Why the world needs to be more physically active

More than 60% of all deaths worldwide are from chronic diseases brought on by lifestyle choices. The rise in chronic diseases is linked to four risk factors: smoking, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and excessive alcohol intake.

These four behaviors lead to raised blood pressure, obesity and raised cholesterol that cause four main chronic diseases: cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes.

Changing lifestyle-related behaviors can positively change world health. Given that these diseases can be controlled and prevented, governments, employers, health professionals, healthcare funders and other stakeholders have a responsibility to influence lifestyle behaviors that drive these conditions.

Physical inactivity is costing the world money, productivity and life years

The World Health Organization reports that as many as 15 million people a year die prematurely between the ages of 30 and 69 from a chronic condition related to lifestyle choices. These numbers are set to increase considering that more than 1 in 4 adults globally or 28% of the world population of 1.4 billion people are physically inactive.

$53.8 billion

Physical inactivity costs healthcare systems $53.8 billion worldwide (2013).

$13.7 billion

Deaths related to physical inactivity contribute to $13.7 billion in productivity losses.

13.4 million

Physical inactivity was responsible for 13.4 million life years lost to ill health, disability or death.

Another study in The Lancet Global Health, which included physical activity data from 168 countries and 1.9 million participants found: "If current trends continue, the 2025 global physical activity target of a 10% relative reduction in insufficient physical activity will not be met. Policies to increase population levels of physical activity need to be prioritized and scaled up urgently."

Largest study on verified physical activity

In 2018, Vitality and RAND Europe in collaboration with Apple Watch published the largest study on physical activity behavior change – covering over 400 000 Vitality members, across three countries.

The study showed incentives to increase physical activity work and can increase physical activity by as much as 34% or five extra days of exercise each month. The study confirmed that insurers applying Shared-Value Insurance have a unique ability to make people healthier.

The global impact of physical activity is profound

The commitment from Vitality and the global network of insurers can drive behavior change that adds to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 3 to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing at all ages. With increased uptake of programs and incentives that enable behavior change, we can reach the goals of the World Health Organization’s Global Action Plan on Physical Activity – a roadmap that promotes the wellbeing of all people, everywhere, for a more active and healthy world.