Q: I'm not satisfied with my salary and I've worked myself sick trying to raise it (with no success). What am I missing?
A: Your physical health may be the issue at hand. Regular exercise may result in an increased salary!
It's been shown time and time again that exercise has a beneficial impact on many aspects of a person's life – better mental health, better mood, lowered obesity and heart disease, more energy, better sleep, etc. But research has uncovered the possibility that regular exercise may have an indirect impact on a person's salary.
In a paper published in the Journal of Labor Research in 2012, a researcher from Cleveland State University named Vasilios Kosteas tested the hypothesis that exercise may somehow lead to better pay.
He made obesity his starting point. Previous research showed that there is a link between obesity and lower wages/salary.
- This may be due to obvious and not-so-obvious factors, such as outright discrimination but also the ability to “marry up,” and psychological factors such as self-esteem.
The researcher hypothesized that exercise may influence earnings by:
- Making a person more attractive (healthier weight, muscle tone, energy, etc.).
- Influencing people to engage in a healthier lifestyle (e.g., kicking smoking and less alcohol).
- Additionally, it may cause a person to feel more energetic, more motivated, and happier, which could all influence job performance.
- Kosteas used a complicated set of statistical analyses to examine data from the U.S. labor market.
The data were collected from a group of youths starting in 1979 and going through to 1994. The youths were polled every year about what they were doing, how much they made, etc.
- The tricky part for Kosteas was trying to pull apart correlation/causation. Even if he were to show that exercise is correlated with higher wages, it doesn't mean the former causes the latter.
It could be that people who make more money are able to afford the time, gym memberships, etc. for more exercise.
Kosteas did find a correlation between more exercise and higher wages.
- He found that regular exercise yields a 6-10% wage increase.
This effect was strongest for those who frequently exercise (as opposed to those who exercise infrequently).
Kosteas ran a series of very complicated analyses to try to see which causes what.
He found evidence that it really is the exercise that is causing the change in wages (not the other way around).
These results are consistent with an interesting finding from a Swiss researcher a few years before.
In an article published in the Journal of Health Economics in 2009, a researcher named Michael Lechner from the University of St. Gallen published an article examining the effects of playing sports on health and job performance.
- Lechner got a large sample of data from a study that started in 1984 and went to 2006. A large group of Germans were interviewed periodically and samples of their life data were taken.
- Lechner examined whether a member of the sample indicated that he/she played sports and how frequently (at least every week, at least every month but not every week, less often than every month, or none).
He found that, over the couple decades the men were polled, around 29-38% of the men indicated that they played a sport at least weekly.
Once again, Lechner did some complicated statistical analyses to try to determine causation (not just correlation).
Lechner found evidence that playing sports resulted in significantly better health AND significantly better wages.
- He found that “Active sports increases earnings by about €1200 over a 16-year period compared to no or very low sports activities.“
- This is the same effect as an extra year of schooling on earnings!
Lechner found that the sports probably worked their magic because they also increased health and general well-being.
It seems that, in both Europe and the United States, an active lifestyle (increased exercise and/or sports) results in not just increased health, mood, well-being, etc. but also MORE MONEY.
Feeling and looking good results in better job performance. Better job performance leads to raises, promotions, and better jobs.
If you're feeling burned out, sick, and stuck in your job, and you're not exercising, you might be missing a huge piece of the puzzle.
Getting a gym membership or finding a group of guys to play a sport with may be the change you need.
Kosteas, V. D. (2012). The effect of exercise on earnings: Evidence from the NLSY. Journal of Labor Research, 33, 225-250. Link: https://academic.csuohio.edu/kosteas_b/Exercise%20and%20Earnings.pdf
Lechner, M. (2009). Long-run labour market and health effects of individual sports activities. Journal of Health Economics, 28, 839-854. Link: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19570587