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Why your wallet will love your exercise routine

September 4, 2012 in News

If you need extra motivation to start the exercise regimen your doctor has been recommending, keep in mind that some sweating now can really pay off later in life – financially as well as physically.

Researchers at University of Texas-Southwestern Medical Center and the Cooper Institute, both in Dallas, decided to look at the impact of fitness in middle age on health outcomes later in life. They looked at information from when the participants had an average age of 51 to determine general fitness level, which was assessed using a treadmill test. The researchers found that the medical expenses at an average age of 72, for those participants who were fit in middle age were drastically lower than their counterparts.

The study controlled for health risks, such as smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol levels and body-mass index (BMI). Even when these risk factors were taken into account, those participants who had high fitness scores in middle age still had lower health care costs later on in life.

The bottom line? When researchers measured medical costs using claims to Medicare and other insurance providers between 1999 and 2009, the participants with higher fitness in middle age had 38 percent lower medical costs many years later. For men, those with a higher fitness had claims averaging $3,277 – the less fit men averaged 36% higher at $5,134 per year. Women showed an even larger gap, with the women with lower fitness in middle age spending $4,565 per year on average, 40% higher than the $2,755 average spent by those more fit in middle age.

The study’s authors pointed out that these findings lend credibility to outreach efforts like Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ campaign, a project aimed at reducing childhood obesity through exercise and proper nutrition. They are optimistic that the findings might encourage insurance providers to recognize the potential economic benefit to providing support for gym memberships, or for those individuals who demonstrate high fitness levels.

One of the authors, Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, pointed out that “exercise is the best medicine we have.” It seems that it may also be great medicine for your budget.


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