An editorial by an associate professor of economics at the University of Chicago Booth School is challenging the notion that exercise is better and less expensive than taking a pill (as in one for high blood pressure or statin drugs for high cholesterol).
Well, actually what she challenges is the idea put forth by the British Medical Journal that exercise is “free” — and of course, she has a point from an economics standpoint. Gym memberships aren’t free. Exercise equipment certainly isn’t free. And more than that, the old adage “time is money” is applicable in this instance — in other words, exercise takes you away from whatever it is you might be doing otherwise, assuming you’d be productive if you weren’t exercising instead of the likelier scenario — that you’d be on the couch watching Seinfeld reruns and munching on whatever is close at hand.
But, I agree with her on this point: many people hate to exercise and some would rather take a pill than sweat most days of the week. And, people shouldn’t be “mandated” to exercise nor told what they can and cannot eat. Last I heard, we still live in a free country.
However, as an accountant, I challenge the economy argument. I think that a better way to approach the whole thing is, yes, exercise costs something, but there are intangible assets that no dollar amount can measure. Exercise improves the quality of our lives without the side effects of those drugs that have their limitations, as far as efficacy goes. Not to mention the fact that exercise makes you feel good, statins don’t.
And, if we’re looking at this thing from a purely monetary standpoint, I still don’t agree with her logic. If you’re self employed and have a treadmill that allows you to work while you walk, well, that’s what we accountants call a “tax break.”
Then there are the medical bills that could be saved over time if people took the time and energy to exercise — and, not just medical bills but therapy expenses, too, as some studies show that exercise works as well or better than therapy and another pill, aka Prozac.
But, by and large, I do agree with most of what Emily Oster writes in her article — we shouldn’t put moral judgements on people based on whether they exercise or not; certainly, the individual has the right to decide which cost outweigh which benefits, and vice versa.