Did you know that exercise can save you money? Of course there are the obvious ways. Exercising improves your overall health, so you spend less on health care, both now and as you age. But that isn’t what I mean. Getting in the habit of exercising will actually help you get in the habit of doing other things that are good for you, like saving money.
Without habits, we would be nothing. As much as 45% of our daily activities are governed by habits, according to a research paper from Duke University. As we learn and get better at skills, they become habitual. If you have ever taught a teenager to drive a car, you know that it is a near miracle that anyone can drive. There are so many things to monitor and manage all at once. But most adults drive without putting any thought into it. The skills needed to do it have become habits.
Some habits are more important than others. These “keystone habits” as they are called by Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, have the ability to start a chain reaction of other constructive behaviors. It’s not clear to psychologists exactly why they are so powerful, but they have common traits. These habits deliver small victories that reward you for your actions, providing encouragement for other changes. Exercise is among the most important of the keystone habits.
Committing to an exercise program helps you make other positive changes. Say you commit to walking your dog for thirty minutes before work in the morning. That is good for both of you. After a few mornings of hating to wake up early, you actually start looking forward to the walk. You get some fresh air, get your heart rate up and your circulation going. You stretch your legs and bond with your buddy. You get to work in a better mood. When you get home, your dog hasn’t chewed a thing, because she was able to get rid of her pent up energy on her walk with you. Life is just a little bit sweeter.
Next thing you know, you start to eat healthier, you have more patience and less stress. You are likely to be more organized and productive, possibly because you have less stress. And here’s the part about saving money. People who start an exercise routine tend to use their credit cards less and find it easier to stick with a budget. If you are able to stick with a budget, you will be better able to grow your savings, whether that means paying down your debt (a form of saving as good as any other), increasing your retirement plan contributions, or starting a new savings and investment account.
You don’t have to join a gym or train for a marathon to get the benefits of exercise. It really can be as simple as walking your dog in the morning. Just thirty minutes of exercise three days a week has been shown to produce the mental health benefits that lead to reduced stress and better productivity. So strap on those sneakers, and before long you may be walking to the bank with some extra cash from all that budget-sticking-to that you will be doing.
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