Estimating the global economic benefits of physically active populations over 30 years (2020 to 2050)

Marco Hafner, Erez Yerushalmi, Martin Stepanek, William Phillips, Jack Pollard, Advait Deshpande, Michael Whitmore, Francois Millard, Shaun Subel, Christian Van Stolk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVES: We assess the potential benefits of increased physical activity on the global economy for 23 countries and the rest of the world over a 30-year time horizon (from 2020 to 2050). The main factors taken into account in the economic assessment are excess mortality and lower productivity. METHODS: This study links three methodologies. First, we estimate the association between physical inactivity and workplace productivity using multivariable regression models with proprietary data on 120,143 individuals in the UK and six Asian countries (Australia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore and Sri Lanka). Second, we analyse the association between physical activity and mortality risk through a meta-regression analysis with data from 74 prior studies with global coverage. Finally, the estimated effects are combined in a computable general equilibrium (CGE) macroeconomic model to project the economic benefits of physical inactivity over time. RESULTS: Doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, as per lower limit of the range recommended by the 2020 World Health Organisation guidelines, would lead to an increase in global GDP of 0.16%-0.23% per year by 2050, worth up to US $314-$446 billion per year and $6.0-$8.6 trillion cumulatively over the 30-year projection horizon (in 2019 prices). The results vary by country due to differences in baseline levels of physical activity and GDP per capita. CONCLUSIONS: Increasing physical activity in the population would lead to reduction in working-age mortality and morbidity and an increase in productivity, particularly through lower presenteeism, leading to substantial economic gains for the global economy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1482-1487
Number of pages6
JournalBritish Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished (VoR) - 25 Nov 2020


  • physical activity
  • economic benefits
  • workplace productivity
  • computable general equilibrium
  • probability of dying


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