Photo: Ed Andrieski, AP
Let’s face it: Like some kind of newfangled technology, our bodies are costing us more than ever. From gym visits to healthcare to diets, we’re paying more to stay fit and healthy for longer.And when we fail, we also pay: Healthcare costs have skyrocketed. Here are three healthy habits that come with a big price tag:
Going to the gym. Depending on where you live (and your penchant for amenities), gym memberships can cost upwards of $95 per month. Initiation fees, incremental price hikes, and extra charges to take that spinning class may jack up your annual outlay to well over $1,200. And a session with a personal trainer typically costs around $40 to $50 a pop, although you might find a buy-in-bulk deal.
Workout gear—which you’ll need whether you do your sweating at a gym, outdoors, or in your own home—can be pretty steep, too. A snazzy women’s workout tank from Lululemon Athletica costs more than $50, while the apparel company’s yoga-style pants will run you nearly $100 per pair. But deals in the single digits can be found at chain discount stores like Wal-Mart and Target, where you can get Mossimo yoga pants for $14.99.
Following diet advice. Many of us are thankful for those glossy guides to getting swimsuit-ready, but tally up a few magazine subscriptions ranging from $12 to $25 per year, and you’re shelling out some serious cash. There’s never a shortage of reality TV stars or New Age gurus peddling their weight-loss plans, and hardcover copies of the latest diet book can usually ring up to around $25. If it’s a more comprehensive plan for slimming down that gets you going, an annual membership at the likes of Weight Watchers will cost about $235 for the standard plan.
Buying health foods. While Americans spend far less of their disposable income on food than they did 50 years ago, they shell out increasing amounts on health-related foods and restaurant meals. In other words, they’re paying for health and convenience. Agriculture Department statistics show than in 1930, families spent around 21 per cent of their disposable income on food consumed at home and 3 per cent on food consumed away from home. Compare that with the average family today, which spends just 5.7 per cent of its disposable income on food consumed at home but 4.1 per cent on food away from home.
The organic food industry is also booming—and sucking more money from consumer wallets in the process. Sticking with nonspecialty stores is also easier on the wallet; a survey from Washington Consumers’ Checkbook shows that families that spend an average of $150 a week on groceries at a mainstream store such as Safeway would spend $3,510 more by shopping at Whole Foods. (They could also save $1,326 by shopping at a discount store such as Bottom Dollar Food, but they might not find any organic arugula there.)
Meanwhile, Americans are also willing to shell out cash for convenience, too. Processed foods, which include everything from cereal to baked goods, have expanded to make up about three-quarters of global food sales and now exceed $3.2 trillion a year, according to the Agriculture Department. Almost half of all money going to food in the United States is spent at restaurants, the National Restaurant Association reports. (In 1955, only $1 went to restaurants for every $4 spent on food.)
Put it all together—the growing costs of our exercise routines, dieting, and health food—and you can see why our bodies have become more expensive to maintain. The exercise industry, which was practically nonexistent 50 years ago, now rakes in billions of dollars a year. According to the National Sporting Goods Association, sales of sports-related footwear, clothing, and equipment exceed $53 billion a year. Americans buy $3 billion worth of treadmills alone annually.
Americans are also spending record amounts on their healthcare. According to the centres for Medicare and Medicaid Services, total annual spending is now $2.2 trillion, or around $7,421 per person. 10 years ago, it was half that, and 20 years ago, total spending was a quarter of what it is today. Whether or not we’re healthier as a result is the subject of much debate.