Here's What Daily Exercise Is Worth in Dollars

Working out doesn’t just cut down on stress, fatigue and health issues, it also saves you money, according to a new study published by the Journal of the American Heart Association on September 7.


The study looked at a randomized group of 26,239 people ages 18 and up and found that those with heart disease might save, on average, $2,500 a year if they just work out five days a week. Healthy people with no heart problems might save an average of $500 a year on medical costs if they make time for the recommended levels of exercise, according to the report. 

While it’s long been known that regular exercise, even moderate exercise like walking, significantly reduces the risk of conditions like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and obesity, rarely do we hear about the economic benefits. The study’s senior author, Khurram Nasir, director of the High Risk Cardiovascular Disease Clinic at Baptist Health South Florida in Coral Gables, set out to reframe the issue and quantify the value of exercise in terms Americans might actually heed: money.

He and his team used the 2012 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, an annual survey conducted by federal agencies that asks a representative sampling of Americans about their health (i.e. diagnosed illness), as well as what they spent on health care in the last year. The survey includes a detailed breakdown of each survey participant’s medical costs, from insurance coverage and prescriptions, to doctor visits, medical devices, hospitalizations and other out-of-pocket expenditures.

According to the study report, “nearly half of the participants who did not have cardiovascular disease, and almost one-third who did, reported meeting exercise guidelines for weekly moderate-to-vigorous activity."

"People in the study who already had cardiovascular disease — specifically coronary artery disease, stroke, heart attack, arrhythmias or peripheral artery disease — had higher healthcare costs. But those patients who regularly exercised at recommended levels logged average healthcare costs more than $2,500 lower than those who didn’t meet exercise guidelines.”

The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of "moderate-intensity aerobic activity" at least five days per week (this could be walking, hiking, slow swimming, yoga, mowing the lawn—anything that causes a light sweat), or at least 25 minutes of “vigorous aerobic activity" three days a week (this could be running, cycling, swimming, aerobics—any of the higher-intensity workouts). Even just walking for half an hour, five days a week, could save you a good chunk of change in the long run.

Read the complete report.

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