A new study published by think-tank Rand Europe and commissioned by the Vitality Group states that being physically more active for a few extra minutes a day could give the global economy a boost in the hundreds of billions of dollars. This may sound excessive, if not slightly provocative or unrealistic (if it were that easy to engineer extra economic growth, surely the measure or the “trick” would have been instituted years ago), but the logic is incontrovertible.

It is now medically proven that being physically active brings tangible economic benefits—most notably better physical and mental health, hence lower medical costs; yet, it is estimated that 30 percent of the world’s population remains physically inactive.

Using a standard macroeconomic model, the study concludes that making people physically more active (under three different physical activity improvement scenarios) would generate the following economic benefits: (1) an increase in global GDP ranging from $138 billion to $338 billion by 2025, and rising over time to $314–$760 billion by 2050; (2) savings in global healthcare expenditures ranging from $8.7 billion to $11.2 billion and rising to $16–20.6 billion by 2050.

Interestingly, reduced presenteeism drives about 70 percent of economic gain, with reduced mortality and sickness absence accounting for the remaining 30 percent. The takeaway and a no-brainer: Physical activity will increasingly become an ever more core component of the wellness offering and a bigger focus for governments.

Some of this is already apparent at the corporate level, with the twin purpose of (1) increasing overall levels of physical activity while (2) benefiting the environment. Some companies are nudging or incentivizing their employees through various means (ranging from showers at work to cash vouchers) to engage in physical, work-related activity while at the same time traveling sustainably to work. Businesses such as Patagonia or Honest Tea even pay their employees to engage in “bike-to-work” programs.

It so happens that good ideas with a positive impact (like above) can be hijacked. AliExpress (an online retail service owned by Alibaba) sells mechanical devices that artificially boost the daily step counts registered in mobiles. This is the functional equivalent of a health insurance fraud because, by doing so, they allow fraudsters to unduly benefit from discounts on some health insurance premiums.

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