The common proverb ‘health is wealth’ gets thrown around a lot in our society, although it may have been a more common saying a few years ago. We are informed our whole lives that keeping healthy is the best thing for ourselves. When we think of the word ‘healthy’ we tend to think about eating a balanced diet, exercising frequently and looking after our mental health. The metaphor of health being an element of riches is powerful, as your own health is in your hands. It is widely believed that there is no point in possessing money if you are not in good health. And after all, it is easy to maintain good health, isn’t it?
Unhealthy lifestyles are unfortunately on the rise. With elements of the world such as frequent adverts for less nutritious food, increasing prices of things like gym memberships and more distractions such as TV shows and video games, people are starting to fall into the black hole of decreasing health. There are numerous things people would often rather do instead of eating a balanced diet, exercising or looking after their mental health, and motivation to be your best self can often down the drain.
Arguably, the biggest problem is our eating habits, due to the ubiquity of convenience foods or lack of energy to cook a more balanced meal. This has been acknowledged recently by those in authority and is evident in the rule enforced on the 6th of April 2022 stating that calories should be displayed on large restaurants, takeaways and pubs by the government, and the plan to ban ‘junk food’ advertising online and before 9pm on television from 2023. Not eating enough healthier foods such as fruits, vegetables, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids is common among UK citizens, and we are becoming increasingly likely to opt for ‘unhealthy’ foods such as processed meat and sugar-sweetened beverages. This type of diet can lead to health problems such as obesity and diabetes.
Physical inactivity is also a contributing factor to increasingly unhealthy lifestyles. More than 20 million UK adults are classified as physically inactive, which is costing the UK health service as much as £1.2 billion each year according to the Physical Inactivity and Sedentary Behaviour Report. Keeping active is both important to maintain good physical health, but it can also benefit mental health. Exercise releases chemicals in the brain which are called endorphins, making you feel good and providing you with more energy. Exercise can serve as a distraction, allowing some time to break up a day and to put aside things that may be troubling you.
We are also losing more sleep as a country, which is crucial for both our physical and mental health. Short–term effects of lack of sleep include lack of awareness and impaired memory, whilst long-term effects include high blood pressure, obesity and depression. Sleep deprivation can also impact metabolism, and this can mean that if you eat well and exercise regularly but don’t get enough sleep, you may be undermining your efforts. Sleep needs to be made a priority to improve our overall health and energy.
Maintaining good health is challenging in the society we currently live in. Often we can overcome barriers such as increased gym costs by going for a run around the block instead or walk to work – options that would ease the burden on carbon emissions too. However, although it is important to regularly make the right food choices, we should also live our lives and enjoy the simple things such as a spontaneous ice cream or lunch out with a friend. We should also not burden ourselves if we cannot exercise on a certain day or lose sleep. The proverb ‘health is wealth’ is true, but health refers to happiness as well as discipline.