How Staying Active Could Make You Richer

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Woman playing tennis
Microgen /

Staying active is good for your health — and possibly your wallet.

Those who have good musculoskeletal health that fosters better mobility are more likely to have a higher income and to work longer into their adulthood, according to a recent study out of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS).

In addition, those who maintain mobility over the years are more likely to have greater earnings with the passage of time, according to the researchers at NIAMS, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

The researchers looked at data from the federally supported Health and Retirement Study (HRS), which is the biggest long-term study of Americans over age 50. They studied income and mobility among more than 19,000 participants, rating their mobility on a scale of 0 to 5 based on their ability to complete a series of tasks:

  • Walk several blocks
  • Walk one block
  • Walk across a room
  • Climb several flights of stairs
  • Climb one flight of stairs

A score of 5 out of 5 meant mobility was “unrestricted.” A score of 0 out of 5 meant participants struggled with all the mobility tasks.

The researchers found that one drop in a person’s mobility score — such as from 5 to 4, or from 3 to 2 — was equivalent to more than a $3,000 decline in median annual income.

The researchers also evaluated participants’ ability to maintain mobility over the years. Individuals in the study who had unrestricted mobility and maintained it over 10 years had a median income that was $6,500 higher than that of individuals with less mobility. Those more-mobile participants were also more likely to be employed.

Finally, the researchers found that among a group of participants who were between the ages of 60 and 80 in 2012, those who maintained mobility had a 19-point higher likelihood of actively working compared to those who struggled to maintain mobility.

In a summary of the findings, Dr. Lindsey Criswell, NIAMS director, says:

“We have long understood that greater mobility is an important indicator of good health. The notion that mobility can have economic rewards further extends the evidence for the benefits of exercise and maintaining an active lifestyle.”

In fact, the researchers say that exercising just once each week can significantly boost your mobility score over time.

Ready to get started on a more active life? Check out “5 Free and Cheap Ways to Exercise at Home.”

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