Living a healthy life is always a choice. There can be barriers (financial, emotional, etc), but in the end, how much we move and what we eat are decisions we make. Health professionals are constantly trying to make healthy habits more accessible and understandable to the general population. For instance it’s now fairly common knowledge that one goal for good health is to hit about 10,000 steps a day. In the health field, we still talk about minutes of exercise and intensity, but for the masses, steps per day are easier to understand. What we’ve found, however, is that the problem isn’t not understanding what is necessary and good for our bodies, the problem is with the follow through, because let’s face it, if something’s not easy, we are a lot less likely to do it.
This is one of the reasons I love Australia. Here it is easy to hit 10,000 steps. I hit it every day in fact (usually surpassing my goal) just in my every day activities. Public transport is so efficient around the city that people end up walking to trams, trains and busses rather than just hopping in their cars. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of drivers as well, but overall this Aussie city seems to be very active.
Aside from walking by means of transport, it seems the whole city is buzzing with opportunities to get outside and move. At the Saint Kilda festival my first weekend down under, there were several different setups for exercising (a zumba class by the beach, a yoga session in the park, etc). Additionally, in each of the suburbs of Victoria there are weekly timed 5ks available for free to anyone who shows up. Back home in the states there were also loads of running groups (some free and some not), but any timed 5k I ever went to had a fee associated with it, and though usually it was a small sum of money, it was still a barrier. And barriers turn people away.
Being in the exercise field, I recognize that I am probably more aware of things like steps and avoiding inactivity, but with all the technology that’s available, there’s really no excuse. There are plenty of people here who still need to drive into work, as public transport is not easily accessible on some of the suburbs farther out, but even so I feel like the environment here supports those people who prioritize health. But again it comes back to individual motivation.
Beyond the movement aspect of health, even nutritional options seem to be superior here. At the fresh markets I’ve found, the cheapest things to buy are fresh fruits and vegetables. There are very few fast food restaurants around so the temptation to run out for a quick, cheap dinner just isn’t quite the same as in the states. The cost of dining out practically encourages you to cook a meal in, as it’s likely to be faster and cheaper. Even just a lunch out can run you anywhere from AUD$8-16 at an average café and much more at a nicer restaurant. While the high cost of dining out here isn’t really a selling point in everyday life, it is quite a good motivator for cooking a meal at home (with some inexpensive fresh veggies and fruits).
In the end, it doesn’t much matter where you live or what you do. If you want to make healthy choices you will. You will make the easy choices and the hard ones and barriers won’t slow you down. It is nice to see here at least, there seem to be fewer barriers to making those healthy choices…whether that translates to more people turning around their bad habits, only time will tell.
All I know for sure right now is that I am loving how well this city is supporting the lifestyle I am striving to live.