One of the most important things to me in my health and fitness career is breaking down the barriers that prevent people from becoming physically active and healthy. One of the most significant barriers to us all is the financial costs associated with improving our health and keeping fit.
Take one browse of the apps on your phone and you are bombarded with flashy, snazzy, entertaining advertisements. The food and fitness industries are guilty of creating some of the most effective marketing that we currently see:
Do you eat your '5-a-day'?
Do you try and walk 10,000 steps daily?
Do you own a smart watch/other fitness tracker?
Do you associate protein shakes with exercise?
Have you ever subscribed to Slimming World, Weight Watchers, Juice Plus, or Herbalife?
If you've answered 'yes' to any of these questions, then you already know how effective this marketing can be, because it has worked on you.
Now, I'm not here to complain about people who are creating good content and trying to make a decent living. In fact, my favourite fitness trainer, Tom Morrison, creates some of the funniest adverts that I've ever seen online. I really enjoy Tom's content and it has worked because I've bought some of his programmes and use them on a daily basis. You can check out one of Tom's videos here:
What I'm saying (ironically, via the medium of email marketing and social media) is that we don't need to spend a penny of our hard-earned cash on improving our health! The best ways to get fit and keep fit are already free and available to you. All you have to do is choose to make time for them on a daily basis.
Read below for the my top 5 ways to improve your health for free...
1. Surround yourself with nature
I am very fortunate that the area in which I live is surrounded by beautiful, overgrown paths and trails, on land formerly used for mining or heavy industry. This may not be applicable to you directly, but wherever you can find it, you should seek to spend time in nature on a daily basis. I will write a future article on this subject specifically, but for the sake of this one, I can tell you that the colour green is routinely used by health/nutrition/wellness/vegan marketing to convince you that the product they are selling is good for you and healthy - when actually the truth may be quite the opposite in the long term.
In psychology green is associated with nature, primitive behaviour, connection, and relaxation. A gentle walk through a green wood or field will calm your body and mind, no matter what your experiencing on any given day.
But don't worry, if for any reason you can't get outside, you can bring the nature inside too - although sadly, buying, growing and maintaining houseplants does come at a small cost, unless you are particularly skilled at acquiring plants and seeds for free! If you aren't sure how to start, check out @creative_explained on Instagram for an full forest of information and cool ideas for growing plants and your own food indoors.
2. Get outside and feel the sunshine
I love exercising outdoors! This has been a core component of my business, and my own training plans for the past 10 years. I also love the sunshine and it's so vital to our health and wellbeing.
Research can be easily found that shows people who spend more time in the sun live longer, have stronger bones, feel happier, have better eyesight and have a reduced risk of dementia.
Primarily, this is because sunshine on our skin (even on a cloudy day) significantly boosts our production of Vitamin D - stay subscribed to my emails to read more about this in the future.
3. Mobilise every joint in your body
In terms of fitness and physical health, mobility is about preparing your body so that it's ready for action; this could be for sport, to improve quality of life, or even just play with your children/grandchildren. Your goal should be to move every joint in your body to its capacity in every different direction. And the best thing is, this doesn't cost you a penny to do.
If you ask my clients, they'll tell you that the first thing we do when we start working together is record a mobility assesment. This mobility assessment is then the start point for everything else that follows. Once we've tied in the results of your mobility assessment to your goals and aspirations, a 6-12 month programme has been created and we're ready to get started.
And yeah, I can see what you're saying; there's a contradiction in what I've just written. But, the answers to any of your questions are there to be found using the internet, Google, or YouTube. Or if you're financially able, and looking for 1-1 support, research for and then hire a good coach/trainer, and you'll save thousands later in life, and gain years and years of pain free mobility in the process. Who doesn't want to live longer and stay as active as possible, right?!
4. Eat the most natural food you can afford
Again, I am going to refer to my current and former personal training clients here. Anyone who has worked with me within the past two years will know that this is a phrase I use frequently. I use this phrase to answer any query that a client may have that is specific to their nutrition. The marketing that I was referring to earlier will be familiar to you from social media, television, and anywhere else you access media content.
Even within the personal training profession, there are so many different versions of the same story, with each trainer telling you that their system is the best. In my case I don't sell you a specific system, or a set of rules relating to your nutrition. All I say to clients is that I want them to eat the most natural food that they can afford.
Obviously, paying for food is not free, although sometimes it's always good to pick up a free meal when you can get it! My point is, when we're eating food that we don't need (sugary foods, diet/zero drinks, energy drinks, takeaway, processed foods, 'health foods', vegan mush), it often costs more money than the food that we do need. Or, in when the food that we are buying is the cheapest food, this can also be the food with the least nutritional value! Then we actually have to buy more food to maintain or improve our health, because the low quality food is actually decreasing or reducing our health, and doesn't satiate our hunger - "once you pop you just can't stop", as the famous Pringles slogan cruelly says. This then leads to more complex medical issues in the long term. We don't know this when we're drinking five cans of Diet Coke a day, but the implications of this habit will be felt in 10, 20, 30, or more years time. It is essential to our health that we eat the most natural food we can afford, because this is a free choice you can make. No one can stop us from doing this. This is a choice between buying two raw/cooked chicken breast out of a plastic container for £2-3, versus buying a whole raw chicken from the same supermarket for £3-4. Each chicken contains two breasts, but for only £1 extra, you get so much more in return.
I'm not going to go through every food type/source in the world, and there are many different ways to eat whether you're carnivorous, pescatarian, vegetarian, or dare I say it, vegan. But the same rule always applies if you're buying food from a takeaway, convenience store, restaurant, fuel station, supermarket, or butcher; eat the most natural food that you can afford, and your health will only improve.
5. Spend focused time with your friends and family
I don't think this one needs any explanation. Spending time with your most cherished humans boosts all the right hormones in all the right places.
No one can take this away from you, not even you government, although they definitely tried to during the COVID-19 pandemic. Personally, I didn't follow any instructions to stay isolated from other families, or go outside once a day, or not travel 5 miles away from my home, etc. These were unethical, illegal and harmful instructions put in place by an incompetent, contradictory and elitist government. I do not trust them with my health, and nor should you.
In person interactions and physical touch will always trump online distant interactions, but however you can spend time with the people you love, you should seek to make time for this whenever you can. As all the parenting books say, time is precious, and everyone's health improves when they feel safe, loved, cared for, supported and are having fun with other humans.
However, if for any reason you do not have any family or friends, there are so many ways to spend time with humans and make positive connections in your community. Volunteering and activity groups are a fantastic way to make a contribution to your local area, and boost your health, and the health of others, in the process.
Please let me know if any of these free tips were helpful to you, and feel free to share this article with your family, friends, or anyone else who you think could benefit from it.
And always remember; get outside, get fit, and have fun!