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Crunching the Numbers: Is Your Gym Membership Paying Off?
There’s more to measure than just the size of your biceps.
By Adam Johnson Posted: 01/26/16 Updated: 03/02/16
A three-year study conducted by Brigham Young University of 20,000 employees showed productivity gains of 11 percent when participants exercised at least 30 minutes, three times per week.
Between all those holiday parties expanding your waistline and the pressure to make a New Year’s resolution, it’s no wonder gym memberships spike in January. Before you meet with the membership recruiter and sign on the dotted line, ask yourself: Is it worth the cost? And we mean even if you actually go.
While many national gym franchises offer unsupervised use of equipment for $25 to $50 per month, full-service clubs with classes and spa facilities can cost up to $200 per month. With so much variance we need a thoughtful way to compare cost versus benefit. We need to calculate Return on Investment (ROI).
To calculate the ROI of joining a gym, let’s start with the costs.
- We found most gyms willing to negotiate price and services, especially if we agreed to join for 6 to 12 months. So we’ll peg the monthly cost at $125, which assumes unlimited equipment access and several classes per month. This equates to $1,500 annually.
- Next, let’s quantify the imputed value of your time getting to and from the gym (we won’t include actual workout time since you could do sit-ups at home as an alternative). Three round trips weekly of 20 minutes each total 50 hours annually. If you make $150,000 per year and work an 8-hour day 242 days per year, lost time equates to $3,900.
- Finally, there may be a hidden cost to working out excessively and/or without supervision. According to OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) tendonitis accounts for 40 percent of reported injuries and results in an average 10 sick days per year. While most companies provide paid sick leave for a specified period, the data is compelling. We’ll assume three unpaid sick days, costing a total of $2,025.
Now let’s consider the benefits.
- A three-year study conducted by Brigham Young University of 20,000 employees showed productivity gains of 11 percent when participants exercised at least 30 minutes, three times per week. Similar research by Leeds Metropolitan University in the UK produced gains of 15 percent. Even if we cut the results in half and average the two, productivity still increases 6.5 percent, which implies a potential earnings gain of $9,750 for someone making $150k/yr.
- Your insurer has a vested interest in your health. Principle Financial Group indicates participating in a structured exercise plan can cut annual premiums by $400. Some insurers suggest discounts of up to $1,500 for individuals who provide continuous data from wearables that track your heart rate, activity, and other vitals. Averaging the two, we’ll assume insurance savings of $900.
Combining cost and benefit, Return on Investment equals.
We recognize there are a lot of variables here. Most notably, whether you can monetize the productivity gain associated with higher levels of exercise; i.e. get a raise if you have a boss, charge/sell more product if you’re self-employed. Plus, people already exercising at home will likely see fewer incremental benefits associated with gym membership.
Still, double digit gains grab our attention. We’ll happily invest in ourselves, especially as the economy muddles along at just 2.1 percent growth and corporate profits fall 4.3 percent.
Bottom Line: Join the gym. You’re worth it.