If you get fit, the country's economy will too - study

06 November 2019 - 06:00 By Nomahlubi Jordaan
If one in every five South African adults becomes physically active over the next 30 years, the country's economy will improve, say researchers.
If one in every five South African adults becomes physically active over the next 30 years, the country's economy will improve, say researchers.
Image: 123RF / Ammentorp

If at least 20% of adults in South Africa become physically active over the next 30 years, the country's gross domestic product (GDP) would increase.

This is according to a new study, titled "The economic benefits of a more physically active population”, which provides insight into the economic benefits of physical activity. The study highlights the importance of exercise in improving wellbeing, productivity and ultimately the GDP.

Research was conducted in 22 countries across five continents. The results are set to be released on Wednesday.

"If we ensure that all inactive people reach the minimum WHO [World Health Organisation] level of 600 metabolic equivalents (METs) a week, GDP increases," the study found.

The study focuses on GDP as the measure of total output of an economy "because it represents a proxy for the health of an economy and ... is often the metric of interest for a variety of policy- and decision-makers".

It "assesses how different physical activity improvement scenarios may affect the economy of countries over a 30-year time horizon, up to the year 2050".

The annual average GDP gain to 2050 was evaluated under three scenarios:

  • if all physically inactive adults reach the WHO minimum guidelines for physical activity;
  • if the adult population is 20% more active as a whole; and
  • if all physically inactive adults reach the WHO minimum guidelines for physical activity, and those already above the minimum threshold become 20% more active.

The study notes that getting people to be more physically active affects the supply of effective labour through three mechanisms related to mortality and productivity: reduced mortality risk, reduced absenteeism and increased presenteeism.

According to the study, 47% of women and 29% of men in South Africa are "insufficiently" active.


X