The cost-benefit ratio of exercise


Many people find it quite challenging to stay fit and indeed, those who are overweight can easily become discouraged at the prospects of recapturing being “fit”.  Perhaps if we look at this through a cost:benefit lens, the problem will appear less insurmountable.  Let us consider the idea of what is expended in exercising (the cost) and what is the gain or the benefit.  The cost is the expenditure of energy along with the some discomfort as we push ourselves physically. Someone who is already somewhat fit will likely be accustomed to the rigors of exercise so the relative cost is reasonable and the benefit (feeling and looking healthy) are apparent with out much delay. The result is a low cost to benefit ratio.

Now, let’s imagine an  individual who is quite a bit out of shape.  They admirably embark on a regiment of rigorous exercise and by doing so they feel they are paying a high “cost” for getting in shape.  They are likely not accustomed to the self-imposed physical demands and the efforts required to expend vast amounts of energy in a short period of time.  On the benefit side, their is little gain at first in the way of physical appearance but it is likely that they might feel a little better after a day or two of strenuous exercise.  Given society’s emphasis on appearance, it is unfortunate that the slow to materialize change in appearance will often negatively counteract the positiveness of feeling better.  In this scenario, we have here great costs paid in exercising but the net benefit does not seem to be worth the investment.  We have a high cost to benefit ratio.

Now let’s explore this notion.  Let’s assume the benefit is what it is, at least early on – we shouldn’t expect miracles.  So what can we do to influence the other component of this ratio – the cost.  If we could start by keeping the cost down (i.e. less rigorous, lower energy expenditure, etc) maybe the lower benefit early on does seem like such a crappy investment and thus we begin to feel better about making the investment more frequently and voilà, a habit is formed!  What follows is a lifestyle.

So how can we keep these costs low to start?  Simple. Walk!  At least every other day – ideally every day – for one half hour – go for a brisk walk.  Maybe before work in the morning, maybe after dinner (best in my opinion).  By doing this you will realize very small returns in the beginning but they will be commensurate with your small investments.  And more importantly, you WILL begin to feel better about yourself – which IS the end goal.  Eventually the benefit will increase as we begin notice improvements in our appearance.  Just as added interest, dividends and positive returns in an investment give us more to work with, the improvements felt AND seen will provide more encouragement to ramp up the vigor in our exercise programs.  That’s when the benefit begins to really impact the cost-benefit ratio of exercise.

Good Luck and Happy Healthy!

Thanks for reading. As always, comments are welcome. Have a great day!

Matt G.

About Matt Gorman

Life-long learner. Collaboration enthusiast. Avid cyclist.
This entry was posted in Exercise, Fitness, Health and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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