Stay fit for a fraction of the price

Get finance educator Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon's roadmap to affordable fitness – she's devised 4 smart ways to claim exercise costs so you can save big $$$ while staying healthy.

By Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon

Experts everywhere extol the virtues of staying fit and strong, especially in your 50s, 60s and beyond.

Indeed, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks it isn’t a good idea – particularly if you exercise in a safe, supervised, specific-to-you way.

The trouble is, that’s expensive. Exercise physiology, pilates, personal training, gym membership – all the things we know really aid your body really add up.

Well, enter the enterprising exercisers who stay fit for far less. They use 4 strategies, sometimes consecutively and sometimes concurrently.

Here is what they do and what they save…

Affordable fitness strategy 1: Get 5 sessions with full Medicare rebate

You might have heard of Enhanced Primary Care plans – or you might not. But you probably know a GP can sign off on 5 sessions with an allied health professional each year, for which you receive the full $58.30 Medicare rebate.

As Services Australia says, the 5 services may be either one type of service, for example 5 physiotherapy services, or a combination of different types of services, for example one dietetic and four podiatry services.

Your GP needs to be satisfied that you have a chronic condition that would benefit from allied health services. They will refer you for the number and combination they think will help.

But what may people don’t know is that these sessions can include a referral to an exercise physiology – in this case, your GP needs to prescribe them on the basis of a chronic condition or current or previous injury, like back pain.

The $58.30 rebate will go close to covering the cost of a private session and individual program, which may be perhaps $80.

A group or shared session might even be less than the rebate, and in this case some providers turn five sessions into 10. Two might cost $80 so you would only be out of pocket $10.85 for each ($80 minus $58.30, divided by 2).

And there is possibly 10 cheap weeks of good health.  

When that runs out...

Affordable fitness strategy 2: Work your exercise extras

With so much focus on holistic health and prevention these days, most private health funds also allocate funds for exercise physiology and/or therapeutic exercise. This is training supervised by a qualified health professional, usually tailored for rehabilitation or prevention.

Note that often such clinics incorporate the proven techniques used in Pilates.

Some funds pay the whole cost of these session each time, which means the allocated, say, $600 runs out quickly… it would last 15 sessions if the price was $40 for each.

Other funds eke out the allowance at, possibly, $22 a session. That would see $600 last 27 sessions, and you would be out of pocket just $18 a pop.  

When that category of health fund claims runs out...

Affordable fitness strategy 3: ‘Club’ together with other claimants

If you have physical therapy sessions at a registered physiotherapy clinic, and with even one other person, you might be able to switch to a different claims category under your health fund: group physiotherapy.

Again, there may be elements from pilates used to rehabilitate from injury and improve the mobility and biomechanics of their patients.

Group physiotherapy sessions are often similarly priced to exercise physiology/therapeutic exercise ones – but a further $600 allowance could well be available in this category, usually at a lower per-session amount.

You might get a $15-a-time rebate (so your cost is $25 each time), only running out after a further 40 sessions.  

Of course, given that these funds come from the physiotherapy claims category, individual treatments will reduce the number of group sessions you will be able to claim.    

The above is usually the most lucrative order to claim on your private health, to snare the highest possible ‘co-payments’.

But in conjunction with this step-by-step strategy, do the below just as soon as you accrue this much cost in your medical fund’s ‘year’, which is generally the calendar year…

Affordable fitness strategy 4: Claim the gym or personal training

Far too few people know that most health funds have a new claims category called something like ‘health management’ – this very much sits with that bigger-picture approach of reducing sickness and injury to head off higher claims.

AND on the side, you should be able to claim $200 of gym membership on private health too, if a doctor will sign a form.

Don’t forget, both people in a couple should be able to claim the above.

And you can stay fit and healthy, improving your life far more, for far far less.

Citro members can read more about staying healthy for less by:

  1. Downloading our free guide to cheap lifestyle changes that lead to longevity
  2. Reading about the 8 magical benefits of your Medicare card
  3. Discovering the 10 benefits of strength training
  4. Maintaining your eye health as you age
  5. Understanding these 12 amazing government benefits for older Australians
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