Physical inactivity ‘is costing the country €1.6bn every year’

PHYSICAL inactivity is costing Ireland around €1.6 billion per year, a health expert warned yesterday.

And the cost was likely to increase, with almost seven out of ten (69%) adults not meeting the Department of Health’s recommended levels of physical activity.

“Industry, Government and citizens all have a part to play in tackling this ticking time bomb,” Dr Muireann Cullen, manager of the Nutrition and Health Foundation (NHF) stressed yesterday.

Britain is currently spending 11% of its health budget on the negative results of physical inactivity.

“Translated into an Irish context, the NHF estimate the cost of inactivity in Ireland at a significant €1.6bn per year,” said Dr Cullen, when she spoke at the foundation’s annual conference in Dublin.

The 2007 Slán survey of lifestyle, attitudes and nutrition showed that almost two in every five (38%) of our population are overweight, with nearly a quarter (23%) classed as obese.

Dr Cullen pointed out that Ireland had one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in the world, with one-in-ten children aged 5 to 12 in this category.

“At the same time, a staggering three out of four nine-year-old children do not get the recommended level of physical activity, according to the 2009 Growing Up in Ireland report,” she said.

“The scale of physical inactivity, coupled with current obesity levels make this a national health issue of real significance,” she stressed.

Everyone now recognised that imaginative, transforming thinking was required to tackle this national health issue, said Dr Cullen.

She said the NHF intended using a co-operative framework to bring industry, Government and the people together to raise awareness of the need for a balanced lifestyle.

Dr Bernadette Carr, medical director of VHI Healthcare, who presented an analysis of the cost of obesity from a health insurers’ perspective, said patients presenting for joint replacement were getting younger, heavier and with a longer life-expectancy.

She also highlighted the link between being overweight and developing heart disease.

And she said that since 2000 the number of angiograms had increased by 94%, with the associated insurance pay-out in this area trebling to €23.9m.

The World Health Organisation warned that physical inactivity increases the risk of cancer, stroke, heart diseases and diabetes.

Over one-third (35%) of Irish deaths are due to diseases of the circulatory system, mainly coronary heart disease and stroke.

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