Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Counting the Cost of Health Changes

Whilst walking back from a coaching appointment earlier today I reflected on how small changes really can make a big difference in the long term. Can something as simple as my walk to work make a real difference? I think it can. And, in this article, I'd like to talk about two of my favourite things - exercise and investing. And how, given enough time, one small change can quite literally change your life.

Firstly, let me just say that I don't typically agree with calorie counting but I'll be using some conventional wisdom examples here to illustrate some points. I'll also be making some assumptions about the stock market, but again, please don't be put off!

I find myself walking most places - to visit clients, to do my shopping and to head to meetings. This is a personal choice and I love walking so it isn't a huge hardship for me. I got to thinking, however, that there would be (and there are) plenty of people who would drive or take the bus or train for these same journeys. On average, I walk around 6 miles per day but what would happen if I didn't do this and I took the car or bus?

Health, Wealth and Happiness


There would of course be a decrease in my health - most notably through a decrease in aerobic activity and calorific expenditure. There would also be a number of other factors, including a reduction in exposure to sunlight (resulting in a reduction in Vitamin D production) and a reduction in general mobility. Let's just take calorific expenditure as an example. Using some (albeit "guess-timate") software I've calculated the likely calorie expenditure of my daily 6 mile walk.

The following figures have been calculated for a 85kg/187lb male walking at around 4mph over the course of an average working week (5 days):

Calorie expenditure per day through walking: 630 kcal
Calorie expenditure per week (5 days) through walking: 3150 kcal
Calorie expenditure per year (52x5) through walking: 163,800 kcal

That's a staggering amount of calories burned over the course of a year.

Furthermore, we could break these calories down into potential fat utilisation. If we assume that each gram of fat provides 9 kcal then we get the following results:

Potential fat burned per day through walking: 70g
Potential fat burned per week (5 days) through walking: 350g
Potential fat burned per year (52x5) through walking: 18,200g

While this is simple, and admittedly slightly skewed science, we do see that my simple walk has the potential to burn 18.2 kg/40lbs of fat per year. There are of course a number of important dietary factors to consider here - but as a means to increase calorie expenditure this cannot be ignored.

This is just one measure but we can begin to see the impact of small changes - removing my daily walk would obviously have a huge impact on my current level of health.


What about my wealth? If I switched to driving or taking the bus my daily expenditure would come to approximately £5/$7.50. Or a loss of £1300/$1950 per year. Doesn't seem like a huge expense for the convenience does it? If I had taken that expense and invested it instead then the results would shock you.

Travel expenses per day: £5/$7.50
Travel expenses per week (5 days): £25/$37.50
Travel expenses per year (52x5): £1300/$1950

Let's say I'd invested that money (as an automatic deduction from my account) into a managed fund or other investment vehicle. I've used a potential return of 10% p.a. (which is fairly conservative if you know where to invest). The results are as follows:

After 1 year: £1366/$2049
After 5 years: £8341/$12,511
After 10 years: £21,774/$32,661
After 20 years: £78,249/$117,373
After 30 years: £224,732/$337,098

This is the power of compound interest - investing money and not touching it allows the interest to compound (or grow) on itself.


I certainly appreciate that the examples I've given here are not appropriate for everyone. Some of us will be able to apply this to our own lives to a lesser or greater degree but hopefully we can all appreciate the message.

I wish you all the very best for health, wealth and happiness.

If you have any questions about anything covered in this article please do get in touch:


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