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Why being healthy shouldn’t be a status symbol

OK, it’s time to clamber back onto my soapbox. Actually, can you just bear with me while I do three sets of tricep dips off it first? As is the drill in January, I’m using this relatively quiet time of year, undistracted by mulled wine and stilton, to ramp up my health and fitness. Eating a bit less, moving a bit more, trying to jiggle into my lycra leggings which I’m sure didn’t feel tighter than clingfilm this time last year.

My beef is this: the rise of ‘wellness’ as a commodity to be stuffed down our throats like a spirulina energy ball with a gojo berry chaser. Healthy living is no longer about that old chestnut of, you know, living healthily, it’s now about the gadgets, kudos and one-upmanship that surrounds the idea. Never mind owning a Hermes handbag, the pursuit of wellness has become a dead-cert signifier of wealth and style.

Case in point –  there’s a new pop-up (of course) fitness space (these kind of places are always ‘spaces’)  in Notting Hill (naturally) which promises to ‘bring in the outside world’. It’s basically a gym with loads of greenery dumped in it – vertical gardens, pot plants, turf where mats would be, plus workout bars made of branches. The idea is to make gym-goers more connected with nature, and aid mental wellness as well as physical health. The same fitness gains you’d get from, oh I dunno, going for a jog in the actual outside? An activity that is as free as it is straight-forward.

The biofit gym – bring your own secateurs

I’ve also heard of a new restaurant in London with a gym bolted on; the idea being you have a workout before sitting down to lunch or dinner. Why would anyone want to do this? Who wants to sweat it out on a treadmill before their hors d’oeuvre? It’s best suited to those who want to show off their calorie stats in a readymade Instagram boast.

And that’s the nub of what bothers me about health and fitness 2017 style: it’s the endless showing off and splashing of cash involved – the pursuit of ever-fancier weird and wonderful (OK, just weird) ways to get your endorphin kicks and tone your thighs. It’s the snazzy fitness trackers that tell all your Facebook friends every time you move your legs (did a workout even happen if it fails to record it? And what if no one ‘likes’ it?). It’s the rise of Amanda Chantal Bacon, the LA  ‘wellness boutique’ owner who sells £50 health ‘dusts’ to pimp your smoothie and makes Gwyneth Paltrow look positively sane. Go on, google her for a laugh.

It’s scarily competitive ‘clean eating’, and the ever more extreme personal fitness challenges – really just for fitness? It’s the £600 Fendi running leggings and sweatshirt set on Net-a-Porter (my top tip: H&M sportswear). Each to their own, of course, and if all the trappings and gizmos spur you on, then that’s great. But equally, there’s nothing wrong with going back to basics. That might be doing a £5 yoga class in your village hall or digging out your ancient home workout DVD. Or going running down country paths and whizzing through the fields in the winter sunshine, leaving your phone and gadgets behind and not telling a soul about it.

What do you reckon? Let me know in the comment box below. If you don’t agree, just let me know and I’ll clamber back off the soapbox and go and hide in it until the coast is clear.

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