Recently there was a competition to come up with innovative ideas for healthy living. Whilst apps like fitbit, and Nike have aided the monitoring of exercise (I love mine). I struggled to think of something ground breaking. There was not a shortage of ideas as a: Green Juice Drinking, Working Paleo, exercising 5 times a week, sleeping 8 hours a night Mum. It was more that to achieve this it was less gadgets, and more breaking down some major barriers (2 to be precise):
- Input – ‘fuel’ food regulated by ourselves and society
Even if we come up with commercially made new healthy products the market already has these on offer. There are even services that provide them to those that are too busy to do it themselves. Many of us know what is good for us, but there are two things that need to change our relationship with food and the amount of s*** food promoted in society.
The mental and psychological aspects of food need to be tackled so we have a positive relationship with food. The relationship needs to be that ‘food’ is not an over dependency i.e. we do not over eat to compensate for others areas, or even an inadequacy, i.e. we do not deny ourselves food to control a physical or mental state. It is something that we can approach with balance because it nourishes us, and strengthens our health mental and physical. We know when we are full, and we know what our body needs.
A lot of ‘food’ for sale is not food. To change that we need to address what is on offer in supermarkets and return to the basics. The commercialisation of food needs to be addressed so intensive commercial farming, over processing of food to make substances that ultimately have lead to health pressures in our society due to too much sugar and gluten in our diet. The ground-breaking idea here would be that governments curtail what we can have as food. How much sugar can be added to food, and how far processed food can be. This may be controversial but the taxing of foods that are processed to provide natural sate foods cheaper to people would have a radical effect on the health of a nation. If vegetables and fruit were cheaper to buy then it could start to impact behaviours and diets.
- Output - ‘energy’ our activity designed into your life by ourselves and employers
I am a fan of apps where we can monitor health, however, I have to say that I no longer use regularly because I designed my life so that I could keep pace with the level of activity possible for a working mother of 2.
In some respects I would say that I am lucky, but it should not be that way. Employers and governments need to give people time for health. Years ago work was more manual so the output of activity that kept the body healthy was more plausible. Life today has a different design dependent on which country you live a 37.5, 40 or even 50 working hour week behind a desk can also go hand in hand with a 2 hour total commute. This means that a person’s ability to have a certain level of activity in their life is curtailed by the demands of modern day working life, and still needing to spend time with their life. This can be something that a person values enough to push for, so my journey has been that I put my life, and health first and it is part of what I demand from any employment relationship.
Ground breaking here but why not challenge our hours and way of working. We should be measured and paid on the output, rather than presence at the desk from 9 to 5. As painful as it may be for employers people have got more effective at ways of working in the office, virtually or both. However, time based pay has a challenge in that: do we really get more effective employees? To work on a basis of output requires trust and value of the output more than what can easily be monitored; a person sitting at their desk.
If workers and employers want to really promote health, the working contract needs to be revised and looked at from a different perspective. Not time but quality of the value that they add through their outputs. This will have it’s challenges in fairness of pay, equity and existing practices but would enable employees to be more engaged, productive, motivated and healthy.
Many of the organisations I have worked for really have limited space for the employee to be active and healthy despite the employee spending the majority of their time there. In one of my previous employers, they had 8 smoking rooms, but not one free space where a person could exercise.
Not so radical but what would make a difference is part of the employee offering is healthy food, and space where people can take a break and do multiple forms of exercise as we are all different: yoga, running, cycling and rowing for example. This should not just be an offering to the brands inundated with applicants like Google, but an employment offering from mainstream employers in the 21st Century. In this instance I choose to run outside as it was better than no activity but the option of 8 rooms that literally kill you and no space to make you healthy still makes me laugh.
This is a metaphor for how we are tackling health and lifestyle in the 21st Century. We are fixated on the superficial BS, rather than addressing what we ourselves, and policy makers: governments and employers can do to permanently enable and change behaviours.