Healthy Living for the Climate

Photographs from around the Leek area, Staffordshire

This week, on a whim, I decided that I’d quite like to sit down and have a go at solving climate change somehow. Or “global warming” if you prefer? Or “climate crisis”, “climate break-down”, or perhaps “ecological collapse”. Whatever you want to call it, I’ll see what I can do over the next thousand words or so.

The main problem I appear to have run into at this early stage in my thinking, is that I can’t help but notice that climate change is a pretty massive, all-encompassing, interconnected series of issues; involving giant corporations, governments, and lots of other things that all fall outside of my control.

Actually, as an individual, that does sound like a lot of bother, doesn’t it?

I’m being facetious of course, and not just because that’s a fun word to say, but also because this is the tired sort of excuse that we’ve all heard at one point or other, to justify a total lack of willingness to change behaviour.

Why should I have to stop driving my 4×4 diesel, when *something* China *something something*?!

There are all sorts of ways to respond to variations of this template statement; most of which are beyond the remit of a simple personal trainer like myself, but what I can say with confidence, from my own line of work, is that luckily, there are other good reasons for driving a little less, and walking a little more.

Putting aside the more political arguments surrounding climate change, the only argument I will put forward in this article, is to point out that in many cases, the sort of things that we are being asked to do for the good of the environment also happen to be good for our health and fitness. A happy coincidence.

There are plenty of consumer type things we can do, such as electric cars, switching energy suppliers, compostable alternatives to plastic etc etc… but for this article, I am more concerned with the practical actions we can take that have no additional cost. As someone who has spent most of life with very little money, I can verify that asking people to do things they can’t afford, for the good of the environment (or anything else) doesn’t always sit well.

However, I think most of us would agree that consuming ‘less’ of something usually ends up costing less. That’s a profound bit of money saving wisdom I picked up back when doing life was a lot rougher than it is right now. So much so, that when it came to alcohol consumption, I was not always a shining example of my own wisdom, but that’s a different story.

Driving less, whenever possible is great thing to do to improve health and encourage more natural movement. While this obviously reduces carbon footprint, it’s also a twitchy subject for some people, so I should probably explain what I don’t mean first. A lot of the time, under current infrastructure, there are no viable alternatives to driving a journey in this busy modern world, so that’s cool. Can’t do much about that. Other times, we drive because it’s convenient, drier, or just because it’s faster, which is where it might be a good idea to consider another option, from time to time.

A good illustration (just so you get a better picture of ‘exactly’ what I’m criticising here) of the irony that unconscious car dependence can bring, happened a few years ago. I was working at a gym, and the barrier to the car park broke down. No big deal, there were still plenty of parking spaces available, but now a few meters further away than usual. This prompted a small handful of members to complain angrily, to my face, before heading inside to walk on a treadmill for 10 minutes, then drive home again. Just one example.

I also can’t help but notice when I’m walking the dog around the estate each day, and I see the same cars going endlessly back and forth, circling round like I’m living in ‘The Truman Show’. It’s difficult not to speculate about some of these journeys.

This is all anecdotal to the places I have lived of course, but a great new mantra for those wanting to make a really positive change to their overall health, and wallets, whilst doing a little bit for the planet and local air quality as a biproduct, could be to simply drive less, move more. Whenever possible.

Now that’s the sensitive topic of car use covered, time to venture over to the totally safe and uncontroversial subject of diet, which famously, nobody ever has a strong opinion on.

We have a lot of choice when it comes to food these days. If we put aside all the complexities of food intolerances, or the controversies of ethical choices; the human body seems to be able to eat almost anything, and basically be alright. I’m a keen practitioner of the “five second rule” and can testify to that.

Hypothetically, if we were to lightly refine our current diet (always better to ‘lightly’ refine than completely upend. It’s more sustainable) towards one with a primary goal of reducing the effects of climate change; depending on our priorities, we would most likely edge it towards being more plant-based, if not move over completely. There would also be other factors, such as air miles, and deforestation to consider, but again, you might argue, why bother?

As individuals, these ideas can feel like such a microscopically small drop in the ocean, it’s easy to become dismissive. Especially when you get to that ocean, and you can’t move for plastic, but, the good news is, that even if your primary goal was purely for health and fitness; without even a glance at the carbon expense of what you’re eating, the results would most likely end up very similar. The ratios might differ somewhat, but a diet that’s high in things locally sourced, with plenty of vegetables fit both of these hypothetical diets.

Dietary ethos is a personal choice, but healthy eating in general, however you measure it, does usually work out more environmentally friendly, so it’s worth a go anyway!

The bottom line – A healthy lifestyle that also treads lightly on the planet, are not two mutually exclusive ideas, and they don’t have to be a great expense or sacrifice either. In my view, it’s worth checking the common ground, and setting a few things slowly in motion. You don’t have to pick a team, you don’t have to start a fight with anyone doing things differently, and you don’t have to stay the same from day to day.

One of my own simple rules I mentioned briefly above, for example, is to “move as much as possible and drive as little as possible” – The “as possible” here does a lot of heavy lifting some days, but that’s the point. The next day, I will reassess, and again the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that. Ad infinitum.

Right. That’s climate change done. Hopefully fixed. Next week, I’ll do world hunger.

Dan

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