UW study: Prescribe more physical activity, shrink health care costs

Widespread medical efforts to prescribe more physical activity and check patients’ activity levels more regularly could significantly reduce the nation’s health care costs, according to a new study from the University of Washington School of Medicine. There is a possibility

Findings published this month in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that “well-active” UW Medicine Clinic patients surveyed between January 2018 and December 2020 were more active than inactive patients. are also much less likely to visit their primary care physician. emergency room or hospitalization. The researchers took the analysis one step further. If more adults in the United States became more physically active, our health care costs would shrink.

“Physical activity is known to be extremely beneficial to health, but is simply forgotten by the healthcare system,” said clinical associate professor of sports and spine medicine at UW and lead author of the paper. Cindy Lin, Ph.D., said: “While much of the treatment for chronic conditions focuses on drug prescribing, there is great evidence that physical activity and lifestyle changes can make a big difference.” “

In the United States, about 53% of adults meet national physical activity guidelines or get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week as recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Sciences, Lin said. Only about 23% meet both cardio and strength training guidelines. The numbers have worsened during the pandemic as commute times have shortened for many and lifestyles have become more sedentary, she said.

Of the approximately 24,000 patients examined in the UW Medicine study, those considered sufficiently active (approximately 37.4% of the group) had approximately 34 emergency room visits per 1,000 patient-years. , reduced 19 hospitalizations and 38 primary care visits. (Patient-years are often used in clinical studies and represent the total number of years all patients were followed).

If inactive patients, who are approximately 28.5% of the group, reach national physical activity guidelines, the researchers estimate that ER costs would be over $34,000 per 1,000 patient-years, assuming each average visit exceeded $1,000. I assumed it would shrink.

The team utilized a system called Physical Activity Vital Signs (PAVS). It asks patients how often and for how long they do “moderately strenuous” exercise (such as brisk walking). The system can be incorporated into electronic health records to help medical teams better understand a person’s physical activity, Lin said.

This trend was consistent even when researchers adjusted for patient gender, race/ethnicity, and body mass index. The association between increased physical activity and fewer medical visits was even stronger among older people and those with underlying medical conditions, she added.

Although there are other factors that influence a person’s physical activity, such as socioeconomic status, where they live, their level of ability, and job flexibility, it is more difficult to determine why people seek medical attention. and further research will be needed, Lin said.

“You can’t change a person’s age or past medical history,” she said. “But physical activity is something we can change. Whether you’re breaking long sitting hours or doing a little physical activity at home, like going for a walk after dinner, it all adds up.

UW Medicine began using PAVS through a pilot program several years ago, but other healthcare systems, such as Kaiser Permanente, say they are implementing the system to track patients’ physical activity on a more regular basis. , says Lin.

“[There’s] It’s a misunderstanding of what physical activity means,” she said. “Historically, this meant you had to hit the gym for 30 minutes a few times a week to count as a workout. Even a 10-minute fitness or exercise break has been shown to have a significant impact on health.Every movement counts.”

At UW Medicine’s Institute of Sports, where Lynn is Associate Director of Clinical Innovation, staff have provided an extensive list of physical activities that people can incorporate into their daily lives, including those that can be done for free at home.

If I’m at home at work and in front of my computer, sometimes I get up and walk around, says Lin. According to The Sports Institute’s website, activities like Wall His Sits, Chair His Dip, and Desk His Push Ups can also be done at home. The lab also suggested people look into free fitness apps such as FitOn and Johnson & Johnson’s official 7 Minute Workout app.

“We need to make it simpler for people,” she said. “And make sure you’re talking about physical activity and prescribing it, not just giving people medicine for medical conditions.”

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