Exercise Saves Seniors Money on Health Care

Adults who increase their physical activity pay hundreds less per year for health care, a new study shows.

Senior Women taking exercise class outdoors in Arizona
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Health care costs later in life were significantly lower for adults who maintained moderate or high physical activity levels, according to a new analysis of claims data linked to the National Institutes of Health–American Association of Retired Persons (NIH-AARP) Diet and Health Study. The new study, published in BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, examined various levels of participation in physical activity throughout adulthood and how activity affected Medicare claims. Among the findings: Exercisers with a moderate level of activity had health care costs $1,200 a year lower after age 65 compared with adults who were consistently inactive from adolescence into middle age (moderate exercise involved walking or otherwise being in motion for a few hours most weeks). The health costs of those with a high level of activity were $1,350 lower per year. But even late starters benefited: Waiting until middle age to increase activity still led to cost reductions of $824 per year.

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