If you’re not motivated to get in shape, consider this: Fit men get hotter girls, earn more money and outshine their coworkers. Ready to hit the gym?
By James Fell
Ask Men magazine
The ROI Of Getting In Shape In the movies, the overweight couch potato rarely gets the girl. But in real life, too, he is less likely to get the girl, the job, the promotion, the raise, the better insurance rates, or even better grades in school.
Yes, adding muscle and losing fat will increase your likelihood of success with the opposite sex or make your wife or girlfriend find you more attractive, and its health benefits, such as improved strength, sexual performance and increased longevity, are undeniable. What is less known is the mounting evidence of how getting in shape can have a significant positive impact on your bottom line.
But first you’ll have to spend. Getting in shape costs. It costs time and it costs money. Gym memberships, clothes, training, running shoes, and bicycles all take a chunk out of your paycheck and your day. Then again, feeling and looking better, plus adding a number of higher quality years to your life are priceless. But in strict financial terms, does the investment generate a positive return?
Hell yes it does.
First off, let’s just focus on the looking better part. Vanity is a powerful motivator, and I’m cool with having people embrace the desire to improve their physique if it prompts them to action as long as they don’t go off the deep end and start injecting, waxing, tanning, Speedo-ing, and posing. So keep it real, and reap the benefits.
Pretty from the Neck Down
Dr. Gordon Patzer is the world’s leading authority on societal biases towards people who are more physically attractive than others. We’re all a little shallow. Get over it.
Patzer, who has an MS in psychology, an MBA and a Ph.D in business administration, is the author of six books on physical attractiveness. When I spoke to him, I figured that when people think of being pretty, they’re mostly talking about the face, so I was curious about the effect slimming down has on how we look from the neck up.
“Slimming down will certainly make their face more aesthetically pleasing,” Patzer told me. “If their features are well-defined, then this is considered to be more attractive. Weight loss creates a more ‘chiseled’ look.” No one wants that third helping of bacon filling out their cheeks.
Dr. Patzer also said that slimming down gives the face “a look of health and youthfulness which allow people to judge them as more physically attractive.”
But we’re guys. It’s not our job to be pretty, right? Not so fast, informed Patzer. The time for letting ourselves go is gone.
Although it is still more important for women than men to be attractive (because men prefer boobs over personality), Dr. Patzer told me, “The increase in the importance of men being physically attractive is growing much faster for men than for women. This is due to a whole change in society, but could be related to women having higher earning potential.
Women are picky
See, it’s not enough to be rich anymore. If she’s making some bucks, she’d rather have a pretty boy than a rich one.
And if you’re handsome and rich, women will fight over you like you’re living in an Axe Body Spray commercial.
All of this is making things more competitive for guys, and sales of crap like cosmetics for men (gak!) are taking off. Personally, I’ll do a bit of manscaping, but that’s where I draw the line.
Patzer says, “Beyond the effect on the face, an impressive physique makes a man more physically attractive, which makes them more likeable and appealing. The reason is evolutionary biology. Historically, these individuals were the ones who could bring food back and defend against attackers. We are more attracted to these people because of their ability to provide more resources and comforts.”
So I guess all that time spent on the bench press makes me more accomplished at mammoth stabbing.
But Patzer warns that it’s important not to go overboard. “We want them to be naturally attractive. We don’t judge them as favorably if they had to do it through surgery, lots of cosmetics or taking a physique to an extreme like a bodybuilder.”
I know some women like the ‘roid boys, but my wife takes one look at them and says, “Ick. How does that guy even wipe his ass?”
So, we know there’s an expectation to not be a pot-bellied gargoyle, but what about that return on investment stuff?
Buff Man on Campus
As early as elementary school, teachers favor better-looking students and reward them with higher grades.
This trend continues all the way up through college. An analysis of research on the subject asserted, “Physically attractive students usually received higher grades and/or higher achievement scores on standardized tests than unattractive students.”
The study explained that it can have less of an effect in college with large class sizes, but because the trend of academic favoritism begins at such a young age, the students are more likely to continue this trend of higher academic performance.
And even large class sizes can be made less relevant when it comes to sucking up, such as in asking for a higher grade.
A 2004 essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education polled teachers and students about how attractiveness can affect a student’s grade. “No matter what standards we use for beauty,” the author wrote, “professors are not immune to it, and students realize that.” The article also revealed that students felt “the more handsome or pretty (or more naked) you were, the more likely you were to get special help, special breaks, and a specially positive attitude from a professor — advantages that could, in turn, affect your grade.”
No wonder I scraped through the first half of undergrad. I was fat back then.
The Path To Success
Looks can affect grades, which can, in turn, affect jobs. But looks alone can also affect employment. For women, Patzer says, looks are more important at lower levels of employment but attractiveness can actually be a hindrance for female executives. For men, however, being physically attractive is beneficial to one’s career across the board.
Still, I don’t think it’s a good idea to put “hot” under qualifications when applying for a job, unless that job is in gay porn.
“If a handsome man goes to a job fair, he’s more likely to get interviewed,” Patzer told me. “He’s also more likely to get the job and have a higher starting salary.” Dr. Patzer has examined the research and reports that very attractive people earn a 5% “beauty premium” over average folks, who in turn make 10% more than the uglies. So if you transform from a puffy-faced hippo into a chiseled Adonis, it comes with an average of 15% more in annual salary, which can help pay for new pants and expensive dinners with all those hot chicks who are going to want to bang you. [polldaddy poll=“4786934”]
Attractive People Do A Better Job
The interesting thing is that companies are often paying this salary premium for a reason, because attractive people often do a better job.
Before you scoff at this statement, understand the logic behind it. Being pretty creates a boost in self-esteem and confidence, especially if those looks are earned through hard work, like exercise and healthy eating, which I’ll get into later on.
Dr. Patzer explained that people who are more confident in their abilities are more productive, specifically if the role requires leadership or some form of sales. And we’re not talking about selling cars. Salesmanship is important in terms of getting people on board with your ideas. An attractive and confident man will be more closely listened to and inspire others to follow him; he’ll make a bigger impact on the job.
At least he better — or he’ll suffer the consequences.
See, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows and scantily-clad hotties. Patzer told me, “A good-looking man who doesn’t live up to these higher expectations is going to be doubly penalized over an average-looking person if he fails at his job.”
But because of the higher self-esteem and confidence, it’s not going to seem so much like work as just following through on your destiny of being a guy who kicks a** at life.
Bring on the Hotties
As a researcher who dedicated his career to the study of the physical attractiveness phenomenon, it shouldn’t surprise you that Dr. Patzer has opinions on an attractive person’s ability to garner a better-looking mate and its potential affect on finances.
See, not all babes are soul-sucking gold diggers who just want to blow your hard-earned salary on shoes and then have her young lover do you in (but make it look like a mugging) so they can bugger off to some Caribbean island with the life-insurance payout like a story out of 50 or so episodes of Law & Order.
But you won’t have to worry about that if you are the stud. Coupled with making more money, you’ll, in turn, attract a better quality of mate. “Men with more attractive wives are significantly happier in their marriages, both in the short and long term,” Patzer told me.
If you’re happier, you’re less likely to wind up divorced. And combined salaries saving for retirement is far more effective than being the ex-husband languishing in some rat-infested basement suite, eating KD and suffering from terminal alimony and child support.
But what if you’re already attached and your significant other is, shall we say, gravitationally enhanced?
For starters, you don’t need a scientific study to tell you that saying to her, “Hey, fatty. Why don’t you put down the doughnut and drag your cellulite-covered ass to the gym?” is going to accomplish anything other than getting you punched in the dick.
But exercising and eating healthy to lose weight turns you into a role model, and after a while, she may decide to join you for workouts and improve her diet. Exercising together can also be a bonding experience. I remember this one time my wife and I sea-kayaked out to an uninhabited island and, uh… never mind.
It’s not all about being pretty when it comes to making money off getting in shape; you can save cash just from being healthy. I spoke with Scott Golden, a benefits consultant with Golden & Cohen LLC, about how healthier people save money on life, health and disability insurance.
He told me that when it comes to life insurance, a really healthy guy with a good family history can garner the “super preferred” rate, which translated from insurance-speak means, “Sure, we’ll take your money because we don’t think you’re going to die any time soon.”
“Super preferred saves about 15% over a simple preferred rate,” Cohen said. “Preferred rate is a healthy guy who is still carrying around some extra pounds. The insurance company will often take chest-and-waist measurements to get the whole picture beyond simple body-mass index, and this is where having a good physique will save money.”
Compare this to an unhealthy and overweight guy. If he can get life insurance at all, Cohen told me he can expect to pay 50-60% more than a healthy person.
Cohen said that when it comes to privately purchased health insurance, things will vary from state to state, but an unhealthy man can expect to pay anywhere from 15% to 100% more than a healthy one. “The healthy guy has all the options,” Cohen said. “Lots of companies want his business. Also, he can afford to take a higher deductible because of his lower risk of illness.”
On the disability insurance front, the fit guy can expect to save 10-15%, but more importantly, he won’t get stuck with unwanted riders against insuring pre-existing conditions that an out-of-shape man may suffer from. In other words, an unhealthy guy likely won’t get disability insurance for the stuff most likely to disable him.
How’s that for a punch in the bulging lumbar disc?
Correlating Cash Flow
While correlation doesn’t always equal causation, there is no question that physically healthier people are more likely to have healthier bank accounts.
Dr. Ron Leopold is an MD with an MBA, which, including the author, makes four MBA contributors to this article. We’ve got a group of guys who know lots about return on investment and nothing about operating a photocopier.
But I digress. Dr. Leopold referenced MetLife’s latest benefits study ,which states that 54% of people who assess their medical health as fair or poor say they live paycheck to paycheck, compared to only 35% of people in very good or excellent health. What’s more, 70% of people who assess their medical health as fair or poor are very concerned about making ends meet, compared to just 48% of people in very good or excellent health.
“For many,” Dr. Leopold told me, “the smart money is on paying attention to better health as a critical ingredient in your life’s work.”
Running the Numbers
Let’s take a quantitative look at how getting in shape can affect your bank balance.
Say you’re 30 years old and plan to work for another 30. And you’re fat. As I mentioned earlier, things like gym memberships, equipment and training aren’t free, but if you don’t have to join the most expensive club in town and don’t mind getting your workout clothes at Target, you can do this for about a thousand bucks a year. In the 17 years I’ve been working out, I’ve spent considerably less than that. On the food front, healthier choices can be more expensive, but this can be offset by drinking less alcohol, not eating out as frequently, and simply eating less, so dietary changes often come out as a financial wash.
Discover how getting shape will make all aspects of your life better…
Get Confident By Getting In Shape
Therefore, we’re looking at about $30,000 in costs for the next 30 years to keep you in shape. And in terms of time, if you exercise five hours a week (yes, it really does take at least that much, no matter what some crappy Bowflex commercial says), that will work out to an average of 250 hours a year, accounting for two weeks each year of being a wussy.
Now let’s say you can expect to earn an average of $50,000 a year over the next 30 years if you’re a blob. But through lots of hard work, you transform yourself into a pre-substance-abusing Jean-Claude Van Damme, earning yourself the 15% beauty premium over the troglodytes that Dr. Patzer spoke of. Fifteen percent of $50,000 over 30 years works out to earning an extra $225,000.
Now let’s look at savings on insurance. This is going to be different for everyone, but it’s reasonable to assert that the amount you save over 30 years is going to cover the costs you incur from engaging in a regular fitness regime (so the inflation more or less cancels each other out).With that account balanced, the $225,000 is your financial return on investment just for getting in shape, from salary alone. If you factor that into 250 hours a year times 30 years, it works out to getting paid $30 an hour to workout. Invest it wisely, and the compound interest will make the difference between eating cat food and caviar in your retirement.
The Extra Benefits Of Staying In Shape
This is where it gets real.
I know that there are lots of qualitative benefits to having a flat belly. Looking in the mirror and not seeing a hippopotamus is priceless. Being healthy, energetic and disease-free is priceless. Having some babe lick chocolate sauce out of the lines in your abs is… you get the idea.
By the way, did you know that being overweight increases the risk of erectile dysfunction by up to 90%? Not needing Viagra: also priceless.
Perhaps the most significant benefit to getting in shape isn’t making more money or having women lust after you or even getting better at finding your new stiffer penis. What I’m talking about is creating a performance accomplishment.
It’s Harder Than It Looks
Let’s get one thing straight: Getting in shape is not easy. There are no miracle pills or magic exercises, and you won’t transform into a fitness model after six weeks of watching some overpriced DVDs or using some crappy machine available for three easy payments of way too much money.
Going from doughnut-scarfing couch potato to diet-conscious workout warrior is hard. If it was easy, over two-thirds of North Americans wouldn’t be overweight or obese. You need to take this seriously, learn how to love exercise and eating healthy, and work your ass off until you die. Accept it or continue being fat.
The good news is that by mastering this exceptionally difficult task, you build self-efficacy for other aspects of your life.
Dr. Albert Bandura is a world-renowned Stanford University behavioral psychologist who developed a ground-breaking model of behavior change called self-efficacy. I mentioned performance accomplishments above, which is a parameter of self-efficacy that is “based on personal mastery experiences.”
Dr. Bandura determined that successes raise your personal mastery expectations, so that if you work your ass off at getting in shape — and succeed — all of a sudden you’re not so satisfied with your job or your education or your gravy-stained wardrobe.
Bandura stated, “After strong efficacy expectations are developed through repeated success, the negative impact of occasional failures is likely to be reduced. Indeed, occasional failures that are later overcome by determined effort can strengthen self-motivated persistence if one finds through experience that even the most difficult obstacles can be mastered by sustained effort.”
Am I the only one who said “hell, yeah!” after reading that?
Bandura also wrote, “Improvements in behavioral functioning transfer not only to similar situations but to activities that are substantially different from those which the treatment was focused.”
In other words, kicking ass at getting in shape prepares you to kick ass at the rest of your life. On a personal note, getting fit gave me the confidence to go back to school and get an MBA, convince a hot doctor to marry me, excel at my career, and then make enough money as a writer so I could quit my job (which still amazes my accountant).
Earlier, Dr. Patzer talked about how better-looking people were often more effective at their jobs because of a higher level of self-confidence. Imagine what it does to your confidence if your physical attractiveness is earned through hard work.
If you’re fat, then that’s a problem. Getting in shape gives you experience as a problem solver; it builds a useful skill. This skill set can be applied to almost all aspects of your life.
And then the sky’s the limit.
_James S. Fell, MBA, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist in Calgary, Canada. He writes fitness columns for the Los Angeles Times and Chatelaine.com and consults with clients on strategic planning for fitness and health. He also drinks beer.” Visit www.bodyforwife.com.