Health Risks

On the move for prevention

Cycling to work, avoiding the elevator at the office and using the stairs, standing up at your desk: there are many ways to introduce exercise into your daily routine. International studies confirm that regular exercise significantly reduces the risk of disease. The recently released DKV report also demonstrates: long hours of sitting and lack of exercise are poison for the body.


In order to find out how many hours a day people remain seated, scientists at the Centre for Sport and Health Research at the German Sport University in Cologne used a simple technique: instead of merely asking the more than 3,000 study participants how much time they spent sitting per day, the researchers added up the time spent in various activities that are normally done while seated. These include driving, working at a desk, watching television, or using a computer. The result was an average of 7.5 hours per working day spent sitting – or more than 9 hours a day for young people.

The average German spends 7.5 hours a day sitting down

In other words, respondents spent seven and a half hours a day not moving. The fact that this is anything but a positive result is confirmed by the findings among the five health-related categories of activity, nutrition, smoking, alcohol, and stress. A little over half of the respondents reported exercising "moderately" at least 150 minutes per week, and "intensively" for 75 minutes per week, thus meeting the World Health Organization's recommended benchmark levels. Respondents with university education and earning a top salary are at the greatest risk of exercising too little. At the same time, the stress felt by this latter group is also among the highest. According to the report, which was released jointly by the German Sport University Cologne and DKV Deutsche Krankenversicherung AG, the demographic group in the best health is that of retirees. 15 percent of respondents older than 65 even meet the benchmark in every category.

Only every tenth senior smokes, their nutrition habits are the best, and they suffer from the least stress of all the age groups. On the other hand, middle-aged men (30 to 45 years of age) who are overweight and high earners are the exact opposite: taken as a group, they constitute the very personification of risk and, among other things, also provide object lessons to their children on how not to behave. For example, a survey of 300 parents conducted at the same time showed that six- to twelve-year-olds already spend a total of four hours a day sitting down, even outside of school, for example while doing homework, watching television, or in the car.

“Children who play sports regularly, get better grades”

Yet exercise is precisely what helps schoolchildren learn better and more quickly. This was confirmed in a study of young adults by the University of Dublin, which examined the correlation between physical activity and academic performance. "Children who play sports regularly, get better grades", states Dr. Karsten Filzmaier, an insurance medical officer at Munich Re. Indeed, numerous studies from around the world confirm that even 15 minutes of exercise a day are enough to reduce the risk of mortality. "Exercising at all is the important thing", says the Munich Re doctor. "It doesn't make that much difference whether you then do one, two or three hours a day." A long-term study by Cambridge University even goes a step further: after analysing more than 300,000 participants over a period of twelve years, the researchers came to the conclusion that lack of exercise causes twice as many deaths as obesity – 676,000 in Europe in 2014. According to the authors of the study the deaths could have been prevented merely through regular exercise.

The researchers state that the reason for the increased risk is that cardio-vascular disease becomes more likely, and the danger of type 2 diabetes – both through lack of exercise and a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) – increases as well. Fat and blood sugar circulation become irregular: this was also confirmed by Clemens Muth, chairman of DKV's management board, in summarising the DKV report.

Disability insurance: claims frequency falls

"A positive side-effect of regular exercise is also that 90 minutes of sports per day can reduce the risk of depression among adults by up to 30 percent," says Munich Re's Dr. Filzmaier, thereby pointing out the relevance of exercise to disability insurance as well. Besides helping against mental illnesses such as depression or burnout, exercise also supports the muscoloskeletal system, e.g. in preventing back pain or arthritis. According to Filzmaier, "exercise even constitutes part of recovery therapy for cancer survivors, or patients with burnout," – not to mention that claims frequency drops and disability insurance is needed less frequently.