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Walking 15 Minutes a Day Could Help Boost the Economy

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Everyone knows that exercise is good for the body and mind. But it can seem hard to make being active a regular part of our already busy lives. And keeping up with 150 minutes of exercise per week that the World Health Organization currently recommends? The obstacle of going from the office (or sofa) to the gym just got harder.

But, what if you could reap significant benefits from shorter spans of exercise? And what if this exercise (get this) helped boost the economy? Now I’ve got your attention.

Research on this very topic was recently published by RAND Europe, an independent nonprofit research institute, in tandem with the health insurance group Vitality.

Their findings showed that if every employee jogged, or just walked, for 15 minutes a day, the world could see an economic increase of $100 billion. Not to mention the health benefits, too.

According to the report, there are three ways we could realize such economic gains. For starters, employees who put on their running or walking shoes regularly are more productive. The study found that levels of absenteeism decrease for physically active workers. The concept of “presenteeism,” or when you show up for work but aren’t as productive as you could be, also went down. So, active employees mean higher productivity for companies.

And, we’ve all read the news and media reports about exercise and overall health. If you exercise regularly, you’ll reap the rewards of better mental health (by way of a decreased risk for depression and anxiety), and you’re less likely to encounter chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease. So, exercise is a win for you and your employer.

The collaborative study from RAND and Vitality comes just after a meta-analysis from the British Journal of Sports Medicine. In this piece, researchers found that even relatively small doses of exercise, such as running once a week, could considerably reduce the risk of early death.

Back to the numbers, the longer we live, the longer we can stay in the workforce (unless we’re eyeing an early retirement!). This fact translates into a larger labor pool and increased economic output.

On the global scale, a productivity gain to the tune of 30% could result from reduced sickness, absences, and mortality, while an increase of 70% was linked to reduced presenteeism.

The statistics on physical activity these days are stunning. Right now, 30% of the global population is thought to be physically inactive. Plus, there are approximately five million deaths linked to physical inactivity every year.

“Despite the documented positive effects of exercise, insufficient physical activity has become more common over the past decades,” said Christopher van Stolk, RAND’s executive vice president and co-author of the report. “The evidence shows that we can create healthier and more prosperous societies.”

So, what’s standing in our way to being more active? Especially with all of the medical research and – most recently – the economic analysis on how it’s so good for us? It would do everyone who’s stuck in inertia to break through and log their 15 minutes a day of walking. Why not?

As the Blue Zones show us, the longest living folks on the planet structure their days around walking and being physically active. With all of the benefits of daily exercise and activity, we don’t have any reason at all not to get up and get out. It will only help us – and the economy.

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