BRIAN PARR’S HEALTH AND FITNESS: The Buffett health plan

  • Posted: Sunday, September 29, 2013 6:12 p.m.

Warren Buffett is widely regarded as a successful investor and financial leader. His careful investment strategies have allowed him to amass an impressive personal fortune and lead to him being considered one of the foremost experts on investing.

Because I am no expert in this area, colleagues of mine in the business school confirmed that much of his success is due to his approach of making smart investments that would pay off over time and diversifying his portfolio to protect him from poor results in any one investment.

For these reasons, Buffett’s business and financial advice is well respected and followed by many people as a way to achieve wealth and financial security. But what most people don’t know is this same strategy can be applied to health with the same good results.

Here is how following Buffett’s investing strategy can help you achieve good health now and maintain it long into the future. Just like saving for retirement, you will be glad you have good health in the bank when you get older.

Make smart, not popular, choices. Many of Buffett’s investments have been in industries or companies others have overlooked in favor of more trendy options. However popular, these investments may not be smart choices in the long run.

Similarly, new exercise trends and popular dietary supplements may seem appealing for weight loss, but the results are often disappointing. Sometimes the best approach for health is something much less exciting: making smart diet choices and daily exercise will almost always pay off down the road.

Plan for the long-term success, not quick results. Investments promising you will get rich overnight are appealing. While you may make money initially, in the long run you may not have anything to show for it or you may end up losing money.

Many fad diets and exercise trends are the health equivalent of get rich quick schemes. They may promote weight loss right away, but fall short when it comes to keeping the weight off.

Some of the popular high-intensity training programs can lead to rapid increases in fitness and strength. But for some people they can lead to injury or, at the very least, a negative experience that may turn them off from exercise in the future.

Just as Warren Buffett makes investment decisions that will promote long-term income, you should make diet and exercise choices that will pay off for years to come. Even though the health “income” may accumulate more slowly, it is more likely to be lasting.

Diversify your investments. Buffett’s strategy has been to invest in multiple industries. This allows him to maximize income and insulates his portfolio from losses in any one area. Similarly, you should diversify your health investments.

Instead of focusing only on your diet or just on exercise, include both diet and exercise in your health portfolio. That way you will get the benefits of both treatments and maximize your return on investment.

This works because the health benefits of good nutrition and physical activity are additive. In fact, in some cases the activity is essential for the diet to be effective, and vice versa.

Your goal should be to make smart investments in your health by choosing diet and activity strategies you can live with and that will pay off long into the future. Applying Warren Buffett’s investment strategies can help guide you toward making these prudent decisions.

But a healthy, happy life involves more than good nutrition and exercise. You need to take time for yourself and do things you enjoy. Fortunately, there is another Buffett we can take inspiration from: Jimmy Buffett. Sometimes, escaping to Margaritaville is just what the doctor ordered.

Brian Parr, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Department of Exercise and Sports Science at USC Aiken where he teaches courses in exercise physiology, nutrition and health behavior.

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