Lose kilos and save

These days embracing a healthy lifestyle is not only a life-saving decision, but there are financial benefits too says Nicolette Dirk.

Statistics show that we are not a very healthy nation. According to Laurence Hillman, managing director of life insurer 1Life, the average life expectancy of South Africans is only 54 years. “There is no doubt that it is important to ensure that your overall health is a priority. We must pay attention to exercise, our emotional well-being as well as our finances,” he says.

Unfortunately, our life expectancy is directly linked to our health. Dalene Allen, co-founder of long term risk product provider Altrisk, says that more than 61% of South Africans are overweight or obese. If you are obese, not only could you pay more in medical bills but your weight could also affect how much you pay towards your insurance premiums. “Obesity has long-term health repercussions so it is becoming an increasingly important factor when insurers assess the risk profiles of consumers applying for life, critical illness and disability insurance,” says Allen.

Healthy habits that help you save money

To avoid breaking your scale and your budget, Moneybags has put together several healthy lifestyle tips which, if you follow them, can save you money:

Exercise: Virgin Active biokineticist Catherine Viljoen suggests a brisk walk of 30 minutes a day to save you costly long-term medical bills. “Research shows that people who get regular physical activity are less likely to have heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and some cancers,” says Viljoen.

Buy healthier food: There seems to be a common misconception that healthy food is expensive. However, there are many healthy foods around that won’t impact on your savings.  “Foods such as beans, lentils, barley and chickpeas have a long shelf life and are a great source of fibre and protein. Furthermore, they contain vital nutrients such as vitamin B and a variety of minerals,” says nutritional therapist, Megan Bosman.

Buy food in season: Choose fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables. These are cheaper when they are in season and are believed to be healthier than fruit and vegetables that are out of season. Out of season produce may sometimes be stored in commercial fridges for a number of months or get exposed to pollution during transportation.

Plan your meals: Bosman says planning is essential when doing grocery shopping on a budget. By planning your meals and doing your shopping list ahead of time you can make informed decisions on the food you are purchasing. With a plan there’d be less wastage as you’d purchase less and have a strategy about what to do with the leftovers. “If you rush to the shops after work to find something for supper you are likely to choose something that is precooked or ready-to-cook, which is often slightly more expensive and not as healthy,” she adds.

Make your own food: Most nutritionists agree that cooking your own food is by far the healthiest way to eat. Keep eating out down to a minimum as it can be quite pricey if you are on a budget. Stop smoking: One R30 packet of cigarettes a day can cost you R900 a month, which you can pocket if you kick the habit. Non-smokers are also more likely to save money on other health care expenses.

Drink Water: Besides the health benefits, replacing sugary beverages with water can save hundreds of rands a year. A R10 a day fizzy drink can be replaced with tap water and save you R300 per month. Dehydration can also be confused with hunger so filling up on water can save you from spending unnecessary money on food.

Wash your hands: If you need to blow your nose, wash your hands straight after. Wash your hands before eating and encourage your children to do so too. An employee making R20 per hour without the benefit of sick leave would lose R160 per day if they missed work due to illness or to care for a sick child.

Go for regular medical check-ups: Skipping your annual check-ups too many times can backfire. Without regular teeth cleanings and other important health checks, your health can deteriorate rapidly. Getting yourself back to your original health could be an expensive endeavour.

Limit your alcohol intake: According to Viljoen drinking excessively is a major cause of liver damage, a weak immune system and weight gain, which all increase your medical bills. The cost of alcohol also goes up every year and is announced in the budget. This year for example the cost of a beer jumped up by 7.5c for a 340ml can and wine increased by 15c per 750ml bottle.