Monday, August 25, 2008

Getting Started, Fitness Can Help Save On Health-Care Costs

“If you watched the Olympics, you can't help but be inspired by the athletes' physical abilities. I've been trying to lift heavier weights, take extra time to stretch and jog with just a bit more speed. And judging by the crowd at the gym lately, I'm not the only one feeling motivated. Exercise has the obvious benefits of helping you look and feel better. Make a habit of it, though, and you also could be doing something to improve your financial future. In its most recent retirement confidence survey, the non-profit Employee Benefit Research Institute found that concerns about health-care costs outweighed worries over mortgage payments, debt and energy prices among both workers and retirees. It's understandable:

-- Health care's growing expense Today, roughly 16 percent of the national gross domestic product is spent on health care, up from less than 14 percent a decade ago and 9 percent in 1980. Health insurance helps defray the expense, but insurers have been passing along costs too. In 2007, for example, medical insurance premiums rose an average 6.1 percent, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit organization that researches health-care issues. Meanwhile, wages climbed an average of 3.7 percent. Even with insurance, many treatments don't come cheap. So doing whatever you can to minimize the need for care could make a big difference to not only your health but also your savings. There are a variety of preventive strategies for staying healthy: eating right, exercising, doing appropriate screenings, flossing your teeth and getting enough shut-eye, among others. The merits of each are endlessly debated, and their effectiveness subject to genetic makeup and luck. Broadly speaking, though, there is more to gain from preventive care than to lose. In an article this year in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers wrote, ‘Preventable causes of death, such as tobacco smoking, poor diet and physical inactivity, and misuse of alcohol have been estimated to be responsible for 900,000 deaths annually, nearly 40 percent of total yearly mortality in the United States.’”,0,6892169.story

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