4 financial benefits of exercising

Getting active isn't only good for your health, it's good for your finances, too.

This time of year, inspiration to exercise is everywhere—be it a beach vacation, gyms reopening or athletes taking center stage at the Summer Olympics.

While a gold medal isn't likely your goal, you may find that you're more motivated to get moving, whether it be swimming laps at the local pool or adding a morning jog to your routine.

And the payoff isn't just physical. Though there may be some start-up costs when it comes to purchasing the requisite gear or gym membership, says Daniel Bollini, Wealth Planning Strategist at TIAA, you're also likely to save money elsewhere in both the short- and long-term.

1. You'll be less likely to miss work.

"When folks increase their activity levels—whether it's picking up a new sport or just getting more into exercise—studies have shown it reduces absenteeism," Bollini says. Indeed, a 2017 study of 292 employeesOpens in a new window showed that those who were less physically active had more illness-related absences at work.

If you or your spouse do not currently have paid time off at your job, missing work because you're sick means missing out on pay, too. "If you're not having to pay to miss work, then there's not necessarily a financial incentive there, but longer-term, reduced absenteeism can help you within your career," Bollini says.

2. Activity leads to more activity—which could save you money.

"Contrary to what people might think, as you exercise more, you [may] actually have more energy," Bollini says. "A lot of times, as people increase their activity levels, it actually leads to them doing more around their houses."

That means more energy not only to exercise more—multiplying your health benefits—but also to be more active around the house and take back some of the tasks you'd otherwise pay to outsource. "If you're doing yard work, you're saving money on lawn mowing or leaf-raking … You're not paying someone to clean your house if you're cleaning it yourself," Bollini says. Even a small amount of savings could go toward an emergency fund or paying down debt.

"People who are staying physically fit are generally healthier and that leads to so many extra benefits."

3. You could score benefits from your employer.

Many companies offer wellness programs with various incentives for employees who exercise regularly. "There are a lot of programs that reward people for doing a certain amount of exercise per week or per month," Bollini says. "Some companies have you self-report it, others have you log it, and others take it on faith you're doing what you say you're doing."

Your employer might offer incentives such as gift cards, entries to prize raffles or the opportunity to earn points that can be redeemed for company swag. Or the company might offer a discount on your health insurance if you meet a certain activity requirement or pass a targeted health screening.

A healthier workforce translates into lower health insurance rates, so think of it as your company sharing that savings with you. "The reality is that the reduced incidence of claiming against the medical insurance, as well as reduced absenteeism, pays off for the employer to give you that financial incentive, because they're seeing benefits at the back end," Bollini says.

4. You could save money on life insurance.

If you're in the market for life insurance, embracing a healthier lifestyle could net you a significant discount. "There are a lot of different statuses [insurance providers] use with life insurance, but typically they have these classes: standard, select, preferred and preferred plus," Bollini explains. Health screening results for cholesterol, blood pressure, body mass index and other factors determine which category a life insurance applicant falls into. "If you are in that preferred plus—the healthiest category—versus standard, the savings are typically around 30 percent."

Though there are financial benefits to becoming more active, you may also reap rewards that are less tangible but nonetheless valuable. "Reduced mortality is a big one—nobody really wants to die. But your lifestyle may become better as well—you may be able to do more things, have more energy and generally more active people have less depression and are more productive."

Discover More

Financial planning

Perspectives for uncertain times

Get insights from TIAA experts.


3 tips to help you plan for healthcare in retirement

As healthcare costs continue to rise, learn ways to save and prepare.

Take Action

Call us

We're here to answer your questions and guide you towards the right solution.​


Weekdays, 8 A.M. to 10 P.M. (ET)

Schedule an appointment​

You can schedule a time convenient for you to meet with a financial professional.​

Read more in Perspectives​

Get financial and investment insights from TIAA experts​.