement including activities undertaken during leisure, work, home-based activities, and engaging in recreational pursuits. Increased urbanization, which generally increases air pollution, decreases the number of parks and sidewalks, and spurs high-density traffic, often discourages participation in physical activity. This is particularly concerning given that insufficient physical activity is one of ten leading risk factors - along with more commonly known risk factors such as smoking and obesity - for death and noncommunicable diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes. 

Research shows … 

Eliminating physical inactivity could add 0.68 years to the life expectancy of the world's population, including active people, according to a 2012 study for the Lancet Physical Activity Series Working Group. In addition, 9 percent of premature deaths, or 3.3 of the 36 million deaths worldwide each year, could be averted if inactive people were to become active. For comparison, smoking caused about 5 million deaths globally in 2000.

The billion dollar economic price tag

In addition to harming individuals, physical inactivity has real and increasingly measurable effects on the global economy. The economic burden of physical inactivity in 2013 was estimated at $67.5 billion worldwide, according to the recent research published in the Lancet journal. This is equivalent to the net worth of the world's second richest person or the GDP of Ethiopia. Total costs include direct health-care costs of $53.8 billion and productivity losses due to premature deaths of $13.7 billion. Economic and health burdens are distributed unequally across regions. Current economic costs are borne mainly in high-income countries given that these countries have more developed health and economic systems. Less developed countries pay more in terms of disease burden as they can least afford to implement social programs to address physical inactivity.

Physical activity yields healthier and more productive populations

Apart from the billions of dollars that could be saved to the world economy if levels of inactivity decrease, physical activity could help reduce the rates of coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, breast and colon cancer, depression, and other noncommunicable diseases. At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, such as walking, cycling or other sports, is considered to be sufficient for adults, according to the WHO.

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Outpacing Growth of Health Expenditures

In 2010 expenditures on health in the USA amounted to $2 584 billion, which 2.5 times more than expenditures on health in all emerging countries taken together, or was equal to GDP of such developed country as France. During 1995-2010 expenditures on health in current prices grew 2.6 times in the United States and increased more then 4.5 times in emerging countries. At the same period World GDP (in current prices) increased only 2.3 times.Aging population and growing income make health expenditures grow faster than the world output. Meanwhile, the comparison between health expenditure and other health indicators reveals interesting fact....