HealthDay News — According to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, improvements in physical activity and rapid gait speed can be obtained at a relatively low cost relative to patient annual health care costs for older male veterans.

Patricia Cowper, PhD, from the Duke Clinical Research Institute in Durham, NC, and colleagues conducted an economic assessment of a primary care-based physical activity counseling intervention that improved physical activity levels and rapid gait speed in 398 older male veterans (aged ≥70 years). 

Intervention costs were examined, and health care resource use and costs were estimated through one year of follow-up.

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The researchers found that per participant, the total direct cost of the intervention was $459; 85% of which was counselor effort. Program cost totaled $696 per participant with overhead. During follow-up, medical costs reached $10,418 with the intervention, compared with $12,052 with usual care (difference, −$1634; 95% confidence interval, −$4683 to $1416; P=.29).

In terms of short-term clinical outcomes, the intervention cost $4971 or $4640 per additional patient reaching the target exercise level or per patient achieving a clinically significant change in rapid gait speed, respectively.

“Improvements in physical activity and rapid gait speed in the physical activity counseling group were obtained at a cost that represents a small fraction of patients’ annual health care costs,” the authors write.


Cowper PA, et al. “Economic Analysis Of Primary Care-Based Physical Activity Counseling In Older Men: The VA-LIFE Trial”. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 2017. doi: 10.1111/jgs.14567. [EPub ahead of print]

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