Economic burden of low cardiorespiratory fitness in Canada
The objective of this study was to estimate health care and health-related productivity costs associated with low cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) in Canadian adults. We also estimated costs that would be avoided by a 10 percentage point prevalence reduction in low CRF. A prevalence-based approach was used to estimate the economic costs associated with low CRF. Three pieces of information were used: (1) the pooled relative risk estimates of adverse health outcomes consistently associated with low CRF obtained from meta-analyses of prospective cohort studies; (2) the prevalence of low CRF in Canadian men and women obtained from a nationally representative sample; and (3) the direct (health care) and indirect (lost productivity due to premature mortality) costs of the adverse health outcomes based on the Economic Burden of Illness in Canada data. We estimated the total annual economic burden of low CRF in Canadian adults at CAD$3.6 billion, representing 2.7% of the overall Canadian burden of illness costs in 2021. The three most expensive chronic diseases attributable to low CRF were type 2 diabetes (CAD$1.3 billion), heart disease (CAD$701 million), and depression/anxiety (CAD$565 million). Prescription drug expenditures and hospital care expenditures were the main contributors to the total economic burden. An absolute 10% reduction in the prevalence of low CRF (from 45.5% to 35.5%) would save an estimated CAD$644 million per year in costs. In conclusion, low CRF is an important contributor to the economic burden of illness in Canada. Evidence-based and cost-effective strategies that aim to increase CRF at the population level may help alleviate health care costs and improve health.