3 Unexpected Financial Benefits to Getting In Shape

You came, you saw, you conquered–the dinner table, that is. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, you can’t remember how much turkey you ate or how much “just a little bit more” added up. That New Years Eve feast just topped it off. But now you’ve made a resolution to lose weight, exercise more, and eat better.

Chances are, you have “exercise and save money” on your New Year’s resolutions list. Believe it or not, you can do both.

1. Lose Weight, Lower Healthcare Costs

This is a no-brainer, and probably the best reason to start exercising and losing weight.

The World Health Organization has stated that people who exercise regularly save an estimated $500 in annual healthcare costs.

Know how expensive elective procedures are? Or trips to the emergency room because of unforeseen accidents and illnesses, like fractures and infections? Paying for the medical treatments you can’t predict is hard enough, so stop shelling out hundreds per year on preventable healthcare costs too.

Having an inactive lifestyle is one of the many causes of heart attack, type 2 diabetes, stroke, cancer, and depression. Just by doing regular exercise, like walking or swimming a few times a week, you’ll greatly reduce your risk of serious health conditions and diseases. You’ll breathe better, sleep better, have more energy, and, if you make it a serious lifestyle change, you’ll likely be able to dodge pricey health treatments and prescriptions altogether.

Finally, don’t you want to be one of those hardcore grandparents that spend their time exercising, traveling and staying fit? Forget nursing aides and nursing home costs, if you keep at a healthy weight, you’ll postpone (or even prevent) costly elderly care later on.

2. Eat Right, Lower Grocery Bill

What do you do when you’re depressed, feeling lazy or overworked, or just don’t have anything better to do? You eat out, hit up a fast food joint and decide to treat yourself with something sugary with sprinkles and chocolate syrup. When you make a resolution to eat right, you’re not getting rid of these little “treats” entirely, but they’re no longer your fallback when you’re short on time but hungry.

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But eating better is so expensive!

Have you seen the cost of fresh produce? Those fancy gluten-free snack packs? Cha-ching!

Let’s say that you spend about $10-15 dollars every time you get a burger and fries, or $25 at a local chain restaurant. Just cutting out two meals a week could give you the extra dough to buy bulk grains, make your own homemade snacks, and craft your own salads in a jar at no extra cost.

Health Nut

It’s easy to be discouraged by all the cool people eating their homemade granola and sipping green drinks. But they’re just that, homemade. Most of those healthy things you see at extreme prices on the shelf, or being toted around by health nuts, can be made at home. If you don’t have the time to, you’d be surprised at how much you can save by shopping the sale fliers, going to farmer’s markets, and planning your meals in advance. What does a $5 burger have on a week’s supply of extra-filling grains and nut butter?

If you have Netflix, watch the documentary Forks Over Knives. You probably wont come out of wanting to become a hardcore vegetarian, lobbying outside of local farms and emptying out your fridge. But you will get ideas for healthy meals, learn lots about the chemicals in processed foods, and see some truly amazing weight loss by simply replacing the junk in your diet with fruits and vegetables.

Everyone knows that cooking at home is less expensive than eating out. But eating right can stretch your dollar more than you could ever imagine.

3. Exercise and Save Money

Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, says that frequent exercising in the morning leads to a dramatic decrease in the use of your credit or debit card. The natural high and energized feel from a dose of morning exercise diminishes the need to grab a bag of junk food, a diet Coke or even a pack of cigarettes (a major expense for smokers). So how can you catch the fitness-bug?

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With a gym membership

Just like all businesses, gyms in big cities are always trying to get more customers and beat out the competition. Gym memberships aren’t always super expensive, frequently have “refer a friend” and “New Year’s Resolution” discounts, and give free trials left and right. If you work for a major employer in the area, you might even get your membership for free.

If you aren’t so lucky, here are a few reasons why you might want to get a membership anyway:

  1. You’ll stick to it. If you have a gym membership that you’re regularly paying for, you’re more likely to use it and stick to your resolutions.
  2. Cheap entertainment. A good gym often has basketball and tennis courts, tracks, weight rooms, and even a pool or two. It’s enough to entertain your entire family all year long.
  3. Save on energy and utility bills. According to all women stalk, you can save at least $180 just by showering at the gym instead of driving, sweaty and stinky, home. Think about it, have you ever run out of hot water at the gym?
  4. You’ll earn more. Researchers at Cleveland State University found that both men and women who exercised 3 times a week earned between 6 to 10 percent more than their desk-bound colleagues.

Membership-free

Though it really helps with motivation, you don’t need to spend any money at all to get fit. All you need is the drive, and a personal commitment to maintain your fitness.

Money Crashers has an excellent article with 13 Ways to Work Out Without a Gym Membership, chock full of ways you can skip the membership while still working out on your own. Our favorites?

  1. Running. Dust off your old pair of sneakers and step outside. See that sidewalk ahead of you? Start walking, or running if you can. You can even hit up your local high school’s track, or one of the many jogging paths you might not even know are in your neighborhood. When in doubt, do a little research on routes in your area.
  2. Bicycling. Forget thousand dollar bikes with fancy names. With a tune-up, your old bike will do just fine. If you don’t work to far from home, opt to bike there. Need to run to the grocery store for a few things? If they aren’t too heavy, bike there too. Instead of burning through your gas tank, you’ll be burning calories.
  3. Exercise videos. If you really don’t want to leave the house, you don’t have to. Find a good set of exercise videos (check your local library, or even Youtube), the yoga mat you never use, and a few cheap dumbbells, and hit play.
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Any physical activity, even taking the stairs or raking the leaves, will help reduce stress and increase your fitness.

Break the Cycle

Probably the number one, top tier, best reason of all time that exercise can save you money is the fact that it changes your mindset. To quit smoking, to improve your lifestyle, to lower stress levels, and rearrange your priorities to improve yourself. There’s a cycle that most of us follow that keeps us in debt, and makes saving any money at all almost impossible. We work too much, are constantly stressed out, and never have enough time to eat quality meals or take care of our bodies. We’re perpetually unhealthy and inactive, which only makes matters worse.

So what do we do? We fill up the little free time we have with convenience–fast food, expensive entertainment, and binge shopping to curb the stress.

Break the cycle by introducing one of the best stress-busters out there into your routine. Get excited about trying new healthy recipes, and scour the web for meal plans, snacks, and coupons to keep costs down. Fill up your free time by trying a new class at the gym, or exploring a new hiking trail with your family. Carry your new mindset over into healthcare, treating common aches and illnesses with gentle exercises like yoga, and nutritious foods.

If you really want to stick to your New Year’s resolution to get healthy, fit, and lose weight, there’s still time. Your body, mind and budget will thank you.

This article was written by writers Brenda Harjala and Suchi Rudra. Their mission is to help fight your evil debt blob and get your personal finances in tip top shape.
Photo: Chapters Capistrano