For far too long, fitness has been a rather unsustainable industry. It was created around an image of a perfect body and how to get that body. The weight loss industry, for example, profits from our insecurities and it grew into a $72 billion market in the US alone. Not to mention the trends, diets, supplements, and workout fads that are changing at almost the same speed as fast fashion.
How can an industry like that be sustainable? For the individual, it often relies on delivering empty promises and making us feel bad about our bodies. For the planet, as the number of plastic-housed products that flood the market continue to increase, it only adds to the waste problem.
Enter the idea of sustainable health and fitness.
Sustainable fitness is a holistic approach to fitness as a mindful practice, which is good for the individual and better for the environment. In the past, the fitness industry witnessed a lot of innovation. For example, eco-friendly equipment, plant-based supplements, and even gyms that are using humans to create energy. Yet, a growing number of environmentally aware health professionals are reminding us something important: the most sustainable things are often free. The same is true for fitness.
Adopt sustainable health and fitness habits
We propose a different take on sustainable health and fitness. For us, it’s really about daily and weekly habits that are good for us in the long run. Ultimately, these habits help to form a sustainable lifestyle that's focused on keeping us healthy.
Note that we are talking about small daily or weekly habits. That is the key: to focus on the small yet mighty. This leads us to another aspect of sustainable fitness, which we think really involves changing our mindset. Fitness shouldn’t just be about looking better, but feeling better. This leads to being more productive, building your immune system, and just enjoying life more in general.
Additionally, fitness is not only about exercise. To live a fully healthy lifestyle, we need to look at our food, mind, and daily routines.
That’s why we selected 8 best sustainable fitness habits to adopt! For each, we added our top tip to help you incorporate them in your daily routine.
1. Drink more (unbottled) water
Start with the very basic. Water is essential to your body and we know you’ve heard it before, but it’s important. Drink more water! The famous “8 glasses a day” doesn’t have to be your personal goal. It can be just one extra glass a day. In any case, create a habit of drinking water before you feel the thirst.
This is especially important if you are working out. If you feel thirsty during your workout, it is because you were already dehydrated before you even started! So, not only does drinking more water benefit your overall health, it will also make you more fit.
Drinking more water also helps the planet. At least, when compared to drinking soda. Sweet drinks, apart from being bad for you, contribute to the plastic waste and C02 emissions. Compared to this, drinking tap water has a far less impact on the environment. Check out our Brands We Love page for our water bottle and water filter recommendations.
Top tip: Try to always have a glass of water sitting at your desk during the day so you will be more likely to reach for it.
2. Sneak in more veggies
Continuing with the basics: food! Your body needs vegetables! They are the source of the nutrients you need for normal functioning. Think of vitamins, calcium, proteins, fiber…You can get all of that from the veggies. When you center your diet around them, you will notice lots of improvements in your health, but also fitness. In fact, some of the top athletes swear on the power of vegetables!
If you’re not used to eating a lot of fresh food however, don’t pressure yourself to make a total switch overnight. The key is to steadily bring more vegetables into your day and reduce other food, like anything processed or “shelf-worthy”. It might take some time to make it a habit, but it is definitely worth it.
If you eat meat, consider decreasing the amount you consume. The meat industry is one of the most polluting industries today. Livestock alone produces up to 50% of man-made greenhouse gasses. Thus, one of the most sustainable things you can do is to replace at least most of your meat with vegetables.
Top tip: Challenge yourself to find a way to incorporate one extra portion of vegetables every day. Be it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack- your choice. Just one extra portion a day can lead to a lasting habit!
3. Get your healthy fats in
Not all fat is equal! While saturated fat is not good for your body, healthy fat is essential. Healthy fats give you energy, protect your organs, and make your heart work better. It is important to reach for natural and clear sources of fat. It may seem complicated, but it is really an easy way to make your food more nutritious.
See how you can put in more almonds, walnuts, chia, and flax seeds, but also foods like avocado and olives to your plates. Usually, this type of food makes everything taste better! For example, a simple drizzle of olive oil and lemon can transform a boring salad. And some chopped pistachio will take a roasted pumpkin to the next level. Trust us, we tested it!
Similar to the habit above, getting your fats from plant-based resources (rather than the meat) is far better for the planet too. Once again, you can reduce your eco-footprint and be healthier by changing your diet!
Top tip: Nuts and seeds can be quite pricey. We suggest buying them in bulk at your local grocery store, which will help you avoid unnecessary packaging and will come cheaper. If you can’t make it to the store right now (thanks Covid), we recommend checking out Thrive Market.
4. Find a fitness buddy
Changing habits is an individual thing. Yet, it is not always easy and sometimes you may feel like you are on your own. You don’t have to be! Find somebody in your life who has the same fitness goals and do it together with them. Be it your friend, family member, partner, roommate- having someone who will share your journey with you and keep you accountable is powerful. You are more likely to stick to your goals if somebody is watching you!
On the other side, you might inspire somebody to make some better choices that they otherwise wouldn’t even think of! Spreading positivity and working on your health can lead to spreading environmental awareness. So really, it is not only you who can benefit from this!
Top tip: If you cannot find someone in your personal life (but even if you can), look for an online community like Fitbit or MyFitnessPal. Many people are sharing their healthy and sustainable tips, inspiration, and struggles. Learn from them and keep yourself motivated!
5. Get outside, alone
Yes, we know we just told you to get a fitness buddy, but stay with us! We all need some time alone. And there is no better way to process your thoughts, calm your mind, and stretch your body than a walk outside. You don’t have to take every walk outside alone. Sometimes, it can be a good way to hang out too. Yet, having regular walks on your own will carve some extra time for yourself and your thoughts. Walking outside can improve your mental health and promote mindfulness. But this can only happen if you can focus on yourself. So why not combine the alone time and exercise?
Top tip: If you can, take a 20-minute break in your day. Get out of your office or home and go for a short walk. Even if it’s only around the block, as long as you get outside and move your body, it will make you feel better.
6. Sleep better
Back to the basics with this one. Sleep is a vital part of good health and overall wellbeing. Lack of sleep can cause everything from stress to skin issues and accidents. This is why you always hear people telling you to get more sleep, which we know it’s not always possible.
While 7 to 8 hours of sleep for adults would be ideal, life tends to get in the way. So, instead of trying to figure out how to sleep more, perhaps start by sleeping better.
In fact, some experts argue that the quality of sleep is more important than quantity. If you are leading a busy lifestyle (like most of us do), focusing on getting the most out of your sleep might be an easier habit to implement, instead of going to bed super early.
Top tip: Remove all the technology from your bedroom. The TV, laptops, phones…All out! Having them outside will make the bedroom a far more quiet and darker space, and will make you less prone to staring at the screen before trying to sleep!
7. Ditch fitness trends
We mentioned the fitness trends at the beginning of the article. They include the products that often pop up (remember all those detox and skinny teas?), which tend to be wasteful. But the fitness trends also include the types of exercise that become popular quickly. Lifting weights, HIIT, Pilates, Yoga, Barre, Spin… These workouts started looking like trends too. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t experiment!
We want to encourage you to test the waters and try out different things to find out what’s right for you. The point is that you shouldn’t jump on every fitness trend just because it is trendy. Especially if it includes buying special equipment or clothes which defeats the minimalist approach.
Instead, focus on finding what works for you and your body. It doesn’t matter if it is dynamic, calming, outdoors, a group-activity, or if it includes weights. What matters is that you like the workout and you are willing to stick to it. Don’t feel like you have to love whatever is in right now. Remember, your fitness should also be sustainable for you!
Top tip: If you are interested in a new type of workout, try doing a version of it at home for free first. YouTube is a great resource of all kinds of exercises, and almost every workout imaginable exists there. Even if you cannot practice it on your own, try spending some time watching how it works, before deciding to go for it!
8. Find a daily self-care practice
By now, you probably understand that we think of health and fitness in terms of your physical and mental health. So, the final habit we recommend is to give more thought to your self-care. And we know, we know- finding more time for yourself is hard, if not impossible!
But self-care doesn’t have to mean a long, elaborated routine that takes the whole evening. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, but it’s just not always realistic. Instead, we suggest figuring out one thing that you can do daily. Yes, a single thing. Light up a candle. Stretch. Make a cup of tea. Meditate for 10 minutes. Write a gratitude journal. Whatever it is, just like with exercising, find something that works for you and make it a regular thing.
Top tip: Track this habit for a month. If you find yourself skipping it a lot, perhaps it’s not something for you. Again, just like with the fitness trends, there are many self-care trends out there. While they might be good, they may not really be for you. It will take you some time to find what works for you, and tracking might help in this!
Remember to start small! Don’t feel like you have to do all or nothing, or even be perfect with any one of these tips. Do what you can, and try implementing just one at a time! Which of these habits will you try first? Let us know!