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November 26, 2008
CDC Study: Physical Activity Programs Are Money Well Spent

Community-based physical activity interventions designed to promote more active lifestyles among adults are cost-effective in reducing heart disease, stroke, colorectal and breast cancers, and type 2 diabetes, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Using a economic model developed to assess the cost-effectiveness of community-based physical activity interventions, the study found these interventions to be cost-effective; reducing new cases of many chronic diseases and improving quality of life.

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Researchers found that community-based physical activity programs appeared to reduce new cases of disease by: 5-15 cases per 100,000 people for colon cancer; 15-58 cases per 100,000 for breast cancer; 59-207 cases per 100,000 for type 2 diabetes, and 140-476 cases per 100,000 for heart disease.

Community-based physical activity interventions broadly fall under the following strategies:

  • Community campaigns such as mass communication efforts (TV/radio, newspapers, billboards, advertisements).
  • Social support networks such as exercise groups to encourage behavior change.
  • Tailored behavior change to encourage people to set physical activity goals and monitor their individual progress.
  • Enhanced access to services that support active lifestyles such as fitness centers, bike paths and walking trails.

“Our study found that public health strategies that promote physical activity are cost effective, and compared with other well-accepted prevention strategies, such as treatment for high cholesterol or motor vehicle air bags, offer good value for the money spent,” said Larissa Roux, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study.

The study, “Cost Effectiveness of Community-Based Physical Activity Intervention,” is being published in the online version of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“This study supports the value and effectiveness of the physical activity interventions that were studied,” said William Dietz, M.D., Ph.D., director of CDC′s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. “This study also shows the importance of the new physical activity guidelines put forth last month by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.”

The HHS guidelines recommend:

  • Two and a half hours each week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking or,
  • An hour and 15 minutes each week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity such as jogging or running.

In addition, all adults should include muscle strengthening activities that work all the major muscle groups on two or more days per week.

CDC′s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity funds programs in 23 states designed to prevent obesity and promote healthy lifestyle habits such as physical activity.

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