Hey! Hopefully the title was enough of a hook to get you reading my latest blog entry. In the past I have written about the societal benefits of improved activity and nutrition in a whole population. I’ve also written, and you also know about, the benefits you personally gain from becoming regularly physically active. I’m here today to smash a whole bunch of logic and statistics and research and science at you to finally put to bed a massively common reason people cite for being unable to commit to a consistent exercise program: Money.

Now, just you wait a second Dan, just get off your high horse a minute, we can’t all be mega rich celebrity PT’s like you, so sometimes, yes, money is hard to come by. Well, one of the previous statements is true. I will accept that SOMETIMES, money is hard to come by. For the audience at whom this blog is directed, the reality is, you are not short on money, you have got priorities that need adjusting. Good news! I’m here to help paint a picture that might convince you to adjust your priorities permanently so that you will never feel the need to (incorrectly) use money as a reason to stop an exercise program. So I’m sorry, if you read this blog, your most convenient excuse has now been removed from your arsenal, you’re going to have to be honest with your trainer and yourself as to why you’re really stopping (or not starting).

Let’s go on a little journey through some studies that have been concluded over the past decade or so. Some of these studies have been running for a very long time too. Don’t worry, I’ll get to my big point in due time, I just want to let you chew on these facts first:

Here is a link to a study which studied the dollar savings of groups when they participated in intervention (diet, exercise and information) programs versus being left as they are. I’ll chuck in some of the results below. Read the whole article for the full picture but it’s pretty heavy going.

Primary health care based exercise advise in combination with exercise groups

Based on changes in total cholesterol and diastolic blood pressure by use of a stochastic Markov model, a reduction in potential coronary heart disease events was predicted. Costs per life-year-gained were 180,000 SKr (year 2000)

To explain, the group which was given the intervention made a saving of 180,000 Swedish Krona (AUD $27387.73 today, this study was done in 2000) per quality life year gained. which means they SAVED A BOAT LOAD OF MONEY IN ADDITION TO LIVING LONGER!

Preventing disability and managing chronic illness in frail older adults.

The intervention led to significantly higher levels of physical activity and significant reduction in the use of psychoactive medications. The total number of inpatient hospital days during the study year was significantly less in the intervention group compared with controls (p=0.04). Savings in health care during the follow-up year were 4 times program costs.

This is pretty self-explanatory, the savings made by having this program run outweighed the cost of the program by FOUR TIMES!

Cardiac Rehabilitation

On average, patients in the intervention group returned to work more frequently, which resulted in decreased costs due to loss of production. The mean total cost of a 5-year myocardial infarction follow-up was 73,500 SKr (1988) lower in the rehabilitated group. Savings in health care were 1.6 times costs, and together with productivity, savings were 17.4 times costs.

Alright, last one from this study, again pretty simple to see, this study shows that after 5 years, the group with the intervention was costing AUD $11183.32 less, the savings were 1.6 times the cost of the program and finally, if you add in the increased productivity from the group who were in the program, the savings were 17.4 TIMES THE COST OF THE PROGRAM!

Ok, let’s move on and look at a few other nice facts. Here’s a couple of bombshells from my good friends (we text) the U.S Department of Health and Human Services:

Motorola’s wellness program, which stet the company $3.93 for every $1 invested.
Northeast Utilities WellAware Program, which in its first 24 months reduced lifestyle and behavioural claims by $1,400,000.
Caterpillar’s Healthy Balance program, which is projected to result in long term savings of $700 million by 2015.
Johnson & Johnson’s Health and Wellness Program, which has produced average annual health care savings of $224.66 per employee.
You don’t need to be real good at maths to figure out that these preventative programs (which include the three things you should be gaining from your trainer: education, physical activity and improved nutrition) are not only NOT COSTING COMPANIES ANYTHING, they are SAVING COMPANIES MORE MONEY THAN MOST OF US WILL EVER SEE IN OUR LIVES!

Let’s get a little closer to home shall we. I’ll show you a couple of studies show you how lack of intervention is affecting your sky rocket (hip pocket, or wallet, for those not down with the slang).

Here is one from the University of Queensland which specifically targets women it the study:

Data from 2010 showed the median annual health care cost for inactive participants was $741 per year, versus just $689 per year for active participants. Comparisons of participant data between 2001 and 2010 also showed the median cost of health care for inactive participants was $94 higher than that of highly active participants.

Dr Peeters said that while up to 15 per cent of Australian women aged between 45 and 65 were inactive, the data showed that their direct health costs could be reduced by increasing physical activity.

“If these women increased their activity levels, their reduced direct health care costs would translate to a saving of nearly $40 million a year in the country’s health care costs she said.

On the surface, $94 a year doesn’t seem like that much, but let’s dig a little deeper shall we:

Here’s a study from the CDC in the USA:

The CDC researchers analyzed the relationship between physical activity and medical expenditures from the 1987 National Medical Expenditures Survey (NMES), the most comprehensive healthcare information source available. They found that Americans 15 years and older who engaged in regular physical activity at least 30 minutes of moderate or strenuous physical activity three or more times a week had average annual direct medical costs of $1,019 versus costs of $1,349 for those who were inactive.

So, in 1987, it was $330 cheaper per year to do regular exercise. According to the internet (http://www.davemanuel.com/inflation-calculator.php) that would be $687.50 today. That seems like a pretty significant saving!

We shall press on to my last little bit of information for you to digest, this one comes courtesy of the State of Obesity website:

The New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) and TFAH found that an investment of $10 per person in proven community-based programs to increase physical activity, improve nutrition and prevent smoking and other tobacco use could save the country more than $16 billion annually within five years. That’s a return of $5.60 for every $1 invested.

Here it is. I will grant you that a lot of these studies (fine, all but one) are from the US, but these are scientific studies and their facts are worth paying attention to. This investment of $10 per person (in my mind, this investment is made by that person) will return $5.60. Just think about that and combine it with all the other studies or don’t, I’m about to do that for you with my own brand of napkin math.

So, here we are, at the end of a bunch of cherry picked quote from a bunch of cherry picked studies. I guess that’s the cynics way of looking at it. My way of looking at it is that if I give you enough well credentialed evidence that says the same thing, then it’s got a pretty good chance of being true. So, as I said, I’m going to combine all this information (which takes a bloody long time to read if you read every line of these studies) into a couple of nifty little sound bites. The last two studies are what I want to make use of here. Firstly, let’s just assume that the CDC was right and the inflation calculation was correct. If you become physically active you will (as an average person) save nearly $700 a year well, let’s stretch the numbers a bit more and bring it onto home soil. US $687.50 is actually AUD $876.69, right now.

So if you break that down into a weekly investment in some form of program, you will find that you get $16.87 Next, let’s look at the fact that a 2008 study said within five years, a $10 investment per person would net a return of $5.60 for every $1 spent. This is actually a return of AUD $7.14.

Ok, time to put the cart before the horse here for a second. We are going to assume you participate in at least 30 minutes of moderate or strenuous physical activity three or more times a week and save yourself $16.87 a week.

If you invest that $16.87 in proven community based programs (such as a session with your local PT Dan), you should be, theoretically, be getting a return of $120.45 per week. I can totally buy that as well. You won’t see a cheque in your letterbox each week, but the benefits and savings you get from improving your lifestyle and adding quality years to your life would definitely be in that ball park.

To recap, the way I have crowbarred these studies together and cobbled my own maths into this shows you that your investment in a (my, please) community driven health program is actually giving you a return on that of over $120 per week. Oh yeah, and the money you are investing is the money you saved by being active in the first place.

So, here are both sides of the tale. You can be inactive and spend $0 and get $0 back. You won’t lose out financially, except in exponentially increased health costs as cultivate an increasingly unsustainable lifestyle. So that ends up costing more. The flip side is that you be active can invest about $17 a week into it and get a $120 return on that investment each and every week, and of course, that $17 is comprised of the savings from being active in the first place, so you are still only spending $0. I don’t think that’s a particularly hard choice, but that’s just me.

You want this blog in one(3) line(s)?

Be inactive: Investment $0, Cost $0 + spiralling health care.

Be active: Investment $0, Return $120 per week

You can no longer use money as an excuse.

Yours in training,