Routine exercise could lead to Medicare savings later, study finds

A recent study suggests younger adults could save more than $1,000 on their Medicare costs every year as senior citizens if they stick to routine physical activity.

Researchers from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom published their findings in the BMJ Sport & Exercise Medicine journal. They analyzed Medicare claims data from 1999-2008 and information from a National Institutes of Health-American Association of Retired Persons (NIH-AARP) Diet and Health study, including 21,750 respondents.

The study involved mostly-White, married men with an average age of 60 years old and a high school diploma. Researchers looked at their exercise regime over the course of their lives to see if they increased or decreased their physical activity throughout their adulthood. They then looked at their Medicare claims. 

The study revealed adults who maintained moderate or high exercise levels between 43 and 64 years old saved between $1,200 and $1,350 annually in health care costs. Adults who routinely exercised earlier in their younger adult years saw more savings, up to $1,874 each year, compared with adults consistently inactive from a young age. Adults who started to exercise after the 35-39 age range also saw significant savings of $824 per year.

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"Adults who maintain or increase their physical activity levels over time experience substantial chronic disease and mortality benefits compared with those who decline," the study’s authors wrote.

Researchers added that physical inactivity is responsible for nearly $117 billion in health care costs in the United States.

The study pointed out that physical activity could lead to a lower risk for several diseases including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, several cancers and lower risk of premature death.

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"Our study suggests that encouraging people to start and maintain a physically active lifestyle will benefit later-life healthcare costs" the study read. "About half of the US adult population is not meeting the minimum nationally recommended level of aerobic physical activity."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Activities can range from a brisk walk to weightlifting. 

Researchers said about half of Americans are not adhering to the CDC’s recommendations regarding exercise. They encourage people to work one-on-one or work in groups to increase their physical activity. They also advise communities to create exercise programs for residents.

FOX Business contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.