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Invest in prevention through exercise

Invest in prevention through exercise

You may have never visited Osaka in Japan, Reykjavik in Iceland, Melbourne in Australia, Berlin in Germany, or Copenhagen in Denmark. These are the cities that implement public policies to encourage physical exercise among the population and have the best health indicators in the world. Brazil, on the other hand…

Brazil faces a difficult public health scenario. Chronic non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer, represent the leading cause of death in the country, placing a significant burden on the health system and the economy of states and municipalities. Among the risk factors for these diseases, lack of physical activity stands out as one of the most relevant.


In this context, investing in programs to promote physical activity and exercise stands out as a crucial strategy for preventing disease, generating savings, and building healthier cities.

Many studies demonstrate the positive return on investment in preventive health. For example, a study published in the journal Health Affairs in 2013 shows that every dollar invested in physical activity programs generates a return of up to $5.60 in medical cost savings. In Brazil, Ministry of Health data indicate that physical inactivity is responsible for about $300 million in hospitalization expenses in the United States. Investing in physical activity promotion programs can generate significant savings for the health system, freeing up resources for other priority areas. With 150 million, we can actually hire hundreds of physical education teachers in every community and city in the country with decent salaries and change the health of the place.

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But almost no one in Brazil thinks this matters. First, because it does not appear at election time, and second, because the population itself does not consider it important, except when they get sick and realize that they could have prevented the disease by exercising.

The benefits of investing in physical activity go beyond direct savings. A more active and healthier population has greater productivity at work, with studies showing that physically active workers have lower absenteeism rates and greater productivity. Another factor is reducing attendance as regular physical exercise reduces the incidence of diseases, which reduces presenteeism, i.e. loss of productivity at work due to health reasons. In addition, there is an improvement in quality of life as physical activity contributes to physical and mental health, reducing stress, anxiety and symptoms of depression. Last but not least for Brazil is the lower crime rate, as studies show that communities with a higher rate of physical exercise have a lower crime rate.

An elderly person who is regularly physically active spends at least 50% less on medical expenses compared to an elderly person who does not exercise or has an illness. A recent study published in the Journal of Preventive Medicine entitled “The Cost of Physical Inactivity in the United States: A Review of the Literature” provides a comprehensive review of the literature on the costs of physical inactivity in the American population and serves as a reference for all of us.

By investing in prevention through physical activity, cities not only save healthcare costs but also generate a series of social and economic benefits. Examples include increased productivity, decreased absenteeism, improved quality of life, and decreased crime rates. Investing in this would be a smart and beneficial strategy for Brazilian cities, such as Piracicaba. And it will be cheaper! Will we see this someday? On to the next!

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