Prevention is essential to good health. Eating right, exercising, staying on top of medical checkups and screenings can stop illnesses before they start.
The Affordable Care Act aims to make that easier, by obligating most insurers to cover a wider range of preventive health services at no cost to you. Don't confuse that with me saying that you are not responsible for your health.
The growing burden of chronic diseases adds significantly to escalating health care costs. For example, research for Aetna Health Care shows that obesity accounts for an estimated 12 percent of the health spending growth in recent years.
Getting healthier now means you will save money in the future. Take the time to re-evaluate your fitness plan. When is the last time you took a walk, played in the park, or took and stroll and looked in the windows downtown — these are all free activities. Open your mind, be creative. Check out your local parks and recreation website for the opportunities throughout the year for you and your family.
Under the Affordable Care Act you won't pay out-of-pocket cost or deductibles for many preventive-care visits, screenings and tests, including annual well-woman visits, contraception and regular mammograms. For the full list, visit Healthcare.gov/prevention.
Other ways to get healthier without spending a lot of money
■ Check in with Kroger's in-house dietitian for nutrition consultations. Get a store tour and learn how to shop smarter to help with any dietetic restrictions or health issues. Email Amey.Herald@kroger.com or call (859) 363-5609 to set up a tour.
■ Whole Foods Market offers classes throughout the year. Check their website for times and dates. From 6-7 p.m. on Feb. 27 the Lexington Green store is offering a gluten sensitive tour. Learn how to prepare gluten-free meals and receive samples and recipes. Call (859) 971-8600 to register, or email Lindsay.Bruner@wholefoods.com
■ Many pharmacies offer body-fat analysis, body mass index reports and screenings for diabetes and heart diseases.
■ Get free health tests and a free one-year AARP membership valued at $16 with the Walgreens Way to Well program. Book an appointment at participating Walgreens and present a voucher and photo ID to get a free blood glucose, body composition or blood pressure test. http://bit.ly/1jKufX1.
■ Register for a free Atkins Quick Start Kit and three free Atkins Bars. http://community.atkins.com.
■ Plan a visit to a national park on free fee days. There are dates throughout the year where an entrance fee is free. Nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm.
■ Sign up for Johnson & Johnson Healthy Essentials to receive recipes and coupons plus buy $10 of SPLENDA Sweetener products to receive free nutrition advice from a registered dietitian ($75 value). Healthyessentials.com.
■ A free weight-loss support group is held from noon to 1 p.m., the first and third Tuesdays at the Lexington Fayette County Health Department PH Clinic South, 2433 Regency Road. For more information or to pre-register call 288-2352.
■ Get adventurous and take the BodyBuilding.com $100,000Transformation Challenge. Receive free workouts, recipes, tracking tools and more to achieve your goal and maybe win some cash. Bodybuilding.com/100k.
■ Go to Shape.com/rockyourresolution, where you'll find 2014 fitness goals from Shape magazine.
■ DailyBurn is a health and fitness website that provides workout and nutrition programs. For a limited time you can get a free 30-day trial. With this membership you will get access to streaming workout videos led by master trainers. After 30 days, you will be charged $10 (plus tax where applicable) recurring monthly. Dailyburn.com.
■ McConnell Springs, 416 Rebmann Lane will celebrate its 20th annual Founder's Day on May 17 with a day of family activities.
■ From 9-10 a.m. every Saturday morning in February, Body Structure Medical Fitness Facility, 2600 Gribbin Drive, will offer a free cardio class. Call (859) 268-8190.
■ Sign up for a free Lean Cuisine 10-day Try-It kit on its Facebook page. You'll receive a personalized menu of 10 dishes via email, a Lean Cuisine coupon to buy nine, get-one free, access to the special offer Skinny Cow coupon (up to $5.49), and an entry into the Ultimate TRY-IT Sweepstakes. Facebook.com/leancuisine
■ Sign up for a consultation at Curves to receive a free week. Curves.com
■ Customize an exercise plan at Sparkpeople.com and get all the tools, resources and support you need to reach your weight-loss goal.
■ Having a healthy dog or cat will save you money at the vet. Check out Purina's Project Pet Slim Down website for information and coupons. Projectpetslimdown.com.
■ Does your child struggle with flat feet, toe walking, foot pain or coordination? Lexington Podiatry is offering free foot exams from 1-6 p.m., on Feb. 18 for children 2 to 18. Call (859) 264-1141 to schedule an appointment.
■ InfantSEE is a public health program for infants' eye and vision care. AOA optometrists provide eye and vision assessments for infants younger than 1, regardless of a family's income or access to insurance coverage. Infantsee.org.
■ Noodles and Company is opening its new store Feb. 2 on Nicholasville Road. Sign up for their E-Club to receive coupons, freebies plus news on special events. Noodles.com/noodlegram
■ Sign up for Scotts Shared Values Club to get a free haircut with any color service at Fantastic Sams. Print up to $1.85 worth of coupons on Scott products. http://bit.ly/1b5LJbn
■ On a snow day take your child to Joseph Beth Bookstore for 10 percent off any kids book, free kids meal with purchase of any adult meal at Bronte Bistro and a cup of hot cocoa or specialty drink. Check out kids story time plus fun crafts by calling the store for more details. (859) 273-2911.
■ MyPublisher is offering buy-one photo book get-one free until Feb. 3. Mypublisher.com
Deborah Morris' weekly column, The Fru-Gal, can help you get through these economic hard times a little more easily. If you know of a way to save some money, feel free to share it on The Fru-Gal blog on BluegrassMoms.com and visit her Web site, Fru-gal-friends.com.