News flash, fellas: Being overweight is expensive.
Now, it may not feel like it while you’re young. Hell, it probably feels great: We know exactly how delicious it is to devour a late-night drunk pizza, sleep five hours, and then enjoy a breakfast of leftover cake before a rigorous afternoon of napping and Call of Duty.
After years and years of that, though, you’ll start feeling the pain—and not just in your waistline. Being overweight takes its toll in the form of more medical bills, sick days, and even treatments down the road for problems like cancer, diabetes, and heart problems. All told, obesity-related illness amounts to a $3–6 billion anchor on productivity each year in the United States alone, according to the CDC—and that number could be as high as $53 billion worldwide, according to an article published in The Lancet medical journal.
But here’s the good news: All it takes to trade away those fat cells—and keep more cash in your wallet—is half an hour of “moderate-to-vigorous” exercise, five days a week, according to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association. "Moderate," they write, is (by our definition) barely working out at all—raking leaves, walking fast, a very light sweat. "Vigorous," it follows, is probably the average Men's Fitness workout—"heavy sweating or large increases in breathing or heart rate," according to the study.
People who exercised that much—which isn’t really all that hard, even though it's the national recommended guideline—spent about $2,500 less each year than people who stayed sedentary, regardless of whether they had pre-existing cardiovascular disease, researchers found. Even among people who already had cardiovascular conditions, those who exercised saved an average of $400 on prescription meds, plus hospitalizations and outpatient visits.
“Even among an established high-risk group such as those diagnosed with heart disease or stroke, those who engaged in regular exercise activities reported a much lower risk of being hospitalized, (having) an emergency room visit and use of prescription medications,” senior study author Khurram Nasir, M.D., M.P.H., said in a statement.
Oh, and another payoff? Saving yourself from a murderers’ row of cardiovascular nightmares: coronary artery disease, stroke, heart failure, dysrhythmias, or peripheral artery disease—not to mention preventable cardio killers like hypertension, diabetes, and obesity.
So yeah: As far as your heart is concerned, a little hustle goes a long way. “The message to the patient is clear: There is no better pill in reducing the risk of disease and healthcare costs than optimizing physical activity,” Nasir said.
There are the obligatory caveats, of course. Even though the study analyzed data from more than 23,000 people and controlled for factors like access to health insurance, economic status, and demographics, the study merely establishes correlation, not causation. But if we step away from the science, it doesn't seem like a huge jump to suggest that exercise can pay off in the form of better health.
The bottom line, as always, is to get your ass to the gym, and remember to lay off the breakfast cake. (You can’t exercise away a terrible diet, remember?) You don’t need to tackle the hardest CrossFit workouts of all time, either. Hit the gym with these eight fat-burning interval workouts—or maybe even these 10 high-intensity workouts you can do at home—and you’ll be cooling down by the time you’ve reached 30 minutes.
Consider it the one of the smartest financial investments you could make—and one that’ll pay dividends in the form of six-pack abs, too.