The Financial Case for Fitness

We think of fitness as an expensive endeavor both in terms of money and time. I would argue though that it is not. Not in the short term and certainly not in the long term. It’s true that you will spend more on gear, memberships and the like than you would if you do nothing, but it’s money well spent. In many cases it just redirects money that would be spent making you less healthy to something that’s actually beneficial. There are lots of little luxuries we find money for like coffee and food out, clothes we really don’t need and makeup. All crucial I agree, but if we make funds available for that stuff we can make some available for fitness too. Everyone that knows me knows that I don’t like to spend money but in this case I think it just makes good sense!

The time you spend

One way that fitness is expensive is the time you spend. I put this first because I think this is the way fitness is most expensive. If you run your own business you get this because pretty much any hour in the day you could be working and generating money. If you work a salaried position this aspect might be harder to see. But the time you take to work out could always be used to make yourself better off financially. You could work on your home, pick up a hobby that makes you some extra dough or do something you are currently paying someone else to do. Once you reach a certain point in your life you start to realize that time IS a resource and the most valuable one at that.

But… you literally can’t be working ALL the time! If you’re going to have downtime in your week, and you should, you are likely to spend that time doing something that has less financial benefits than fitness. You need to have down time and I would argue that time spent working out is both an investment in yourself and an efficient way to spend your time otherwise. Fitness can be self care bordering on therapy, great time to spend alone or with your friends and actually restful. It’s also an incredible investment in yourself and your health. Time spent working out means less money spent on things like prescriptions, days off work and even extends your working years no matter what you do. There are other aspects where being fit actually gives you more time back but we’ll get into that. Overall I would say that even in cases like mine where I could always literally be working the time I spend working out is a net benefit to me.

The cost of gear

Let’s be clear that I’m wrapping up everything you spend on fitness into this category. That means gear, fitness trackers, races, memberships, class fees and everything else. That can add up to a whole lot, just ask a triathlete! Here’s the thing those bigger purchases have a resale value when you’re done with them and even expensive gear you wear through isn’t that bad. A note though just like any other line in the budget I do think that you should be careful with what you spend in this department too. If you’re super into yoga and do multiple classes a week for years maybe you should think about starting your own practice. A lot of people will spend about $100 dollars a month on fitness, which is actually about what I spend in a typical year. BTW I didn’t think it was that high until I added it (and the gifts I get) up. It might even be a bit more for some. That’s not an insignificant amount of money!

Here’s the thing though there are so, so many common pastimes that cost more. Going out for drinks with friends, sewing, knitting, boating, hunting or cooking fancy dishes all cost that much too even if you never add it up. One of the lessons of adulting is that you’re going to have to do something to fill your time and that will probably cost money. Do beware of investing a whole lot right at the start of a new fitness endeavor but if you really have discovered your passion the per hour use cost of all that stuff above is actually pretty low. 

The energy you have

Have you ever noticed that the fittest people in your life seem to have the most energy? Well regular workouts actually leave you with MORE energy after a period of time. So remember that time argument we started off with? That becomes less important if not negligible when you add back the productivity gains being fit gives you. If you’re starting off really unfit you might be to tiered or unable to do certain things like cleaning, gardening and painting the house yourself. Once you start reaping the rewards of extra energy you might find you have the ability and desire to start doing those things yourself. This sounds suspect I know but the energy payoffs of being fit are just insane!

The skills you gain

Of course every workout you focus on has the potential to give you some new direct skills but any workout you decide to focus on will help you in other aspects of your life as well. One big thing that happens is your time management skills get a real boost. Let’s face it we’re all busy and fitting a work out in means your day has to be scheduled. Here’s the thing, when you plan your days you get way more done and feel better about how it went. Many sports also have a competition and training component to them too. Participating in that aspect of sport normalizes working hard toward big goals. It might seem daunting to create, till, plant, tend, weed and harvest a vegetable garden but if you’re used to training for endurance events over many months this is just more of the same. Just one example but you get the idea. Long term planning and execution are the things that really have the potential to change your life and being active really helps with that.

The healthcare costs you don’t incur

I put this last because it’s most obvious but really the effects here are many. First in all the ways you are thinking of being fit and healthy does directly save you money. Many if not most adults manage a long term condition like obesity, hypertension, heart disease or a lung issue. These sorts of conditions require frequent medical visits, prescriptions and treatments that cost money to say nothing of missed work. Many of these conditions can be improved if not alleviated entirely by getting active and maintaining a healthy weight. If you develop the habit before you ever get sick then you can potentially never spend a dime.

But the savings don’t stop there! You’ll pay less for medical insurance, be less likely to suffer with mental health issues and overall experience fewer mood disruptions. Physical activity is also recognized as an effective treatment for a wide array of medical issues. It’s one of the cheapest, most effective and most wide ranging treatments or preventions for almost anything you can think of! 

We’ve focused only on the most direct and universal aspects of the financial implications of maintaining a decent level of fitness throughout your life. For each individual there may be other dramatic financial rewards too. Hopefully I’ve convinced you that viewing devoting time, energy and a little bit of your money to being fit is a great investment! It’s time we stop thinking of working out as expensive and start thinking long term because not doing it will cost you more in the long run. How does being fit contribute actual dollars back to your life or how does it save you money? Leave it in the comments below!

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