Being unhealthy and generally unfit is expensive. Living a truly sedentary lifestyle (one in which the word “exercise” is avoided at all cost and bursts of physical motion are vanishingly rare) is associated with all kinds of expensive illnesses and health risks. It literally costs you money to be lazy and out of shape.
But being fit and healthy is affordable by comparison. You can save yourself all kinds of money on healthcare costs and lifestyle expenses just by working your muscles periodically throughout the day. As far as frugality goes, physical fitness is an all-around genius tactic for saving.
It’s expensive to be out of shape
Leading a sedentary lifestyle raises your risk of developing a host of diseases and health conditions related to long periods of physical inactivity. According to the World Health Organization, it can lead to dire health consequences: cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, osteoarthritis and other degenerative joint diseases, even cancer. All of these super fun and expensive-to-treat conditions stem directly from doing nothing but sitting around.
Even if you have health insurance, the copays from hospital bills and maintenance drugs will bury you over time. And you’ll be too weak from a lifetime of holding down the couch with your own body weight to dig yourself free.
Then there’s the productivity loss. If you’re out of shape and unhealthy, you’re more susceptible to communicable diseases, causing you to burn through your sick days or even take unpaid time off to recover. Wouldn’t you rather use your PTO on fun stuff?
Oh yeah, and your health insurance? It’ll be more expensive because of your preexisting slothfulness.
Getting in shape can save you money
So if it’s expensive to be out of shape, then you can’t afford not to get in shape. Lower insurance premiums, fewer expensive hospital visits and medications, more energy to do stuff, less time wasted—all of these can be yours if you just make an effort to move your body around sometimes.
But getting in shape can also save you money in surprising ways. Biking, for example, not only helps with your general fitness level, but it saves you the money you would have spent on gas or public transportation. Walking your own dog saves you the cost of paying a dog walker. And going for a romantic evening stroll through the park is just about the cheapest date you can ask for.
Start small, but start now
If sitting for eight hours a day is literally killing you, then stand the fuck up. Try standing up once every hour for five minutes at a time, just to start. Then try standing for longer periods. Implement a short walk during your lunch hour. Then a longer walk. Then take the stairs instead of the elevator every day.
Standing up, walking, taking the stairs: all of these seemingly innocuous, minor efforts are so much better than no physical activity at all. They’re not hard, and they’ll cost you nothing. But what they will do is get your blood flowing and eventually mitigate all the costly health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
You don’t have to become an Olympian overnight! You don’t even need to visibly lose weight (fun fact: everything we know about obesity is wrong). All you need to do is gradually change your daily routine to incorporate physical activity in small but meaningful ways. You will feel so much better, and the only thing getting fatter will be your wallet.
If you sit in an office chair all day, only to come home too mentally exhausted to do more than sit on your couch and watch reruns of Ru Paul’s Drag Race, then it would be ludicrous to go straight to running five days a week or deadlifting weights every day. Ludicrous! And a great way to ensure you’ll fail at your fitness goals. So start simple, with entirely attainable goals, and build a comfortable but challenging exercise routine from there. You won’t spend a penny, and you’ll literally save your life.
But what if I can’t?
It would be heartless and ignorant of me not to acknowledge that some people literally can’t incorporate traditional exercise into their daily routine. People with mobility difficulties, chronic illnesses, or physical injuries are going to have a much harder time pursuing physical fitness as a way to save money.
And that’s ok! Life is not a one-size-fits-all garment. If you struggle with staying fit or finding ways to exercise more, get help. Talk to your doctor or to other people who are dealing with the same challenges. You might find a solution so simple and rewarding you’ll regret not seeking it out sooner.
A few years ago I decided to take up running. Mostly I was tired of feeling like the proverbial bump on a log, but at least in part I was hoping that it would make me feel better. And it really fucking did. Not only did I have more energy when I was running regularly, but I was sleeping better and my anxiety and stress levels plummeted.
Now not only do I run, but I do dozens of squats, lunges, and arm dips in my office every day. I’m more productive, I’m in better overall physical health, and I feel confident that when the zombie apocalypse comes, I’ll be able to outrun all of you.