I don’t think we’ll ever see the day when the NHS isn't dominating headlines. And this month, true to form, almost every time I switch on the TV, I see stories about it being crippled by rising demand and, this winter, Australian flu. But while the NHS faces scrutiny for the staggering number of deferred operations, lengthy waiting times, lack of beds (the list goes on), it’s time to accept that, though it’s easier to blame poor management of the health service, actually, we are a large part of the problem.
Since its inauguration in 1948, the NHS has been a core pillar of British society. Universal access to free healthcare is an incredible luxury that many, even in the most developed corners of the globe, can only dream of. So why do we, as a nation, seem resolute on bringing the organisation that affords us the prerogative of good health to its knees? Much of the strain in inflicted on the NHS is caused by people’s poor diet and lifestyle choices, and it’s high time we stopped paying the price for that.
A healthy lifestyle – through good diet and exercise – is a choice. It is not a gift, a luxury, luck, or an entitlement of the privileged few. Of course, I am looking beyond the non-discriminatory diseases that cause so much pain and loss, affecting even the healthiest of people. But, on the whole, we are in sole control of the way we live our lives, so why would our health be anybody’s responsibility but our own?
At the end of last year, a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that the UK is the most obese country in Western Europe. And in October, the World Obesity Forum predicted that unless action is taken, the cost of treating obesity-related illness in the UK will rise from £14bn to £22.9bn in 2025 (far more than the £350m a week the Brexit bus claimed we’d be getting back by divorcing from the EU). Looking at those stats, is it any wonder the NHS is on its knees? It’s time to get our heads out of the sand and realise that we cannot and should not fund the bad choices of those who abdicate their responsibility to be healthy.
Does this sound controversial? It shouldn’t. We don’t let people drive when drunk – we know that opting for alcohol means you also choose not to drive. We don’t operate on smokers until they give up cigarettes – we know they’ll just get sick again otherwise. So why not extend this to people who consistently make bad health choices? When do we conclude that if you choose an unhealthy lifestyle, you also ‘choose’ to stop using a system that is already under extreme pressure?
Your health is an investment in itself. Spending on wellness is just as vital as buying a house or car, and it’s significantly cheaper. Your health should surpass all other priorities. What does it cost to live an active lifestyle? To eat good-quality, healthy food? As someone who has worked in the health industry for over a decade, I can tell you that the costs can be minimal, yet the results immediate and life-changing. Small changes have huge benefits for your health.
It is a severe bypass of moral culpability to expect others to suffer for your poor life choices. And those who are not opting to lead active, healthy lifestyles should be held accountable for depriving or delaying treatment for other, more deserving, cases. Because ultimately, as the NHS continues to drown in a multitude of obesity-related cases, it is those who are in need of urgent help, through no fault of their own, who will su er the consequences. The longer we blame the system, the less likely we all are to take personal responsibility.
Life choices affect not just us, but future generations. There are few greater responsibilities than that of parenthood, and one of the key remits to being a good mother or father is doing everything in your power to ensure your children grow up healthy. This is impacted by our own health – which we pass on to our children in the womb. Post-birth, our food and health choices are also passed on to our children. But we can only teach our children the importance of a healthy lifestyle if we understand it ourselves.
And while I’m not imagining that everyone could or should make the switch, there are drastic steps we can take, like converting to a vegan diet. While veganism seems like simply the latest wellness trend, there is much to be said for the rewards. Vegan diets are naturally lower in saturated fats and cholesterol and have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease due to their higher intake of fibre, phytonutrients, antioxidants, flavonoids and carotenoids. It’s rare to find an obese vegan. But good health can be based on making smaller changes in our everyday lives – so it’s time to stop playing the blame game.
We all have the opportunity to eat and live in the right manner. To rely on the NHS to bail us out, when our pain is self-inflicted, is scandalous. At a time when it’s struggling, ask yourself: are you doing everything you can to help prolong its life
Check out these fitness trends for 2018...
Find Your Centre
With selfcare becoming the buzzword of 2018 it's no surprise that it's having an impact on our workouts. While 2017 might have been about mindfulness and meditation, this year it's very much about embracing your chakras and ensuring your energy is flowing freely. Gymbox is tapping into the trend with its new Chakralise, which blends yoga practice with spiritual teachings. 'The chakra system allows me to use visualisation techniques, music and colours to give the students a mindful practice that focuses or the internal and external systems,' explains yoga teacher, Fleur Mondanipoor. 'It is a physical class, but it also helps heal emotional issues though meditation and mindfulness.' It's safe to say yoga is going back to its roots and we're all going to benefit.
Punch It Out
While the likes of Karlie Kloss and Gigi Hadid might have put boxing on our radar a few years ago, the craze isn't showing any signs of slowing. What is changing is our approach to the classes. 'I'm finding that women want to learn a new skill, as much as improve their fitness levels and get in shape,' explains Miranda Hart, a trainer at Kobox Boxing Club. Our newfound love for boxing has also impacted in the type of results we want from a class. 'Women are starting to pull away from the booty-building-Kim-K-craze and look towards a more athletic ideal,' says Hart. 'It's not about having a big butt and a skinny waist now, it's about having an athletic physique and an athletic mindset.' To master the technique and improve your coordination, as well as improve your fitness, it's worth seeking out your local club. If you're London-based, definitely check out Kobox.
Lift For Leanness
A few years ago we might have been vehemently against weight lifting for fear of bulking up, but with the help of Instagram and fitness trainers such as @bicepsandbronzer and the hashtag #girlswholift, our opinion has changed. More and more women's weightlifting classes are popping up. 'Weightlifting is your best friend when it comes to fat loss,' says Laura Hoggins, fitness coach at ONE LDN. 'It has the power to significantly improve your body composition as weightlifting increases lean muscle mass, resulting in that tight, toned physique you have been working for.' The trick is to start with the lighter weights, little and often, before building up. You'll also benefit from improved posture and increased metabolism.
Reach New Heights
It might have been an activity you did during those long summer holidays, but indoor climbing has become a fully-fledged fitness trend. Bouldering, aka climbing centres are cropping up across the UK and for good reason. 'Bouldering is exploding in popularity because it is a fun and rewarding way to get fit and healthy', says Jamie from The Arch Climbing Wall. 'It works on two levels as a full body workout and a stimulating mental challenge.' Don't be fooled though, even if you only climb for 30 to 40 minutes you can expect to feel the ache the next day. Some of the best indoor climbing centres include The Arch Climbing Wall in London, Bloc Climbing in Bristol and Rock Over Climbing in Manchester.
Order A PT
It's the equivalent of Uber but for fitness and TruBe has revolutionised how we work out. It launched last year in London and there are plans to roll it out across key cities in the UK. The idea is simple, when you want to workout you book a trainer depending on your time and location. It's not restricted to traditional personal trainers too, yoga instructors and boxing experts are also available. What more could you want?