Cleveland State University associate professor Billy (Vasilios) D. Kosteas, who specializes in International Economics, Labor Economics and Development Economics, wrote a paper discovering those who regularly exercise on average earn 9% more than those who do not.
He explained that the purpose was to see if there was a relationship between being in shape and making more money.
Kosteas discovered that men average about a 6% increase and women almost double that number, with an 11% rise.
“In addition to the positive impacts on heart health, weight and other medical issues, studies show that exercise leads to improved mental function, psychological condition and higher energy levels,” he said in an interview with the Daily Mail. “All three of these traits can translate into higher earnings.”
He used data from 1998 and 2000 from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth 1979, which conducted surveys from 1979 to 1994, then in even years after 1994. It is sponsored by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which he says is widely used by labor economists and other researchers.
For more on the study and Kosteas’s paper, read this Q&A with the Massachusetts native:
Can you please briefly explain what your paper found?
The paper finds a roughly 6% increase in weekly earnings associated with regular exercise (3+ times per week) for men and a roughly 11% wage increase for women. Exercising at least once per week yields a similar wage increase for men, but only a roughly 9% increase for women.
What were your intentions of the study?
The goal of the study was to see if we could uncover a causal relationship between exercise and earnings. The observation of a correlation between wages and fitness is not new, but past studies had not moved much beyond simple correlations.
Are you surprised by the findings – 9% higher income?
The 9% findings are higher than I would have expected. However, this is a single study and we should exercise caution when drawing conclusions until further studies corroborate these findings.
Do you think this will get people out from in front of the TV and work out? Or help combat the obesity epidemic in the United States?
This new information might help to give some people that extra nudge they need to be more active. For most people, I do not expect this will significantly alter their behavior. People need to develop healthy lifestyle habits at an early age; it is much more difficult to change/develop those habits later in life.
Does the higher earnings work long-term – will this get sedentary youth the drive to exercise?
Again, I don’t expect these findings to have a large impact.
Do you feel the findings are more about exercising - thus feeling better and more confident - or physical looks which resulted from the added exercise?
All models control for whether the individual is classified as overweight or obese, so the results are independent of the effects of body composition. Of course, we know the BMI (which was used to construct the overweight and obese variables) is a flawed measure of fitness and body composition, so the controls are not perfect.