If you want to beat back the ticking clock of age, exercise is one of the cheapest and most-effective investments you can make, both for your health and for your bottom line. People who exercise regularly are simply healthier.
People who exercised at a moderate tempo for just 2.5 hours a week (or at a high intensity for 1.25 hours a week) added 3.4 years to their lives, a National Cancer Institute study found. More exercise added more years, but even doing half the recommended exercise added an average of 1.8 years.
There’s no need to spend big money — or any money at all — to get benefits that include strength, resistance to illness, psychological resilience, increased productivity at work and even higher earnings.
Exercise is like a cheap, super-effective medicine for many ailments. Active people are less likely to get coronary heart disease, for example, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Exercise also helps people:
- Manage a healthy weight.
- Lower high blood pressure.
- Cut the risk of chronic illnesses like Type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart attack and some types of cancer.
- Counteract arthritis pain and joint stiffness.
- Reduce or manage depression and anxiety.
- Reduce the risk of osteoporosis and falls.
Exercise also can put money in your pocket:
- Participating in exercise and sports is associated with higher earnings, according to researcher Michael Lechner in a study in the Journal of Labor Economics.
- Workers who exercise regularly lose fewer work days to illness. “Those absences can translate to lost income and lost opportunities for advancement,” points out Time Magazine.
- Regular exercise ramps up productivity at work, according to the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
The one thing exercise doesn’t fix
Contrary to what we’ve all heard, one thing exercise doesn’t affect much is weight loss. “[E]xercise consumes far fewer calories than many people think,” The New York Times says. Eating less seems to be the most-effective path to weight loss.
The costs of inactivity
On the flip side, inactivity is expensive. Disability from poor health cuts careers short, forcing workers into early, unwanted and low-income retirements. Also, Johns Hopkins says that inactivity can add to feelings of anxiety and depression and may raise the risk of certain cancers.
Get your money’s worth from the gym
The average cost of joining a gym is $58 a month, according to Statistics Brain. But 67 percent of gym members don’t use their passes at all and, on average, members waste $39 of their monthly fee by going too seldom to get their money’s worth.
16 cheap ways to get moving
You don’t have to put out much money — or any at all — to get the benefits of exercise. Here are 16 low-cost and no-cost ways to get moving:
1. Community centers
Find out if your city or county has a department of recreation. Residents of Montgomery County, Maryland, for instance, can choose among classes in dance (hip hop, ballroom, international and square dance), tai chi chuan, yoga, qi gong, aquatics programs, martial arts and indoor walking programs. Many cities and counties sponsor adult softball, soccer and basketball leagues.
2. Community colleges
State community colleges may offer great deals on exercise through their course catalogs. Look for inexpensive outdoor trips, fitness center memberships and classes like yoga, aerobics, dance, kayaking, bicycling and weight training.