This post was written by Allison Lambert of The Fit Tutor and contains references to diet and exercise.
Personal Fitness and Sustainable Living
In a world bombarding us with bikini-body fitness plans, beach-ready diets, and supplements to help us drop 20 pounds by next week, it can be hard to remember why health and wellness matter beyond just our looks or our jeans size. It turns out, personal fitness can go hand in hand with sustainable living.
Of course, being in good health is beneficial to you: it improves your quality of life and longevity. But even in our individualistic world, we are connected and codependent. We need to learn to think of our health beyond just looking or feeling good. If you’re healthy and able, it directly impacts those around you, as well as those across the globe that you may never meet.
I firmly believe that there is no one like you on this planet. No one else has your experiences, your genes, your point of view – and you have an opportunity to impact the world in a way no one else can.
I believe it’s our moral obligation to take good care of ourselves and prioritize our health, and I believe this lays the foundation for living an ethical lifestyle. If we are not able to run our lane in this race, then who will?
Health and Wellness Defined
Before we jump into this, let’s set the record straight; I’m talking about lifestyle-related illnesses that are costing businesses billions in lost productivity and sick days. These same preventable diseases are contributing to the rising cost of health care, insurance premiums, and are costing our nation trillions.
Accidents happen. Disease can strike out of nowhere. You can be perfectly healthy and have that taken away from you by no fault of your own. We’re not talking about that, and don’t feel discouraged or ashamed if you aren’t healthy right now.
We’re addressing what we can prevent by prioritizing health and wellness in our lives. We can’t control or prevent everything, but research shows our efforts will make a big difference. First thing’s first, here’s how you can improve your health:
Simple Ways to Promote a Healthier Lifestyle
I’m sure you’ve seen hundreds of conflicting and confusing messages out there, so here’s the basics of taking good care of yourself:
- more real food, less processed
- cut back on the sugar
- work to reduce overeating
Exercising and Moving More
- move towards 75 minutes rigorous or 150 moderate intensity minutes per week
- fit what you can in your schedule
- develop healthy ways to reduce and deal with stressors in your life
Just like learning how to create ethical buying habits, health and wellness is a journey. You start where you are, because where else would you start? If you want to go paleo and start out with a sugar fast and half marathon, you’re more than welcome to.
Often in our busy schedules, it’s important to find where we can carve out time for rest and exercise, and to slowly shift our diets to include more whole foods and less processed.
One of the best parts is, as you embark on this journey a whole world opens up before you to make even more of an impact! If you’re not already thinking about what you’re eating or where it comes from, this an important and helpful way to expand your influence and live with integrity. Here’s some of the hot food and exercise ethical issues plaguing or society right now.
How Health and Wellness Contribute to Living an Ethical Lifestyle
Now that we understand how important our individual health is to others, and that we should move past considering food for emotional comfort, pleasure, and as a means to get flat abs, let’s talk about the ethical considerations behind our food choices and exercise habits!
It’s an honor, and often a privilege, to get to vote with your dollars. Not everyone has this opportunity, so if you have the choice, consider yourself lucky and make it count as much as possible. Don’t worry, there are plenty of options for a variety of budgets, and you don’t have to be rich to make a difference.
I’m sure you’re familiar with some of these issues, and this is by no means exhaustive. I encourage you to pick one that seems doable right now, and run with it! Each one of these could be their own book, so we’re barely scratching the surface here.
And, just in case, please don’t feel overwhelmed. No matter where you find yourself your health and wellness or ethical living journey, there’s always room for growth. Start where you can, and move forward!
Many efforts can improve your health as well as the environment. I always say that your first job is to find out how to take better care of yourself, and then you can work on how it affects others and the environment. Here are some environmental concerns you can consider:
Food and Nutrition
Farming and Fishing
- Are you able to support the local economy, sustainability of the food system, and local farmers by purchasing locally made products and grown produce?
- Local CSA’s might even deliver to your door or give discounts on “ugly” produce that would be rejected by supermarkets
- Can you purchase animal products where antibiotics were not routinely administered, since the runoff is leading to an increase in the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria?
- Is it possible to choose pesticide-free or organically grown crops due to environmental concerns of pesticides and the possible health effects on consumers and farmers (and some forced laborers)?
- Are you able to consume less fish, due to the overfishing of our oceans, or choose mainly sustainably raised and caught fish?
- Is it ethical to consume animals or animal products, when considering the absence of sustainability in farming and the treatment of the animals?
- Are you able to start composting your food waste?
- Are you willing to eat more mindfully so you can avoid overeating and creating unnecessary waste?
- Are you willing to eat more real foods and less processed, packaged foods?
- Is it an option to buy animal products such as meat and dairy from local farms, or do research behind the farm to ensure the environment was considered and sustainability was a goal?
- Can you decrease the carbon footprint of your workout by exercising with minimal equipment, at home, or outside?
- Even things like bringing a reusable towel to the gym and using the treadmill on incline can help!
- Are you able to buy workout clothes and gear from companies who use sustainable materials and practices?
- Buying second hand is an easy way to do this!
- Is it an option to decrease emissions by incorporating exercise into your daily life, like walking to the store or riding your bike more?
- or choose a gym or workout classes near your home, or take public transportation
Human Rights and Other Concerns
- Are you able to find companies who sustainably make workout clothing and gear, and pay their workers fair wages?
- Are you able to buy animal products such as meat and dairy from farms that ensure the animals were raised humanely, given plenty of space and proper food?
- Is it possible for you to learn what different eco, humane, and sustainability labels mean and buy according to your principles?
- Would you be able to purchase fair trade items from food categories that are known for slavery, child labor, and trafficking?
- coffee, chocolate, imported fruit, imported fish, cane sugar, palm oil, etc
What have you already built into your shopping or daily habits? What is one that seems doable? Just doing a simple online search will lead you to helpful information to get you started or help you move forward in this journey.
You Matter, and So Do Your Choices
Changing habits can feel overwhelming at times, but don’t underestimate the impact of your health on you and others. Who will fight for those without voices if you aren’t healthy and able to? There are things that only you can do. We all need you to be you, and being healthy, energetic, and managing your stress is absolutely crucial.
I hope you are thinking of ways to add healthy habits into your life. Start where you can, maybe add some more veggies or exercise into your day. If you feel overwhelmed or don’t know where to start, how to eat right, or how to exercise, then consider reaching out to a fit coach like me. I love helping make health and wellness easier and attainable, so you can focus on the things you care about.
Once you find some things that work for you, consider the ethical and environmental impact of your choices, and try to make ones that vote for a world you want to live in.
Leah Wise is the founder of StyleWise Blog. She has been writing, speaking, and consulting on sustainable fashion, the fair trade and secondhand supply chain, and digital marketing for over ten years. An Episcopal priest, Leah holds a B.A. in Religion from Florida State University and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. When not working, you can find her looking for treasures at the thrift store.