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Looking after your health and fitness may be good for your wellbeing and your bank balance. The costs of ill health can not only hit your personal finances, but also the national budget.
Exercising can be expensive, especially if you are always spending money on the latest fitness gear, workout craze or wearable technology that tracks everything from your heart rate to what you ate for breakfast.
However, the cost of not exercising can be far more expensive, so it’s wise - and healthy - to find a good balance.
Being healthy is not only good for you. It’s also good for your country.
Ill health costs every taxpayer money, and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has mapped a strong rise in spending over many years. It says national health expenditure trebled in the 25 years to 2014, and in 2015-16 it rose by $6 billion, or 3.6%, to $170.4 billion. Government spending on public hospitals grew even faster.1
Source: AIHW, 6 October 2017, Health expenditure data base, accessed 19 March 2018
For an individual budget, there are gaps that most people pay when seeing a doctor or other health professional, even after Medicare or private health extras insurance pay their part.
US researchers found that moderately vigorous exercise such as fast walking for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, resulted in “significantly lower health care spending”.2 It even put a figure on an exerciser’s savings - US$2500 ($3200) less on healthcare costs than those who were not active.
Several Australian health insurance funds offer discounts or rebates on gym memberships, because healthier customers lower their costs. It may be worth calling them and asking them what lifestyle benefits or wellness benefits your policy offers.
Being active and healthy also has related financial benefits. If you can ride or walk to work you will save money on petrol, parking and public transport. If you make your own healthy food for lunch you won’t be spending thousands of dollars a year buying daily food.
Getting healthy doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. There are many ways to trim spending and even exercise for free.
Bodyweight exercises have become a popular and effective way to lose weight and improve health, and they don’t require expensive gym equipment or memberships. There is plenty of free fitness advice and workout suggestions available online.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s MoneySmart website says free ways to get fit include dog walking, bushwalking, swimming at your local beach, using free fitness apps and online videos, or being active with children.
“Some gyms can be expensive but if you like the environment and go often enough they can be cost effective. It will take some shopping around to find a gym that suits you,” it says.
When buying a gym membership, people should look for introductory offers, cheaper rates for paying upfront and seniors or student discounts. Avoid buying brand-name gym clothes or fitness accessories, or you can wait for them to come on special at the end of the season, MoneySmart says.
Group exercises such as outdoor boot camps or personal training can be cost effective, it says. As can joining a local sporting team. “Participation costs are often paid outright at the beginning of the season and can be much cheaper than six-month gym membership.”3
To find how much you are spending on your exercise, or to plan how much to allocate to your fitness kick, try QSuper's Budget Planner. It can give you a holistic picture of your finances, so it's easier to start taking control.
Try QSuper's Budget Planner
1 Australian Institute of Health & Welfare, 6 October 2017, Health expenditure Australia 2015-16’, accessed 3 March 2018 at www.aihw.gov.au/reports/health-welfare-expenditure/health-expenditure-australia-2015-16/contents/data-visualisations#
2 Valero-Elizondo, J et al, 7 September 2016, ‘2012 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey,’ Journal of the American Heart Association at jaha.ahajournals.org/content/5/9/e003614.full
3 Australian Securities and Investments Commission, ASIC, February 2018, ‘Cheap ways to get fit,’ MoneySmart accessed 4 March 2018 at www.moneysmart.gov.au/managing-your-money/budgeting/simple-ways-to-save-money/cheap-ways-to-get-fit
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