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Budgeting for wellness and a better you.

by Tia

The nation’s focus this week was on Parliament, where Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana delivered his annual Budget Speech. The basic tenets of the budgeting process – planning for the future and investing to ensure the plans come true – should form the basis of how we live our lives. In particular, how we invest in our overall health and wellness.

“The Minister cannot predict what the world will look like 20 years from now, and neither can you. The most responsible thing you can do today is to future-proof yourself. Invest in your health and wellness today to make yourself resilient for tomorrow,” says Dr Phathokuhle Zondi, sports medicine consultant for Virgin Active.

Actuarial studies prove that people live longer than they’ve done before. The United Nations’ Population Division predicts that average life expectancy across the world for both men and women, having risen from 47 years in 1950, to 72 years in 2022, will rise to 77 by 2050. And the global life expectancy gap is closing, meaning that people in developing nations will start to live as long as those of their counterparts in economically prosperous nations.

“You and I are going to be around for longer than our great-grandparents were. Does your wellness plan take this into account?” asks Dr Zondi.

“Your health is your wealth, and investments in your health and well-being are the most crucial ones you can make to ensure LONGEVITY AND a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle overall.” she adds.

In macroeconomic terms, any investment into public health is an investment into human capital, and a stronger economic future.

“In that sense, economic and physical health are intertwined. A healthy population leads to strong societies and a productive workforce. Economic growth means more resources available for public health. That’s the kind of virtuous cycle South Africa needs to aim for,” Dr Zondi elaborates.

“Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, that includes a healthy diet and regular exercise, is proven to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses. Engaging in consistent physical activity enhances cardiac function, improves muscle mass, reduces body fat, and heightens your insulin sensitivity – allowing your body to utilise blood glucose and maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

“On the other hand, neglecting the need for regular exercise can make you susceptible to various health issues, particularly those linked to high cholesterol, cardiovascular ailments, or type 2 diabetes,” says Dr Zondi.

Responsible for almost three out of every four deaths globally, claiming 41 million lives per year, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs, or so-called lifestyle diseases) are today’s most serious global pandemic. Researchers estimate that the total global economic cost of preventable NCDs and mental health conditions sits at around 27 billion USD per year.

“Currently, the economic consequences of presenteeism in South Africa – where employees are present at work, but unable to be fully productive and engaged, mainly due to mental health problems – are estimated at a loss of R235 billion, or 4.2% of SA’s total GDP. That’s 7 times more than the impacts of absenteeism, which are estimated at R33 billion per year,” she notes.

The good news is that it’s all preventable. One report estimated that older adults’ disability-adjusted life years could be drastically reduced through proven holistic lifestyle interventions, such as maintaining a healthy diet, regular exercise, and quitting smoking.

This underscores the importance of exercise in promoting healthier ageing and safeguarding against rapid health deterioration in later years.

Studies also reveal that being part of a community of like-minded wellness enthusiasts keeps you accountable. Companionship brings a sense of belonging, emotional resilience and accountability.

Shared rituals, such as weekly yoga, boxing or dance classes provide a platform for mutual encouragement and help us to build up the discipline needed to make real progress as we strive towards the best versions of ourselves.

Dr Zondi says wellness goal setting should be SMART.

“This means your wellness goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. To make a comparison with the Minister’s speech again – budgeting is not a process that will deliver overnight results, and neither are your wellness plans. But you need to be very clear on the targets you set for yourself.”

Wellness planning is certainly worth it in the long run, adds Dr Zondi. “If you do it properly and with a holistic approach, then you are more likely to enjoy the latter years of your life with more comfort and fulfilment. The journey to that vibrant future you, starts today.”

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