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A more efficient metabolism, a reduced risk of certain cancers, and even a better quality of life are all benefits associated with regular exercise. But did you know getting enough movement can also be a boon to your financial health in the form of higher earning potential?
To explain, let’s back up a bit — specifically to 2011. That year, a study published in the Journal of Labor Research found that regular exercisers earn between six and 10 percent more than those who don’t exercise regularly.
Now, you may be wondering if it was exercise that actually made the difference. Study author Vasilios Kosteas, PhD, says the study suggests that there is a causal relationship between regular exercise and higher earnings, although he also cautions against extrapolating too far based on the results of one study.
Now, flash forward to 2018, when the app Freeletics announced the results of a survey about American fitness and how regular exercise impacts other aspects of life. Consider this another check in the “exercise may increase earnings” column: The study found that regular exercisers tended to make about $25,000 more every year than those who didn’t exercise regularly.
The moral of this story is that there’s evidence to suggest that regular exercise can boost your earning potential. Of course, this leads us to an obvious next question: Why?
To take a stab at explaining, we spoke with Sarah Sarkis, PsyD, a psychologist and certified executive and performance coach. Below, five mechanisms that could underlie a link between frequent exercise and earnings.
- Exercise boosts your performance in all domains.
Energy. Concentration. Focus. These are all direct benefits you might notice with consistent exercise, Sarkis says. A study published in 2014 found meeting physical activity recommendations to be beneficial for energy levels in women. And some research indicates exercise can improve memory and cognition right after your workout. In essence, you may literally earn more money because your performance at work increases, Sarkis explains.
- Exercise helps you sleep.
On a similar note, regular exercise can help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep, according to Mayo Clinic. As it turns out, Sarkis says, much of our cognitive acuity — feeling sharp, present, focused, attentive — improves with adequate deep sleep. (Read more about how much your sleep is worth here.)
- Exercise trains your endurance.
Exercise teaches you to hang in there when something’s hard, according to Sarkis. “I think this is a really big one for post-pandemic,” she says. “Burnout’s going to be a big thing. And burnout is so corrosive to our earning power, because it zaps our energy, it strips us of focus, we have no attention. And our work suffers. Our joy suffers.” But exercise, Sarkis says, builds grit and resilience. According to the results of a small study published in 2015, both cardiovascular exercise and resistance training were found to reduce perceived stress and increase well-being.
- Exercise manages your mental health.
According to Mayo Clinic, consistent exercise can help manage or prevent depression and anxiety in some instances. This is crucial, because mental health challenges can be a disrupter to key earning years, Sarkis says.
- Exercise builds self-advocacy “muscles.”
An indirect benefit of exercise, Sarkis explains, is that it builds the “muscle” of healthy self-care habits. When you show up for yourself by exercising, you can also help yourself get in the habit of, say, calling out your wins in the workplace. “Just by the practice of committing to exercise,” Sarkis says, “we’re practicing these larger self-advocacy muscles that also help us in the game of earning potential.”
The bottom line? You’ll never regret moving more, Sarkis says. And odds are, you’re going to be able to see the return on your exercise investment.