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Physical Activity and Health

Author

Listed:
  • Gregory J. Colman
  • Dhaval M. Dave

Abstract

While the link between physical activity and health has been studied, there are several limitations that persist in this literature relating to external and internal validity of the estimates, potential measurement error in self-reported weight and risk factors, failure to account for physical activity beyond exercise, and failure to separate the effects of exercise from other forms of physical activity. This study addresses these gaps and assesses plausibly causal effects of recreational exercise and other physical activity (including work-related activity) on the risk factors for heart disease, utilizing a population-based longitudinal dataset that contains objective information on key risk factors. We estimate fixed effects specifications that account for a host of unobservable confounding factors, and further estimate specifications with lagged outcome measures that allow us to bound plausibly causal effects under reasonable assumptions. There are four key patterns of results that emerge. First, the lagged effect of physical activity is almost always larger than the current effect. This suggests that current risk factors, not only obesity but also high blood pressure and heart rate, take years to develop, which underscores the importance of consistent physical activity to ward off heart disease. Second, we find that in general physical activity reduces risk factors for heart disease even after controlling, to some extent, for unobservable confounding influences. Third, not only recreational but work-related physical activity appears to protect against heart disease. Finally, there is evidence of a dose-response relationship such that higher levels of recreational exercise and other physical activity have a greater protective effect. Our estimates of the contemporaneous and durable effects suggest that the observed declines in high levels of recreational exercise and other physical activity can potentially account for between 12-30% of the increase in obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease observed over the sample period, ceteris paribus.

Suggested Citation

  • Gregory J. Colman & Dhaval M. Dave, 2013. "Physical Activity and Health," NBER Working Papers 18858, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18858 Note: HE
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Griliches, Zvi & Hausman, Jerry A., 1986. "Errors in variables in panel data," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 93-118, February.
    2. Henry Saffer & Dhaval Dave & Michael Grossman & Leigh Ann Leung, 2013. "Racial, Ethnic, and Gender Differences in Physical Activity," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 7(4), pages 378-410.
    3. Jonathan Guryan, 2004. "Desegregation and Black Dropout Rates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 919-943, September.
    4. Colman, Gregory & Dave, Dhaval, 2013. "Exercise, physical activity, and exertion over the business cycle," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 11-20.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Harold L. Cole & Soojin Kim & Dirk Krueger, 2012. "Analyzing the Effects of Insuring Health Risks: On the Trade-off between Short Run Insurance Benefits vs. Long Run Incentive Costs," NBER Working Papers 18572, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Micheli, Martin, 2015. "Does height affect labor supply? Implications of product variety and caloric needs," Ruhr Economic Papers 566, RWI - Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-University Bochum, TU Dortmund University, University of Duisburg-Essen.
    3. Cabane Charlotte & Lechner Michael, 2015. "Physical Activity of Adults: A Survey of Correlates, Determinants, and Effects," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 235(4-5), pages 376-402, August.
    4. Henry Saffer & Dhaval Dave & Michael Grossman & Leigh Ann Leung, 2013. "Racial, Ethnic, and Gender Differences in Physical Activity," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 7(4), pages 378-410.
    5. Hyytinen, Ari & Lahtonen, Jukka, 2013. "The effect of physical activity on long-term income," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 96(C), pages 129-137.
    6. Joelle Abramowitz, 2016. "The connection between working hours and body mass index in the U.S.: a time use analysis," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 14(1), pages 131-154, March.
    7. Sari, Nazmi & Lechner, Michael, 2015. "Long-run health effects of sports and exercise in Canada," Economics Working Paper Series 1520, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science.
    8. Alison Evans Cuellar & Dhaval M. Dave, 2015. "Causal Effects of Mental Health Treatment on Education Outcomes for Youth in the Justice System," NBER Working Papers 21206, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior

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