Still no time for exercise?  Yes, yes, yes…  The kids need to be dropped-off at soccer…  That project at work is more important than a treadmill…  Getting home in time to watch the start of the game out-weighs having nice muscles….

But what if someone paid you $19 per hour to exercise?  Would that motivate you to find time?  It would me!!

Exercise is something most everyone understands is good for their body and mind.  Governments know it’s good for national budgets.  But now researchers are starting to prove it’s actually good for individuals’ wallets!

For people still struggling to exercise, a recent study published in the Journal of

American Heart Association provides a strongincentive:  You’ll save $2,500 per year by just exercising a measly half-hour, five days per week—that’s just 1.5% of your total week.

Health policy experts have known for many years that sedentary people are more likely to develop a number of diseases versus people who regularly exercise.  But what does it cost financially?  Other studies have shown that inactivity costs the world economy a startling $168 billion, annually, in medical expenses and lost productivity!

But those kinds of aggregate “world” numbers are easy to slough off for most people.  They’re somewhat abstract to every day life, especially when governments and businesses bear much of that $168 billion cost.  People don’t really pay attention until they see it affecting their own wallets.

So researchers set out to determine what a lack of exercise is actually costing individuals in dollar figures.  They turned to a huge storehouse of data on our health care spending, the annual Medical Expenditure Panel Survey conducted by federal agencies.  The survey includes very detailed questions about health care spending and lifestyle, and is collected from a very large, representative sample of over 26,000 American men and women.

This particular study pulled data from the 2012 survey, and demonstrated that on average someone who met basic exercise guidelines (walked 30 minutes, five days per week, or equivalent) paid $2,500 less in annual health care expenses related to heart disease compared to someone who didn’t.

The researchers also controlled for insurance coverage, meaning that people with good insurance who do not meet basic guidelines for exercise still pay more for health care expenses annually than a person with skimpier insurance who regularly exercises.

Overall, the data strongly suggests, “being physically active is good for your wallet,” says Dr. Khurram Nasir, a preventive cardiologist and director of the Center for Healthcare Advancement and Outcomes at Baptist Health South Florida hospital in Miami, who oversaw the study.

Nasir also points out that this study only focused on diseases and expenses related to cardiovascular disease.  Had they included all other diseases positively affected by exercise the cost savings would have been substantially higher.

That could mean you might make over $25 per hour just for exercising!  That’s more money to spend on a weekend “staycation” in Avila Beach; more money to spend at Concerts in the Plaza; or better yet, more money to pay for personal training so often considered beyond one’s budget!

Of course this was an associational study, not direct proof that working-out will cause everyone to spend less on health care.

 And, walking a half-hour per day is not going to give people the body of a magazine model.  For that, they’ll need to consult a reputable gym (ahem… cough, cough, Athlon…).  Nevertheless, Dr. Nasir says he hopes that people still reluctant to take time to exercise might realize that making that decision is costing them money.  Just walking 30 minutes—half of your lunch break—each day will not only lead to a healthier, longer life, but will actually put more money in your wallet.

Valero-Elizondo, J. (2016). “Economic Impact of Moderate‐Vigorous Physical Activity Among Those With and Without Established Cardiovascular Disease: 2012 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.”  Journal of the American Heart Association.  5(9); Retrieved from

Ding, D. (2016).  “The economic burden of physical inactivity: a global analysis of major non-communicable diseases.”  The Lancet, 388(10051), p1311–1324.  Retrieved from