Current Perspectives on the Economics of Fitness and Sport with Particular Reference to Worksite Programmes
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Much of the research on the economic impact of fitness and sport programmes has been initiated with a view to cost containment, or the justification of specific exercise initiatives. Care must be taken when evaluating such reports to consider any resultant biasing of conclusions. Analyses should conform to sound scientific and economic principles, with cost-effectiveness measures generally being more appropriate than cost-benefit analyses. Critical issues of measurement include opportunity costs, marginal and intangible costs, discount and inflation rates, and programme participation rates.
At the worksite, costs vary greatly with the scale of facilities and the level of programme supervision that are offered. Beyond a certain ceiling, further expenditures do not seem to enhance programme effectiveness. Likely benefits to a company include an improvement of corporate image, a recruitment of premium employees, gains in the quality and the quantity of production, a decrease of absenteeism and turnover, lower medical costs, an improvement of personal lifestyle (with a potential for future health savings), and a reduced incidence of industrial injuries. Community exercise programmes have the advantage of reaching certain target groups not serviced at the worksite, for instance the unemployed, women with young children and the elderly. Possible benefits of exercise participation arising in such groups included a reduced demand for medical services, an extended lifespan, and a reduction of disability in the final years of life. While current evidence has many limitations, it does suggest that exercise (particularly in the context of more general health promotion) is both cost-effective and cost-beneficial; the immediate return may be as much as $2 to $5 per dollar invested.