I probably don’t need to convince you that the benefits of working out and staying in shape are so great you can’t put a price on them.
That doesn’t change the fact that fitness is expensive!
Your average gym membership cost can put a significant dent in your monthly budget, but there may be some relief in the form of your health insurance provider:
Does your health insurance cover a gym membership?
Whether your health insurance will cover or pay for a gym membership depends on your carrier (Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, Oxford, Cigna, and more) and your individual plan. Most providers, however, will offer you a stipend or reimbursement for fitness costs (usually around $200 per year or so) plus other benefits and discounts.
Here are a couple of commonalities and coverage benefits you can expect from your health insurance provider.
For more detailed guides on each carrier, check out my guides to:
1. Outright reimbursement or stipend
The ideal scenario for most people is that their insurance would flat-out pay for them to go to the gym.
The good news is, they just might!
It’s common for insurance companies to reimburse you anywhere from $100-$400 per year for fees spent on a gym membership.
Typically, you’ll need to provide documentation of your costs (of course) and often you’ll have to show proof that you were an active member at the gym or workout studio for a certain period of time.
Some carriers have you log your workouts, others just need to see 6-months of history before they’ll consider reimbursing the costs, for example.
More and more providers are beginning to provide reimbursement or stipends for more than just big box gym memberships. Blue Cross Blue Shield, for example, covers some group fitness classes or studios in certain areas (depending on your plan, of course).
That means you might be able to get your spin or yoga class paid for. Not too bad!
2. Member-exclusive discounts
Sometimes in tandem with a reimbursement program (and sometimes instead of) some providers will offer a whole bunch of health and fitness discounts via some kind of online marketplace.
It’s common to get exclusive prices and membership deals on popular gyms like LA Fitness or Anytime Fitness through your insurance.
If you’re willing to dig and browse the marketplace, you might find a great deal on a FitBit or Apple Watch (I got a nearly-free one from Aetna), discounts on healthy meal delivery services, and bargains on athletic apparel.
Check with your provider, as always. What they offer will depend heavily on where you live, who your carrier is, and your specific plan benefits.
3. Senior discounts & programs
If you’re old, you’re in luck!
Your insurance plan might just include access to a program like Silver Sneakers for anyone age 65 and over.
Silver Sneakers gets you into most big gym chains around the country, a video library of workouts and fitness guides, and even hosts their own workout classes for seniors around the USA.
If you’re eligible, this is obviously a massive bargain, and will do absolute wonders for your physical and mental health if you choose to take advantage.
4. Incentive programs
Blue Cross and other insurance carriers sometimes offer incentive-based rewards or reimbursements.
For example, you might be able to earn reimbursement for a weight loss program by tracking your progress.
Or they may simply pay you back for enrolling in and completing an in-person or online weight loss program as long as it meets their approved requirements.
You know how you can dispute coverage and benefits that your insurance initially denies? You can often do this with your fitness benefits, as well, by petitioning to gain coverage for classes, programs, or gyms that aren’t normally included in the plan.
As long as your motives are true and you’re actually putting in the work, you might just have some luck getting your fitness expenses covered.
5. Equipment expense coverage
It’s less common, though still possible, that your health insurance will reimburse for home exercise equipment like treadmills, ellipticals, weight lifting machines, dumbbells, and more.
Dig through your health benefits vigorously and read the fine print!
(And again, you can always ask for coverage or reimbursement… the worst they can say is No.)
Another tip: Exercise equipment can be covered or paid for through a FSA (flexible spending account), HSA, or HRA if it’s deemed medically necessary by a doctor.
For example, you might be able to get a treadmill through your health insurance in order to specifically treat or prevent obesity, hypertension, or another specific disease.
It’s not always easy to get this done through a doctor, as there will need to be a specific treatment plan and cost justification in place, but it’s something to consider if you’re having health problems related to your physical fitness.
Why does insurance pay for gyms & fitness costs?
Simply put, it costs them less to keep you healthy now than to pay for expensive care down the road.
Working out and staying fit can’t prevent anything bad from ever happening to you, of course, but your odds are substantially better if you stay active and lean as you grow older.
It’d be nice to think that insurance companies were just being kind by offering reimbursement programs, but the truth is they’re just trying to keep you from going to the hospital for obesity-related reasons.
It sounds a bit ruthless, but the truth is, you end up benefitting from this, too!
Health insurance and costs are outrageously expensive in America, so you might as well squeeze as much value out of them as possible.
Besides, even a very small investment in your own health and fitness will pay divideds for decades to come in the form of a far better quality of life.
It’s hard to write a guide like this because the answer to whether your health insurance will pay for your gym membership or other fitness costs depends on SO many factors.
Difference insurance providers in different states have different rules, and your individual plan may or may not include certain benefits.
For my more in-depth guides to Aetna, Oxford, and Blue Cross, find the links at the very top of this post.
Otherwise, I’d encourage you to read through your own plan’s benefits carefully to find ways to maximize them. When in doubt, get a human being representative on the phone and ask them straight up what they might be able to cover or reimburse.
You might get your gym paid for, you might get a free Apple Watch, or you might get a great deal on Blue Apron Meals.
It all adds up!
What are your best tips for getting insurance to pay for your fitness expenses? I’d love to hear them!