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: Airlines are starting to charge obese passengers more, and healthcare costs have skyrocketed. Here are six of the ways our bodies are costing us—and one way to make some money back:
That gym habit could cost you thousands. 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 well over $1,200. And a session with a personal trainer typically costs around $40 to $50 a pop, though you might find a buy-in-bulk deal. Of course, if you're willing to get creative in the name of the bad economy, there are several ways to help your workout weather the recession.
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 will cost 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.
Diet advice is a regular drain on your wallet. 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.
Health insurance isn't a cure-all. For those lucky enough to have health insurance, there is a not-so-silver lining: Coverage won't necessarily protect you against financial hardship. A recent survey found that even moderate medical costs—from copayments to a visit to the emergency room—can bring real pain. In 2008, the typical family paid $3,354 in premiums. It might take some persistence, but there are 4 ways to reduce your medical bills and other ways to save on prescription medications.
Some airlines charge weightier passengers more. While overall fares are falling—the consumer price index shows that airfares have declined for seven months in a row—some obese Americans are paying more for their seats. Earlier this month, United Airlines announced that unless the airline can find an extra empty seat for them, passengers that don't fit into a single coach seat may need to pay for two. (Southwest already has a similar policy in place.)
Vices are another way you'll pay. Plain and simple, there is always money to be made on bad habits. Some states tax cigarettes heavily, with New York levying the steepest tax at $2.75 per pack. The American Lung Association and other authorities say such taxes discourage the habit and help to decrease smoking rates. And watch out: You might also take a hit when buying soft drinks. Some health experts have proposed a soda tax to battle rising obesity rates.
We spend more on health and convenience foods, even though overall food prices are falling. 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 percent of their disposable income on food consumed at home and 3 percent on food consumed away from home. Compare that with the average family today, which spends just 5.7 percent of its disposable income on food consumed at home but 4.1 percent on food away from home.