Creating healthy habits in big cities

2018 is now a reality, rather than the not-quite-tangible promise of new beginnings that it was during the holiday haze. Gyms across the nation are being flooded with higher-than-normal membership registration rates as people start getting a move on their New Year’s Resolutions.

However, while regular gym attendance can create fitter bodies, there’s something to be said about spending time in an artificially lit gym with filtered air versus getting out of the city entirely and going for a refreshing walk/jog/hike/cruise in nature. Imagine what such a trip out of town could do for your health! In particular, residents of large cities could stand to gain from developing a habit for getting out of town more often.

Residents of large cities, especially global metropolises, have a lot of advantages when it comes to fulfilling their career potential. These advantages however, come at a price. Such urban jungles are densely populated. The churn of industry and people creates sprawl and toxic levels of air pollution. Fulfilling one’s potential for a great career could easily come the expense of fulfilling one’s potential for a healthy mind.

A study of healthy habits and lifestyles

I come from Vancouver, Canada, a mid-sized city nestled in the heart of the Pacific Northwest. The city is surrounded by forests, oceans, and world-class ski resorts that hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics. For five years, I worked in a glass tower in Vancouver’s central business district. I was one block from the ocean, a 20-minute walk to a huge temperate rainforest, and a 30-minute drive to three different mountains topped with ski resorts.

Such a city naturally breeds an outdoorsy population. A large percentage of Vancouver residents live active lifestyles. Many have season ski passes, and every weekend brings a new flood of social media photos of hikes and jogs by the ocean. With such lifestyles being typical of the city, it’s easy to see why Vancouver consistently ranks as one of the most liveable cities in the world.

Creating a culture of getting outdoors

While it can be harder to get into nature from large cities due to size – therefore longer distances to cross out of the city borders – developing a habit for leaving the city and going into nature is hugely beneficial for both one’s physical and mental health. The industries of such cities can help to create this culture. Sporting, wellness, healthy eating, fitness, travel, and other associated brands can create campaigns that encourage people to get out of town. Companies can also help their employees pursue healthy lifestyles and habits.

I currently work in London for Hubble, our company regularly plans events and encourages our team to be active and get outside. We’ve done everything from summer festivals to outdoor ice skating to team trips to the vineyards of France. Aside from creating happy, healthy employees, Hubble’s efforts have built a strong team that is friends first, colleagues second.

Why you need to switch off to achieve more

Breathing in fresh air

In most parts of London, the level of dangerous air pollutants exceeds guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO) by at least half. Meanwhile, even though New York air pollution is now at the lowest level ever recorded, air quality levels still barely make the cut by WHO recommended standards.

And while jogs along the Thames could suffice midweek, breathing city air just isn’t the same as breathing the air in a forest or on a mountaintop. Getting as far away from the polluted air that hangs over major cities like a foggy cloud as possible can do wonders for one’s physical health (especially lungs!) and mental balance.

Gaining peace of mind

Every time I fly home after spending a long period of time abroad in a big city, I walk out of the doors of Vancouver International Airport, breathe in the fresh ocean air (the airport is located on an island bordering the city), and immediately feel more alive and at ease. To add to that aliveness and ease, every time I’m in my hometown, I aim to go on at least one walk in the woods, on a hike, or on a ski trip.

While it may be harder to get out of the heart of global metropolises like London, keeping a habit of getting outside, along with an outdoorsy lifestyle can be endlessly beneficial. A weekend trip every month or two to a country cabin, a remote beach, or to camp in the woods can restore that mental balance that is in short supply these days.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

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