Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Spending Now On Fitness Might Save You Money Later

“Gym togs and bag -- $90. iPod shuffle -- $80. Nifty Nalgene water bottle -- $10. Heart-rate monitor -- from $90 to $350. Running shoes -- $135. Health club membership -- anywhere from $20 to more than $100 a month, depending on where you go. Feel the burn? If you're starting to think this fitness thing just isn't worth it, think again. Research is starting to show that there are savings to be had on the other end, savings in trips to the emergency room and the hospital, savings in productivity, and savings in out-of-pocket expenses. Like Peter Dokken of Rochester. Dokken sells real estate for Keller Williams Realty. In this economy especially, it's a high-stress job. And Dokken has had further complications. He's worked against Seasonal Affective Disorder and depression for years, twice to the point of hospitalization. This winter, he signed up for a 12-week fitness and nutrition program at Rochester Athletic Club (RAC). The result: fewer headaches, fewer colds and more energy. ‘I just feel better,’ he said. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota surveyed 74,000 people like Dokken and found that claim costs for people who visited a fitness center at least eight times a month for nine months a year were 17.8 percent lower than costs for non-participants. Frequent fitness center visitors made 38.7 percent fewer trips to the emergency room. And their hospitalization rate was 41.4 percent lower than non-participants. Greg Lappin, general manager at the RAC, said his trade association, the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, claims that medical costs drop by $1,250 a year for people who exercise at least three times a week. On a 10 percent co-pay, the average individual would save $125. ‘That's real money,’ Lappin said. Plans offered by Blue Cross, Health Partners, U Care Minnesota and Definity Health contribute $20 a month toward a fitness center membership for people who exercise at least 12 times a month. Eight hundred of the RAC's 10,000 members use that discount. Blue Cross is careful to point out there is no direct link between exercise and health care. But the survey indicates that those who exercise need less care.”


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