In today’s “Money Mondays” segment, Mellody Hobson discusses the link between fitness and money.
You are here this morning to talk to our listeners about keeping in shape?
That’s right, Tom! After all of this cold, I am thinking about being outside and moving! You may wonder what this has to do with Money Monday, but let me assure you, it has a lot to do with money! Keeping in shape, or getting back in shape, can really boost your bank account.
Keeping healthy saves money?
There really is a big link, Tom! Look, I want listeners to know that investing in your personal health is also an investment in your financial well-being. And this is not only true for short-term cash flow, but also for long-term savings that will accrue over your life! Lets start with the areas where getting healthy or staying healthy that provide more immediate financial satisfaction.
First, dropping the expensive and unhealthy bad habits – especially smoking – will really pay off, even in just a few months. If you are a half a pack per day smoker in Illinois, you are costing yourself about $2000 a year! That’s $4000 if you smoke a pack a day! So drop that habit! I know it is hard, but there are programs out there to help you quit (American Lung Association page, Center for Disease Control page), and some great role models out there to motivate you – take President Obama for example!
Other bad habits to work on include cutting down on unhealthy food. There is a common misconception that fast food is cheaper, but with a bit of planning, making food at home for you and your family can save you money and be healthier! The USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion estimates the average grocery bill for a family of 4 is $939 per month. In contrast, a spending $40 a day eating out for a family of 4 totals to $1200 per month. That’s a big difference! And don’t just think about fast food – many restaurant dishes, particularly at chain restaurants, are huge portions and calorie heavy. So save a little green while eating better!
A second way that keeping healthy will keep a little bit more money in your pocket immediately is by reducing the use of over the counter drugs. Staying fit means you’re less likely to catch common illnesses as colds and the flu and less often to buy over-the-counter drugs. At around $8 per box, these costs add up over time. A British of Journal of Sports Medicine study even suggests that exercise can reduce the risk of a cold by 50%.
Longer term, there are definitely savings as well. Take your insurance premiums. Insurance firms look at your body mass index and any tell-tale signs of sickness to calculate your coverage and premium. If you have a poor BMI, you’re at a higher risk of getting sick; insurers will likely charge you with higher premiums or lower coverage cap.
And beyond the more short-term illnesses, like the common cold, you will likely avoid more serious diseases. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, adults aged 18-64 who participate in regular physical activity will decrease their risk of more than 25 chronic health conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. This will save you money in two ways: Fewer hospital visits and doctor consultations mean less cost for you, money that you could use to save or invest elsewhere. Obese people pay about 36% more in health costs over the years that they’re sick. And you are again going to save money on medications needed to treat these chronic conditions.
But keeping in shape can be expensive too. Gym memberships, for example. Are there ways to shape up without spending too much?
I get it, Tom. Gyms can be really expensive! But this is really about the small things. One piece of advice is to fit little bits of exercise into your everyday life. Meeting up with your girlfriends? Taking a walk while you catch up is a great way to sneak some exercise in. A recent study associated a 20 minute walk at a moderate pace with a reduction in the risk of getting diabetes or having a stroke! You definitely don’t have to have a gym membership for that! Also, take advantage of other opportunities during the day. Taking the stairs, or walking to work from that parking garage or train stop that is 5 blocks farther from your office, these things add up. Also, more and more employers are now pitching in for gym memberships and other programs to reduce costs on their end and encourage healthier lifestyles among their employee base, so make sure you explore your options on that front too!
Ok, getting in shape is good for our health, which saves money. Anything else?
Yep! Just when you think this is just another talk about the usual health benefits, I have one more point to make. Keeping healthy and in shape can lead to improved professional success! The CDC has noted that healthier workers call in sick less frequently and are more productive. This may sound like its good for your employer, but it is also an incentive for you. If you are healthy, you are going to be more competitive than your unhealthier peers when it comes to raises and promotions. So keeping in shape is about more than just your future health benefits – it’s about your future financial benefits as well, both in everyday costs, and in your professional success!