Will Run for Health

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

opinionDr. Lee Miller wrote a piece arguing that, due to health care savings and productivity increases inherent in being more fit, that we should lobby for tax breaks to cover fitness expenses. The case that he presents about the health care savings associated with active people versus sedentary people is tempting.

However, in the more immediate timeframe, there’s a better case to be made for being an evangelist for running and runners, instead of trying to work “The System”.

Given the benefits to our fellow earthlings, isn’t it incumbent upon us to start the change at the grassroots? I’ve gotten three guys from my office running this spring, and hope to keep it up throughout the year. I won’t see anything on my taxes this year, but hopefully my kids’ll pay lower taxes when we’re geezers.

Personal responsibility and citizenship shouldn’t need to be bought.

Likewise, if religion has taught us anything, it’s that getting us to change our lives in positive ways needs a soft sell. You cannot cause positive change with either bribes or the sword. Though Santa Claus comes close.

Fitness is something that’s reinforced much more easily on an interpersonal level. That’s why we all love writing about our running—’cause we know there’s someone out there who’ll miss our blog when it becomes abandoned. Instead of relying on the IRS to make sure that people are actually using a notional tax credit for gym memberships,etc, instead of another pair of $200 fashion sneakers, why don’t we pick someone at the office, church, or neighborhood to encourage? Let’s not make them supply a physical with their tax return.

(Although, I might enjoy watching roving bands of drill instructors funded by the IRS giving physical fitness tests to people claiming the credit.)

Never hesitate to mention how cheap running actually is. Costs can be kept relatively low, even for active runners. I go through:

  • a pair of shorts a year – $15 at Target, no chafing
  • about three pairs of shoes, which, if I shop sales runs about $150. I could probably make do with one pair/year if I were just pumping out 30 minutes four times a week
  • Socks – last time it was $10 for six pair, about two years ago.

All in all, I probably spend more money supporting my habit of blogging about running than I do actually running.

There was a comment in the tread about the “Law of Unintended Consequences.” That is quite probably the most important concept overlooked in most economics classes. Pass legislation like this and I will guarantee three results:

  1. First, fees for kids’ sports programs will go up even higher than they are already, and non-organized participation will go down further than it is now.
  2. Second, gym memberships will go up for good gyms, and a host of crappy gyms with cheap fees will spring up for folks gaming the system.
  3. Finally, we will continue to get fatter regardless.

It’s the classic dilemma—there’s something that needs to be done, which is to get us off of our couches and out the door. The question is who ought to do it? Rather than passing the buck to a bureaucrat, why not invite your neighbor on your morning jog, or see if the person in the next cube doesn’t want to head out? Instead of spending time and energy trying to line your pocket with money that you’d spend anyway, spend that time solving the problem at the small scale.

About Bill Jankowski

Jank is the nom-de-plume (alias) of Bill Jankowski. Jank is a runner (defined as “one who runs”, without any necessary claims of athleticism). More accurate would be to say that he enjoys the company of his iPod, and goes to great lengths to get long periods of time alone with his thoughts. Plus, running is a wonderful way to keep his ego in check. He’s been physically active since he was a kid (assuming that, for the years 1995-1999 and 2001-2003, drinking counts as “active”), playing Soccer, Flag Football, Basketball, and Softball while in college (for his fraternity’s B-team)(Actually, add 1990-1994 to the years of inactivity). In addition to running, Jank swims (controlled drowning), bikes (’cause his mom suggested he play in traffic as a kid), and kayaks (see swimming, but with sharks and props). An engineer by the grace of God, a (recovering) submariner by the graces of the taxpayers of the United States, and an MBA by mistake, Bill enjoys gear (oooh, shiny!), cycling (oooh, shiny bikes and clothes!), and poking at accepted ideas with a pointy stick. In 2004, Jank decided he didn’t want to go full-over to being fat, and took up running (instead of stopping eating). In 2005, he finished his first marathon (WooHoo!) in October, and his second two weeks later (dumb idea). He is still recovering. Bill lives in Connecticut (the poorer, eastern part) with his lovely wife Melissa (who is far more fit than he is and way less navel-gazing about it), and their two sons, Jake and Nate, who, in addition to having deliberately cool names, are the finest children to grace the Earth (clear proof that “evolution through natural selection” is bunk; although he still questions the monthly bill for “Pool Boy” despite not having a swimming pool). His rants can be found at; his best stuff is found here at CRN.

  1. Brook on May 2nd at 2:20 pm

    You combined two of my favorite subjects, economics and running. And I agree. Though, I invest a bit more in my socks.

  2. Joe Ely on May 2nd at 3:57 pm

    Jank, I’m honored you picked up on my comment about “the law of unintended consequences” in the previous post!!

    You make a marvelous point. With weather now much nicer in the northern hemisphere, it is a good time to encoruage a person who might tend to run anyway.

    The basic costs of running are very low. It’s getting out of bed and out the door that’s “costly”!!

  3. jank on May 3rd at 11:28 am

    Brook – I’m an engineer and an MBA, so I view the world through very analytical eyes often without intending to do so. I’m glad you enjoyed the connection.

    Joe – You’re exactly right – I did get the germ of that paragraph from your comment. Thanks.

  4. Mark Iocchelli on May 3rd at 7:21 pm

    Great thoughts Mr. Bill. 🙂