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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Get Out And Exercise -- For All Of Our Sakes

Too often missing from the ongoing healthcare debate in the U.S. is the role of personal responsibility in keeping healthcare costs down. Insurance or no insurance, private or public, healthcare costs will be lower for all us, the healthier we are.

Sure, some conditions are genetic, accidents do happen and preventative care helps, but there are aspects of our own health -- and, in turn, our country's collective health -- that we control based on what we do with our bodies on an everyday basis.

Look no further than our story today on well-being and exercise. Put quite simply -- just 30 minutes of exercise one to two days per week dramatically cuts your chances of being obese or having depression, while dramatically increasing your chances of "thriving" in terms of well-being and having high emotional health. Just one to two days per week. The benefits increase with three to four or five to six days of exercise, and actually decrease with seven days of exercise. So, not only does a little exercise go a long way, a total of three hours per week gets you in the maximum benefit category.

By the looks of our data, only about half of Americans exercise three or more days per week. That means about half of Americans are -- by their own doing -- at higher risk for physical and emotional health conditions that ultimately cost the system money.

Take diabetes for example, to which a study by Health Affairs attributes nearly 10% of all healthcare spending and a third of the rise in healthcare costs since 1987. Our data clearly show that a lack of exercise increases your chances of being obese, and being obese increases your likelihood of being diagnosed with diabetes. On the flip side, exercising cuts your chances of being obese, being at a healthy weight cuts your chances of having diabetes, and not having diabetes cuts your chances of being a big healthcare spender.

So whatever you think about what is happening in Washington, or the potential government-sponsored remedies to the healthcare problem, none of us should ignore that we each have a role to play cutting healthcare costs. A few days of exercise per week can not only improve your own health and well-being, it is arguably the cheapest and least interventionist way to reform -- not just U.S. healthcare -- but U.S. health.

3 comments:

Shannon said...
November 4, 2009 at 1:46 AM  

Personal responsibility is just that...personal. Shifting the blame for rising health care costs onto the obese is itself neglecting personal responsibility. You are placing at least part of the blame on them when you ought to be focusing on yourself and how you are contributing not focusing on how others are contributing. What others are doing is none of your business, nor is it anyone else's. Attitudes like yours are contributing to a new and powerful discrimination rising in this country. Congratulations. But you know, people need to band to together and hate somebody right? Why not fat people? Fat people aren't even people are they? They relinquish their constitutional rights the moment they put a cheeseburger in their face, right? Why not herd them like cattle into fat farms because the very sight of these people are offensive to you and everyone else. Fat people already know and understand everything you've written in your article. They've made their lifestyle choices. Your voice is just one in hundreds of thousands telling them how disgusting they are. All you succeed in doing is helping the discrimination against these people develop more teeth.

CynthiaE said...
November 4, 2009 at 4:16 PM  

This topic is sadly missing from much of the ongoing healthcare debate in Congress. I think the government needs to be in the business of incentivizing individuals to behave responsibility- physically, fiscally, civically, etc. Even when we know it is in our best interest, we don't always make the best choices. Exercise is a classic example. I don't do it and have no good reason; but, promise me a discounted health insurance premium if I have a gym membership and I'd sign up today.

CynthiaE said...
November 5, 2009 at 12:58 PM  

Shannon, the cruel stigma faced by the overweight is this country is truly disgraceful. I compltely agree. However, I found your tirade on the subject very misdirected. Ms. Morales does draw causal connections between rising/high health care costs and obesity. But, no one can really argue with the merit of this fact.

Obsesity is often impacted by genetics, as the blog concedes, however, healthy life-style choices are just that, choices. I understand they are also very personal. However, when the behaviors of others produce excessive negative externalities and large public costs, where should the line be drawn in asking individuals (not just obese individuals) to be financial responsible for these choices.

Car insurance companies price premiums based on negative risk factors, such as age and prior claims. It's an economic game of risk accessment and pricing. Simply because personal health is a bit more, well, personal, doesn't mean it is cruel to suggest pricing based on risk factors.

This blog isn't arguing for this type of policy per se, but so much energy is focused on getting Washington to "fix" this problem and not enough, in my opinion, on encouraging individuals to take some part in the solution as well.

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