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Does your gym membership cost too much?

I'm sure you've heard people say it (or maybe you've said it yourself): "I can't afford a gym membership" and even more commonly, "I can't afford a personal trainer."

Have you ever wondered, though, what is the REAL cost of these preventative healthcare measures versus the cost of reactive measures such as medication, doctor copays (if you're fortunate enough to have insurance), and hospital stays? Let's break it down, focusing on just heart disease although physical activity benefits your health far beyond preventing heart disease including reduced risk for some cancers, lowering blood sugar, etc.

According to USA Today, the average cost of a gym membership in the United States is just under $60 per month. That's about $720 a year. It's even more for specialized gyms such as Crossfit boxes. That's a lot, huh? Too much? Many would say yes.

$1,000,000. That's a lot of zeros. CBS News says that $1,000,000 is the average lifetime cost of a severe heart attack per person. A less severe heart attack costs about $760,000. Let's be optimistic and say you had the less severe heart attack. Over 20 years, you would pay out about $38,000 per year in hospital care, doctors, medications, loss of wages for time off, etc. Suddenly the $720 per year gym membership doesn't seem very expensive.

Simple lifestyle changes can drastically reduce your risk of heart disease and avoid the financial hardships that can come along with it. First, the American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. Improve your nutrition by consuming more vegetables. Lower your overall body fat and increase your lean muscle mass. Stop smoking. Start meditating. You've heard this all before, haven't you?

In a Web MD article, Dr. Paul Heidenreich, an associate professor at Stanford University acknowledges that most of us have heard these recommendations before. He also points out that unfortunately, most of us ignore them. He estimates that if we made some sensible changes to our lifestyle, we could reduce the number of heart attacks by 63% over the next 30 years.

So maybe you know that you should exercise and make changes to your nutrition but you aren't sure what to do. This is where a personal trainer can make a huge impact on your life. In the U.S., the average cost of a personal trainer is from $40-$70 per session. That's an average of about $55. If you hired this person for 1 session per week, that's $2,860 for the year. Again, considerably less than the cost of a heart attack.

We all know that we should improve our health. We all know that regular exercise is a critical part of a healthy lifestyle. Had you ever considered before the financial impact of poor health? Sometimes this is the wake up call that we need. Your health is literally an investment. Making a small financial commitment to your health now will pay off long term in reduced medical costs and a long, healthy life.

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