Healthy living pays off. Studies show diet and exercise can cut the risk of obesity, heart disease and cancer, along with a slew of other major medical problems.
Here are four ways that healthy living can benefit your waistline and your wallet.
1. Reaping healthy rewards
In April, John Hancock became the first U.S. life insurer to reward customers for healthy eating. By buying healthy foods at 16,000 stores nationwide, policyholders can earn grocery discounts, cash-back bonuses and even annual savings on life insurance premiums of as much as 10 percent to 15 percent.
John Hancock already had offered rewards and savings for completing health-related activities such as working out or getting a flu shot.
Aviva USA, part of a London-based insurance conglomerate, offers similar financial incentives. By visiting a doctor every other year — helping with early detection of health problems — and buying a $100 policy add-on, Aviva’s life insurance customers either can reduce their premiums or boost the cash value of their universal life insurance policy.
Aviva says a 45-year-old nonsmoking woman with a $100,000 life insurance policy could save about $1,000 through this program.
2. Harvesting money
Dina Garcia, a licensed dietitian/nutritionist who’s a “mindful eating” coach in Miami, says growing fruits and vegetables in a home garden not only can trim your grocery bill but also can put extra money in your pocket.
“If you grow your own garden, you will often have periods where the yield is more than you can eat. Sell some of this off, or swap with a fellow gardener for other types of produce,” Garcia says.
An oft-cited 2009 study from the National Gardening Association indicates that a typical family tending to a vegetable garden spends $70 on it but yields more than $600 worth of produce.
In a piece for The Huffington Post, Dan Allen, co-owner of urban farming venture Farmscape, suggests that vegetable gardening at home shouldn’t be done for financial gains, as the investment of time and money doesn’t pan out.
“Do it because it’s delicious. Do it to live a healthier lifestyle. Do it to introduce the next generation to vegetables the right way,” Allen says.
Embracing the spirit of gardening, Garcia says she recently set up an aeroponic system — in which plants are grown in a “mist environment” at home — to produce her own fruits and vegetables.
“Once I get bragging rights on my first yield,” she says, “I’m going to sell the growing systems and teach others how to save money and easily grow their own organic produce at home.”
3. Eating at home
Typically, home-cooked meals are better for your belly than restaurant meals are. For one thing, you’re likely to fix food with ingredients that are healthier than the ones used by restaurant cooks. For another, your home-prepared meals probably won’t have the gut-busting portions that many restaurants serve.
Home-cooked meals also are cheaper. When comparing a classic chicken dinner at a restaurant with a classic chicken dinner at home, the Cheapism blog found the eat-in option cost about half as much as the eat-out option.
“Eating out is one of the most costly adventures for your finances and should be reserved for special occasions,” Caravella says.
Additionally, home-cooked meals can reduce medical expenses in the long run, Caravella says. Aside from allowing you to more easily control your weight, he says, healthy eating at home can help prevent ailments like type 2 diabetes and heart disease “that can be financially burdensome.”
Here’s some food for thought in support of Caravella’s words: A study published in 2012 in the Journal of Health Economics found that the annual medical costs for an obese person were $2,741 higher than those for someone who isn’t obese.
4. Winning with wellness
Workplace wellness programs are designed to make employees feel well. In many cases, they also can make you feel a bit richer.
Employer-sponsored wellness programs provide everything from discounts for gym memberships to help with weight loss. Under federal rules set to take effect in January, an employer’s wellness program can offer financial incentives equivalent to as much as 30 percent of the cost of employee-only health insurance, according to Kaiser Health News. For the employee, that’s worth roughly $1,800 a year, Kaiser Health News says.
“The wellness programs many leading employers have put in place are making progress in helping employees and their families be healthier and better understand potential risk factors,” Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan says.
However, some critics aren’t sure the advantages of the new federal rules will offset the concerns.
“These new rules take the country in the wrong direction by allowing for coercive practices, so employees have to either share private medical information with employers or pay appreciably more for health insurance,” says Judith Lichtman, senior adviser at the National Partnership for Women & Families.