Active Movement Saves Lives—And Money
The Dangers of Inactivity Originally posted by Businessolver
Movement is essential to good health—and not moving can be a death sentence. According to the Mayo Clinic, the risk of dying from sitting for eight hours a day with no physical activity is similar to the risk posed by obesity and smoking. This is particularly concerning considering that 26% of American adults report sitting for more than eight hours each day, and 45% say they don’t exercise at all.
A sedentary lifestyle dangerously increases the risk of developing chronic disease, including a host of mental and physical health problems. An overwhelming body of research tells us that people who don’t get enough exercise are much more likely to struggle with musculoskeletal (MSK) pain, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression and anxiety, and numerous other chronic conditions. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that physical inactivity contributes to 1 in 10 premature deaths.
The shift towards remote work in recent years, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has made Americans even more sedentary. Studies show that people are taking about 600 fewer steps each day than they did before the pandemic began. And as daily activity declined during lockdowns, daily screen time and alcohol consumption went way up.
The rise of these unhealthy behaviors has contributed to a higher prevalence of MSK disorders, which leave people in pain and—in a vicious feedback loop—make physical activity more difficult to achieve. While working from home, 61% of employees said they experienced more joint and muscle pain, especially in the lower back, shoulders, and neck. And among those whose MSK pain is chronic (lasting more than three months), around 40% experienced an increase in pain during the first two years of the pandemic. While this pain crisis in the U.S. is less widely discussed than the country’s concurrent mental health crisis, it is worth noting that the two are intimately related: Chronic pain frequently co-occurs with and intensifies mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and substance use disorder.
At best, inactivity negatively impacts physical health, mental health, and overall quality of life. At worst, inactivity kills. It is also incredibly costly, accounting for $117 billion in annual healthcare costs and 22% of employers’ medical spend. In fact, MSK conditions alone are consistently among the top three drivers of healthcare costs for large companies—which is hardly surprising given that MSK affects one in two adults aged 18 and older in the U.S.
The Benefits of Active Movement The good news is that there is a highly effective antidote to the staggering consequences of inactivity: regular active movement. Dr. Wael Jaber, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, says that lack of activity “should be treated almost as a disease that has a prescription, which is called exercise.” And the recommended dose of that “prescription” is at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and two days of muscle strengthening activity per week, according to the CDC.
However, three in four U.S. adults fail to meet these minimum guidelines. The key to solving the pain epidemic in the U.S. is getting this sedentary segment of the population moving. Even a moderate amount of exercise can lower the risk of developing MSK pain and other chronic conditions.
Studies show that:
- People who get moderate exercise each week are 31% less likely to die prematurely than inactive people.
- Just 75 minutes of exercise per week—or about 11 minutes per day—reduces the risk of premature death by 25%. This amount of activity also cuts the risk for heart disease by 17% and for cancer of any kind by 7%.
- Physical activity is 1.5 times more effective at reducing mild-to-moderate symptoms of depression, psychological stress, and anxiety than medication or cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Emerging adults aged 18-29 who engage in regular physical activity are more likely to have higher self-esteem, optimism, and happiness.
For those who are sedentary, committing to some form of active movement for 10-20 minutes per day is an excellent place to start. And the activity does not need to be complicated or high-impact to be effective. Something as simple as a daily walk can increase blood flow to keep muscles healthy, bringing nutrients to damaged tissues to help them repair.
Walking also releases happiness hormones like endorphins and triggers the body’s innate pain-relieving system, releasing endogenous (that is, made internally) opioids and cannabinoids. Even committing to standing up from the computer and stretching once per hour during the workday can relieve acute aches, thus reducing their likelihood of progressing into chronic pains.
Regular movement not only adds years to the average person’s life, it can also save employees—and their employers—thousands of dollars in medical expenses annually. According to a study of exercise and Medicare claims, people who start to exercise before or during middle age can save anywhere from $824 to $1,874 annually on healthcare costs after retirement. And a study published in The Journal of the American Heart Association found that exercising at moderate levels saved patients with heart disease up to $2,500 per year in medical costs.
How Move Increases Activity Levels and Reduces Medical Spend For all the reasons above, Sword Health created Move—a digital health solution that delivers personalized programming to members by connecting them with a Certified Personal Trainer, who uses real-time insights collected from an integrated wearable device (Move Wearable). Designed to make it easy for members to start moving and stay moving, Move also cuts medical expenses for them and their organizations.
Each member is matched with a dedicated personal trainer who develops an exercise program tailored specifically for them. Every week, members will receive a series of exercises and classes based on their physical and mental health goals, motivation style, occupation, ongoing progress, and schedule. Led by Sword’s movement experts, the programming is built on clinically validated care and continuous, personalized support—which are foundational to all of Sword’s products, from our Digital Physical Therapy solution to our pelvic health solution, Bloom.