Think you can’t afford that gym membership? If you’ve got any of these health insurance benefits and don’t exercise regularly, you may want to reconsider.
Think that gym membership is too expensive to afford? Make sure you consider all the benefits of having one (besides staying in shape).
Being a Grownup is about making important decisions and improving yourself. Deciding whether or not you should buy that gym membership is a Grownup decision that I had trouble making. But in retrospect, I think I made the right choice.
Warren Buffet says, “Address whatever you feel your weaknesses are, and do it now. Whatever you want to learn more, start doing it today. Don’t put if off to your old age.” It’s a quote that resonated with me as I was going through the decision making process.
I’ve never been very athletic. I tried out for the track team once. While running the mile I was lapped by not just the stars of the team, but pretty much everyone.
People like to do things we’re good at but it’s really hard to motivate yourself to do things you suck at. So with my lack of athletic prowess, when it came time to exercise, I’d usually opt to watch Netflix or get coffee instead.
It wasn’t until a breakup sent me into a bad depression that I stopped seeing exercise as a hobby I didn’t enjoy, and took Warren Buffet’s words to heart.
I started running to overcome depression. I trained for 5K’s and eventually half-marathons, not fast and usually with a lot of walks, but I completed every race I started. I worked up to taking boot camp classes in the park, one of those pole dancing fitness classes, and eventually settled on Crossfit—arguably the most expensive gym membership out there.
I quit Crossfit for nine months while my husband and I were paying off $78,000 in debt. I tried other things like more running and cheap gym membership classes, but after six months I was back to my old ways of Netflix and chillin’.
The funny thing is, I didn’t feel like I saved any money at all. I also realized I’d lost all the money-saving benefits and discounts that came with regular exercise.
Didn’t know there were ways a gym membership could actually save you money? Yeah, me neither. But once I stopped checking those boxes these are the things I was missing.
Prescriptions & Doctor Bills
Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.
In our early 20’s, most of us don’t think about health conditions we’ll face in our 30’s and 40’s, much less further down the road. We figure if it takes 20 minutes to make it through an acid reflux episode it’ll be that way forever. Or if we can keep anxiety under control now we can do it later, too.
The truth is that our health conditions don’t stay the same—they compound over time. Acid corrodes the esophagus and after years of hard work, it gets harder for the body to produce stuff like serotonin, dopamine, and insulin. Even if you’re not having diagnosable issues today, that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear.
Exercising strengthens the body and keeps it functioning properly, which means fewer medications and surgeries down the road.
To put it in monetary perspective, a study by the Journal of the American Heart Association showed that subjects without a history of heart disease who exercised an average of 150 minutes per week saved an average of $500 annually on healthcare compared to those who didn’t exercise regularly. The amount saved for people with heart disease was six times that.
Additionally, exercise increases energy, which translates into fewer coffee stops and improves your immune system to help fight off colds and the flu. I went from several trips a year to the walk-in clinic with antibiotic prescriptions to none in 18 months.
Health insurance companies love preventative care because it’s a lot cheaper than doling out benefits to hospitals. So, of course, they offer some generous incentives for exercising.
I’m insured by Cigna and can earn up to $1,026 in incentives for working towards my health goals and participating in healthy living seminars. Blue Cross Blue Shield will reimburse you up to $600 for taking steps to get and stay healthy. Health Partners offers incentives for walking 10,000 steps daily and tracking your sleep. Aetna offers gift certificates and deductible reimbursement for meeting certain health goals.
Most health insurance companies will even reimburse you up to $150 annually for your gym membership. It’s like getting paid to work out. And if you still can’t justify a gym membership they even incentivize wearing fitness trackers.
Anytime I’m working to reach exercise goals I pay more attention to my diet. Subtle changes can accelerate my progress and I’m all about reaching goals quicker.
The traditional stigma around eating healthy is that it’s expensive, but in reality, it’s the most budget-friendly lifestyle. I eat out less, buy less packaged food, and drink more water, which naturally decreases my appetite.
In-season fruits and vegetables are the healthiest and best deals in any grocery store. And the less time I spend sedentary, the fewer chips and cookies I mindlessly snack on.
What’s Best For You?
I could easily see the health benefits that came with regular exercise. The more money I invested in working out, the more I saw it paying me back in dividends of time and self-esteem.
Crossfit and half marathons aren’t for everyone. Luckily you can get the same incentives with cheap gym memberships or no membership at all. The benefit of a gym for me is the accountability and consistency. When that bill comes out of my checking account I’m motivated to make the most of it.
The health insurance benefits are nice but it’s the consistency that keeps me saving money with my gym membership in the long run—that’s why I have no problem at all paying money for it.
Jen is a frugal friend to overspenders. She is a personal finance writer and budget coach at Saving with Spunk, where she helps people spend money more intentionally and laugh a little in the process.
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