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Physical inactivity costs New Zealand almost 1% of GDP

Physical inactivity costs New Zealand almost 1% of GDP
February 22, 2013

Inactivity cost New Zealand approximately $1.3 billion, or 0.7% of its total GDP, in 2010 according to a new study commissioned by Auckland Council, Waikato Regional Council and the Wellington Regional Strategy Committee (representing local governments in the Wellington region).

The just released study shows that physical inactivity in the Auckland, Waikato and Wellington regions, where about half of New Zealand's population live, costs $648 million a year, wih the cost for the whole country then estimated at $1.3 billion or 0.7% of total GDP in 2010.

Using 'full cost accounting', the study found that physical inactivity cost $402 million in Auckland, $106 million in Waikato and $140 million in Wellington.

Commenting on the report, Wellington Regional Strategy Committee Chair Sir John Anderson explained that physical inactivity is globally recognised as the fourth-leading cause of death and a global public health priority.

Sir John stated "it is as serious a risk factor as smoking or obesity in causing a range of chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

"Local government plays an important role in motivating and providing the infrastructure for people's physical activity, including providing transport infrastructure, active transport opportunities such as cycling, walking, public transport, walking buses, urban design and land use planning, and provision of parks and sport and leisure facilities."

The study explains how the costs of physical inactivity are separated into direct health costs associated with treatment in the health care system, indirect health costs associated with living with disability/disease and dying prematurely and other costs associated with physical inactivity, including promoting activity and information campaigns relating to physical well-being.

The study found that the costs of treating cardiovascular diseases attributed to physical inactivity are the highest, and of cardiovascular diseases, strokes are the costliest. Coronary heart disease had the highest indirect costs for all regions, largely due to the high mortality rates associated with this disease. This was followed by colorectal cancer in Wellington and Auckland, whereas, in Waikato stroke was second highest.

The Auckland Council, Waikato Regional Council and the Wellington Regional Strategy Committee see that the commissioning of a this joint report represents a new approach among New Zealand councils, and may give them the ability to understand the true costs of aspects of our economy or environment that never get properly valued.

Sir John Anderson adds "the economic impacts of physical inactivity in Auckland, Wellington and Waikato are considerable.

"We're concerned about this because of the costs of health to everyone. As councils, if we can help reduce the impact on that system then some of those savings could be re-directed to other areas."

The New Zealand Network of Registered Exercise Professionals (REPs) has welcomed the study, adding that while local government does play an important role in creating an environment and the infrastructure to support initiatives that support increasing activity for all New Zealanders, the role that the fitness and exercise community, through the many well established Registered Exercise Facilities, and Exercise Professionals, plays in encouraging and supporting a sustainable increase in activity should not be overlooked.

In a statement REPs explained "registered facilities and professionals are already set up to provide a solution to inactivity with a range of services and products that provide safe and effective exercise advice and support.

"The cost of inactivity is ultimately subsidised by us all, so by accessing registered exercise facilities and professionals, the cost of getting New Zealanders active is spread, allowing local government to channel their resources into other services.

"Registered Exercise Professionals can prescribe appropriate and achievable exercises to get people started, regardless of their current physical state. Overcoming inactivity is not simply a matter of instructing someone to move; it is about providing the support and resources to maintain activity and exercise over the long term."

The NZ Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) is an independent non-profit organisation administrating the New Zealand exercise professionals register to ensure that the public receive safe and effective exercise advice. 

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