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July 22nd, 2008
01:13 PM ET

Can a bad economy benefit your health?

By Jennifer Pifer
CNN Medical Senior Producer

My fiancé, Mark, is becoming a walk-a-holic.  Every day, he walks at least two miles.  Is it to get in shape?  Not necessarily.  It's because gas prices are getting too freaking high. 

Mark now takes MARTA, the public transportation system in Atlanta, to work every day.  We are not eating out as much as we use to. Since we’re eating in more often, we look for healthier bargains – like fruit that’s in season.   It seems I am becoming my grandma: clipping coupons, buying only things on sale and limiting my driving.  We also have two homes on the market (any one want to buy a condo?) and are planning a wedding.  The "perfect storm" of stress and anxiety is brewing and threatens to waterlog our lives.

Yet, strangely, we are both feeling healthier than we have in a long time.  We’re doing more things that don’t cost money, which often involves being more active. 

The other day, I stepped on the scale and was surprised to find I had actually lost 5 pounds.  I haven't been dieting. I've just downsized. Simple things now bring me more pleasure.  I had no idea a group of African immigrants meet every week to play traditional music and dance in our local public gymnasium.  What a wonderful treat to see as I walked to our town square recently to run an errand.  I left feeling happy and less stressed.

There seems to be a little science behind what I have observed.  In 2003, a North Carolina researcher found "smoking, height-adjusted weight, and leisure-time physical inactivity decline when economic conditions worsen." (read study

So is possible that the bad economy is actually good for your health?  What do you think?

 
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

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