Cost of inactivity


How our health affects our quality of life.

The 2003 Australian Burden of Disease Study indicated that physical inactivity was the fourth leading cause of burden of disease in Australia. It was estimated that physical inactivity was responsible for approximately 7% of the total burden of disease and injury for all Australians. Being inactive increases all causes of mortality, doubles the risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity. It also increases the risks of colon and breast cancer, high blood pressure, lipid disorders, osteoporosis, depression and anxiety.


The link between physical and mental health.

Psychosocial and cardiovascular health are closely linked. Adults aged 18 years and over who were sedentary or exercised at a low level, were more likely to be classified as having a high or very high level of psychological distress than those who had moderate to high exercise levels (15% compared with 9%)9. Accumulating evidence suggests that regular physical activity is effective in preventing and managing depression as well as other chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It has recently been shown that people who experience depression, are socially isolated or do not have quality social support, and are at greater risk of developing coronary heart disease.

Only one in ten Australian adults say they play any organised sport, and around three quarters of parents reveal that their family does not play sport or do any physical activity together

What do the words escalator, remote control, washing machine and home delivery mean to you?

To most, they likely mean time saving, convenience, practicality or normality. However, what we are starting to understand is that these words also denote an increased risk of obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, heart attack and premature morbidity. The importance of daily exercise is becoming recognised, and how a convenient lifestyle might just be the quickest way to a shorter life.

Although no data has monitored energy expenditure (EE) in a comprehensive fashion, it is suggested that EE has declined. Although the leisure time physical activity component has remained mostly unchanged or only declined slightly, other modes of EE are thought to have declined markedly. The reasons for this include technological advances which require less EE in the domestic and occupational settings, and greater use of motorised (and therefore sedentary) modes of transport. Even small consistent declines in EE, averaged over a year, could result in population weight gain. This suggests that increasing total inactivity has been an important contributor to the obesity epidemic.

Physical inactivity is the second most modifiable risk factor that contributes to disease, morbidity and mortality in Australia and 8,000 deaths per year are attributable to physical inactivity.

65% of males and 74% of females are not sufficiently active for health benefits. In relation to our expanding waistlines, 52% of Australian women and 67% of Australian men, and 25% of Australian children are currently overweight or obese.  Overweight or obese Australian adults were 50% less likely than other Australian adults to reach a ‘sufficient’ level of physical activity compared with those of healthy weight.

There has been a significant increase in the health costs associated with obesity treatment in Australia over the recent years, with the annual expenditure approximating to 6% of the national health budget. Obesity is costing the Australian government up to $1.5 billion a year in direct health costs, and physical inactivity costs the health system $400 million annually. For each disease, costs were estimated to be $161 million for coronary heart disease, $28 million for non-insulin dependant diabetes mellitus, $16 million for colon cancer, $101 million for stroke, $16 million for breast cancer, and up to $56 million for depressive disorders.

All the more reason to keep your Steps up!