Want a Raise at Work? Hit the Gym

by Scott Sery on June 25, 2013

working outRecently I talked to you about quitting the gym and riding a bike to work.  You will get just as much, if not more, exercise and you will save money while doing so.  Since then I ran across this article that outlines how working out regularly can help lead to getting a raise at work.  The article is in response to a study that was published in the Journal of Labor Research last year.  And it actually portrays an important aspect of our psychology.

The basic premise of the study claims that the average wages for those who work out regularly (3 or more hours per week) are 9% greater than those who do not.  In order to determine if working out is the cause of a better employee, or if being a better employee causes you to work out, the author looked at people with similar backgrounds, educations, and whether or not they played sports in high school.  By grouping them into categories, in each category there were those who regularly engaged in fitness and those who did not, the author was able to determine that working out does indeed lead to higher incomes.  Of course more research needs to be done on the subject to thoroughly test the idea, but it does make sense.

There are two factors that come into play.  There is an internal and external force that physical fitness brings about.


When you put strain on your body, you are not just exercising your muscles, but your entire being, including your mind.  The stress that you engage in helps to increase brain activity leading to increased cognitive awareness.  Being in shape also leads to higher energy levels, and thus less “slacking off” during the afternoon hours when fatigue starts to set in for many people.  More energy plus being able to think more clearly means more productivity from the employee.


While less scientific, the external force is determined by your looks.  Those who are in good shape are more appealing to look at.  And people want to surround themselves with good looking people.  This is hard to quantify, but marketers know it.  Take a look at advertisements, commercials, and even television shows and movies.  Almost everyone is “good looking.”  Being attractive means you earn more.

Going to the gym is the way most people get their exercise because quite frankly we are lazy creatures.  The majority of us will not work out unless we have an external pressure (such as the nagging thought that we have paid money for this gym membership so we better make use of it).  Many people hate spending the money, but they want to keep working out.  And according to the study it is worthwhile.  The average salary is right around $50,000 per year.  If by working out you can increase that 9% (or $4,500) you pay for your gym membership many times over.

If you want to get your exercise outside of the gym, that is great.  If it takes a gym to keep you motivated, you are still exercising.  In the end you will be healthier, experience lower healthcare costs, and be able to stay active later in life than those who choose not to exercise now.  If you are still struggling to get motivated, keep in mind that it only takes half an hour per day, 6 days per week.  In other words you could ride a stationary bike while watching the evening news to get healthy and get that boost in both health and income.  Even if you do not get that raise, you will feel better and live longer.

What are your thoughts on the correlation between salary and fitness?

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Scott Sery

Scott Sery is a native to Billings, Montana. Within an hour in nearly any direction he can be found fishing, hunting, backpacking, caving, and rock or ice climbing. With an extensive knowledge of the finance and insurance world, Scott loves to write personal finance articles. When not talking money, he enjoys passing on his knowledge of the back country, or how to live sustainably. You can learn more about Scott on his website Sery Content Development
  • Kendal

    This makes total sense to me. The more energized you are, the more productive you are. Since exercising releases endorphins, you’re also more positive and confident about your ability to get things done and take on more responsibility. Great post!

  • Exercising is a great way to improve overall health, not just physical. I feel mentally and emotionally better after a trip to the gym. It helps me clear my mind, gives me time to myself, etc. I’m not surprised people who go to the gym are more likely to get raises.

  • Holly Johnson

    That doesn’t surprise me. Exercising, for me, generally means being more confident and having more energy to excel at work in the first place. It makes sense, really.

  • I am 100% aligned with you here… I asked some of the most successful managers at my work about fitness and almost all of them have mentioned that some of their most successful periods at work was also their most physically active!

  • Common Cents Wealth

    I can totally see why this correlation exists. Most of the time the people who work out are more motivated and employers love promoting motivated individuals.

  • Scott – I just read Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain and it talks about just this. Great article and great book.

  • CanadianBudgetBinder

    I can see where they are going with this and maybe it is true to an extent. I know after a good workout I feel alive and energized.

  • Thanks Jake

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