This week we saw a reputable bit of research reveal that physical inactivity is killing almost twice as many people as obesity.
So it’s dangerous to avoid exercise even if you’re slim? That’s the kind of message that is hard to put across to the nation at large. How are you supposed to patronisingly wag your finger at non-obese inactive types who are costing the nation so much cash?
Apart from the obvious – that’s a lot of people dead that needn’t be – it’s also a big drain on the nation’s finances.
How big? At the end of last year we heard that obesity costs the UK economy £47bn every year. Every year! I’m no mathmetician, but that does seem to be quite a lot to pay for car-centric policies, even if they are vote winners. I guess that makes me a left-wing loon.
Conservatively assuming the £47bn total includes obesity AND inactivity (the total might actually be higher), there’s clearly some maths to be done here. Time to grab the calculator.
There’s around 64,000,000 humans living in the UK. A billion is a thousand million* (bear with me) so that’s £47,000,000,000. Almost as bad as my overdraft.
Divide that up and the £47bn amounts to around £734.38 per person. Yes I know, you’re the very model of a slim exercise nut so you’re costing the economy virtually nothing in terms of obesity/inactivity, but let’s deal with averages.
Instead, if obesity cost the UK economy just £500 per person, we’d be saving the nation £234.38 per person, or £15 billion. So how about paying people to cycle or walk?
The government could offer £500 a year for people who cycle or walk say 5 miles a day for 300 days a year. Insanity, you say? It might sound it, but it could save the nation £15bn. Or you could be more frugal and offer everyone £300 to cycle and/or walk more and save the nation even more billions. How big is the nation’s deficit again?
That’s a simplistic scenario, admittedly. For instance, how would you check if people genuinely were cycling x amount of miles yearly? The idea that there could and should be real incentives for people to get active might seem like the state nannying a shade too far, but if the alternative is higher taxes to pay for that increasing obesity and inactivity problem then is it really so crazy?
Outlandish proposal or the makings of a common sense policy?
*The thousand million is being conservative and assuming the report was using the USA’s definition of a billion (nine noughts) rather than the UK’s (12 noughts).