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Economic Perspective: Exercise and the Economy

NC State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences professor Dr. Mike Walden working in a recording studio.


“Today’s program looks at exercise and the economy. Mike, it’s common medical advice that we should all exercise. Exercise promotes a healthy body, good sleep habits and helps control our weight. But have there been any findings indicating exercise has a major positive impact on the economy?”


“Actually there are. We have a new international study that shows there are major economic benefits from exercise. That is people who exercise, this study found, have better mental health, at work they’re absent less, on the worksite they have more productivity and this all leads to higher pay. The estimates are right now are six billion dollars annually in the U.S. is generated in companies where people are exercising.”

“Now the big question is how do you motivate. If you’re a company, how do you motivate your workers to exercise? Do you just tell them to do it? Probably not. You have to have some kind of monetary incentive, and one recent program that was found to work was where the company provided smart watches to their employees so that the employees could track their physical activity, and the company said that if the employees meet their individual exercise goals, they would only pay 10 percent for that watch. If they didn’t meet the goals they’d have to pay 90 percent for the watch. And what they have found is that’s been a very, very good incentive for workers to begin exercising.”

Mike Walden is a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at North Carolina State University who teaches and writes on personal finance, economic outlook and public policy.