The word sustainability is everywhere, but how do we make it a true priority for the majority of us? Fitness is an exercise in sustainability. Through it we can look at the microcosm of our own personal bodies and understand how our health and the health of the planet are intertwined. From there, it is a small jump to realizing that many of the things we truly want are 100% compatable with what the planet truly needs. A bigger win-win has never been seen, and we are the generation that gets to capitalize on it!
What Connects Fitness and Sustainability?
The human body is a microcosm of the natural world. The things that make us healthy tend to keep the environment healthy and vice versa. Similarly, things that make the environment unhealthy tend to make us unhealthy. Eating industrial foods that are fossil fuel intensive – populary known as processed foods – are often a contributing factor in many of our most pervasive chronic illnesses. This type of food production puts pollutants into the environment as well as into our bodies. Eating fresh whole foods grown using methods that have an eye on ecology, such as organic methods (especially plants) can increase our health while also replenishing the environment. We get to look, feel, and be healthier and the natural world does too. And just to put a cherry on top, adhering to organic models from local or regional sources has a positive effect on our communities by keeping dollars in our local economies.
More On That:
Fitness Teaches Us The Importance of Systems
One of the most challenging aspects of Sustainability is that it is rooted in systems. To really understand, we have to look at large trends over very long periods of time that may spiral out, creating complicated webs of cause and effect. We are more used to evaluating direct cause and effect in our lives, things like: I ate too much dessert this week and gained 5 pounds, or, I drank too much and now I have a hangover.
An economy, for example, which is fixated on maximum growth can push us down the path of excess, which in turn, can have multiple effects on our well-being. In order to drive greater profitability in food and agriculture, for instance, we may find an abundance of foods that have been designed for maximum eating pleasure at minimal cost. When this product contributes to poor health, further problems are created, such as stress on our health care system.
For a more detailed analysis check out this four part series, Fitness and Sustainability:
Fitness Highlights the Importance of Process Driven Solutions
If the underlying issues are rooted in systems, then one-step solutions are unlikely to be effective. Multi-step, wholistic approaches will be required. What is important therefore is to break down the process into manageable parts. This can feel overwhelming, but the good news is humanity has shown time and again that while simple solutions are attractive, we are also capable and even eager to employ long term thinking and delayed gratification when we fully understand the rewards that will come in the end. Fitness can show us the richer road to travel through concepts such as progressive training, cycling and periodization, and habit forming, all of which promote positive results over the long term.
Here are some articles about the process and how smart, systematic approaches can yield amazing results:
Fitness Is A Social Movement
Being healthier and more physically fit is not just good for the individual person but also for groups of people, from local communities all the way up to nations themselves. It’s all about living better – all of us. One ready example is sleep. We have come to more fully understand the importance of sleep and the negative consequences of sleep deprivation. What we now must do is ask ourselves how to create a culture which supports having a working life that is balanced with time to de-stress, have relationships, tend to personal affairs, find time for things like quality sleep. In a world where 12 hour workdays are seen as the way to get ahead, our health gets left behind.
Here are a couple of posts about that:
We Make The Future
At the risk of sounding corny, fitness shows us that we do have power in this world. For those who commit to making the substantive changes that lead to greater health and wellness, the rewards are physically as well as psychologically transformative. They show us how we can stand up for change. It’s time for fitness to bring about real change and for us all to live in a way that sutains us and the planet. Sustainability ultimately does not have to be about giving up things, instead it can be all about gains (workout pun intended, bro!).