Get Paid To Exercise

Freestyle swimming competitor in action

I was at a meeting recently and found myself in one of those awkward “ice breaker” moments where I was asked to share something about myself with the group that most people don’t know about me. I had a few ideas, but decided to share that I spent much of my childhood and teenage years as a competitive swimmer.

Having spent a good chunk of my life “chasing the black line” in the pool, I was intrigued when I recently saw an advertisement online for life insurance for swimmers. What caught my attention was that the rates advertised to individuals who swim are supposedly lower than typical life insurance rates. The data that this insurance company cites tells an interesting story: people who swim for exercise are generally healthier, and therefore less risky for companies to insure. That translates into lower rates.

All too often, if you “follow the money” you can get to the heart of the matter. Those who stand to profit want the real, raw data before they make a business decision. Actuaries and analysts at life insurance companies make decisions based on health and financial data. If they are offering lower rates to swimmers, the effects of swimming must have a cost savings benefit. It’s an interesting, and encouraging, phenomenon.

There’s more good news… even if you don’t swim. A large and growing body of evidence on the benefits of exercise is translating into cost savings on health care for physically active people. A very recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association surveyed approximately 26,000 adults as to their exercise habits, and their health care costs. The researchers found that individuals who had “optimal physical activity” (those who exercised 30 minutes or more per day, five or more days per week) saved over 4,000 dollars (some nearly 5,000 dollars), compared to those who did not regularly exercise.

Notably, the researchers also found that these savings for physically active people were consistent regardless of whether or not they were diagnosed with cardiovascular disease. Based on their research, the study authors concluded:

“These robust estimates for potential healthcare savings strongly support the [American Heart Association’s] strategic goals for optimizing [physical activity] levels as a means to favorably impact the increasing burden of CVD [cardiovascular disease] and associated costs.”

Exercise and physical activity are good for us in so many ways. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: movement is medicine. It is clear now that physical activity is not only good for health and disease prevention — it will also save you money long term. If your health, longevity, and feeling good weren’t good enough reasons to get you moving, now you can be sure that regular physical activity will actually save you a few bucks. Now… get moving!

– Dr. Joshua Levitt