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Will Run for Money

Posted by Filed Under: Health & Fitness, News and Opinion

opinionWe all enjoy the benefits of running and the enhanced quality of life it brings, but wouldn’t it be great to get paid for it? No, I’m not talking about becoming a professional runner and winning races and making money, I’m talking about being paid to just be a runner. Sound farfetched? This idea may not be as crazy as it sounds, because there are some great incentives for governments to fiscally reward those who are active.

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Take a look at the following statistics:

  1. A 2000 study by the Centers for Disease Control estimated that direct health care costs could be reduced in the U.S. by as much as $76.6 billion dollars per year by increasing the activity level of 87 million sedentary Americans.
  2. The same study estimated that direct health care costs for an active person was around $310 less per person per year versus a sedentary person.
  3. The non-direct health care costs such as time lost at work, disability and other factors were also significantly less for active people.
  4. An earlier Canadian study (1993) supports the 2000 study, and states that the Canadian health system would save approximately $5.7 billion dollars in health care costs per year if the 63 percent of Canadians who were considered sedentary became active.

Running is a healthy lifestyle choice for most of us. As a consequence this demographic is part of the solution to reducing health care costs and lost productivity. So why shouldn’t there be incentives to continue and further encourage this type of behavior?

In Canada, the federal government is starting to give this idea serious consideration. In 2007, parents of children enrolled in approved sports programs can apply for up to a $500 tax credit. There has also been talk of allowing memberships at gyms and other fitness facilities to be tax deductible.

So why shouldn’t we as runners’ get some reimbursement for our efforts? I know I’d appreciate a few dollars every year towards running shoes and running gear.

About Lee Miller D.C.

9536 - 87 Street Edmonton, Alberta T6C 3J1 Phone: (780) 426-6777 Fax: (780) 469-6930



11 Comments
  1. denis on April 19th at 8:56 am

    You’re right !
    Great Idea. We could create a network around the world to spread this idea!
    I am going to write a post about it!

  2. Blaine Moore (Run to Win) on April 19th at 12:35 pm

    Here in Maine, they are thinking of removing the tax exemption for health clubs. This means that not only would we have to pay our membership fees, but we’d have to pay sales tax on those membership fees at all.

    I am hoping that they realize that that is a bad idea.

  3. Dr. Lee Miller D.C. on April 19th at 1:46 pm

    Hi Denis and Blaine!
    The whole concept of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is completely applicable to countries that wish to have a healthier and more productive population and economy. These go hand in hand. There are numerous studies (which I didn’t mention in my article) that support government endorsement and reimbursement for active citizens. I think people need to push their local governments to look at this concept as an investment in their people, and in society in general.

  4. Joe Ely on April 19th at 3:42 pm

    Let’s keep government efforts at social intervention out of the equation. The Law of Unintended Consequences will mess it up.

    I’ll take my health, the lower costs associated with it, the higher work productivty and enjoy the gains. Myself. I don’t want to have to fill out any more forms.

  5. Dr. Lee Miller D.C. on April 19th at 4:09 pm

    Hey Joe. I think this is where we will see the difference between Canada and the USA. In Canada, health care is socialized, so the government is already part of the problem or solution depending on one’s opinion. In the USA you folks have a real hot potato issue on whether government should or shouldn’t be part of the equation, and this is where we likely will see some fireworks in this discussion.

  6. Blaine Moore (Run to Win) on April 20th at 7:43 am

    The problem in Maine is that we (a) have some of the highest health care costs in the country and (b) have the second highest tax burden in the country.

    I have to side with Joe until we get some of our other spending problems under control, because I can’t afford to have my taxes raised more.

    That being said, I don’t want them to raise taxes on health clubs. I’d rather cut spending than raise taxes.

  7. Funky Dung on April 20th at 8:38 am

    I like the idea of rewarding good behavior better than punishing bad behavior (e.g., so-called sin taxes). These days I think there’s too much application of the stick, and not enough carrot-dangling. Neither works well without the other.

  8. 21stCenturyMom on April 20th at 9:02 am

    I read somewhere else that some senator is trying to pass a bill to make payments to health clubs part of a pre-tax program. I don’t think we need that – we just need to add ‘health club membership’ to the existing pre-tax ‘flexible spending’ program we have. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, if you company supports it you can allocate $X/year to be deducted from your pay before taxes are collected but you have to “use it or lose it” and it can only be used for specific things like medical costs and childcare. It’s a very good (and already established) program and I fully endorse adding ‘health club memberships’ to the list. I do not endore generating yet another program to handle this. All programs have associated costs and overhead.

    The state of Maine is nuts to tax health club memberships. I get the reasons for doing it but it seems like raising the tourism tax would be a better solution.

  9. gregontherun on April 22nd at 7:35 pm

    I think I’ll talk to the boss tomorrow and show him the numbers. He bears part of the cost for my health insurance so if I show him a way he can save some money, he might go for some kind of reimbursement program.

  10. Dr. Lee Miller D.C. on April 22nd at 8:45 pm

    The numbers don’t lie! It appears that one way to approach this is to allow the corporate sector to become involved in their own best interests. This is probably a more likely scenario in the United States since health care is privatized. In Canada I do know of some larger companies that reimburse employees for health club memberships. In fact the city of Edmonton has a program for civic employees getting discounts at city run sports centers. So this is not as far out idea as one would think!

  11. Will Run for Health » Complete Running Network on May 2nd at 5:56 am

    […] Lee Miller wrote a piece arguing that, due to health care savings and productivity increases inherent in being more fit, […]

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