Exhausted – The effect of air pollution on running

It might be just me, but it seems that air pollution has risen on the agenda of Things To Worry About in the last few months. Plastic pollution was one of the key phrases within eco-conscious circles in 2019, with laws coming into place this year in a bid to control the problem. The term pollution, however, refers not only to plastic, but also the introduction of any contaminant into the environment which may cause harm. This can take the form of noise, light, chemicals or even heat – most of which we cannot see.

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Pollution is an issue in cities (and even many rural areas) around the world

Air pollution has a devastating impact on those living in the cities. While the pollution usually cannot be seen, the impacts are felt by all, with it shortening lives and contributing to a number of health problems. In the UK, pollution is a bigger killer than smoking, and costs the UK economy over £20bn per year. The biggest culprits are Nitrogen dioxide, emitted mainly by diesel vehicles, and PM2.5, fine particulate matter linked to adverse health effects. In the EU the toxic air is causing more than 1000 premature deaths each day from PM2.5– a figure which is 10 times higher than the number of deaths from traffic accidents.

Because of this invisible nature, it has been easy for people (and thus governments) to ignore the issue, focussing instead on highly visible, highly publicised issues and ‘buzzwords’, such as banning straws (good, but of limited benefit to the plastic pollution problem). However, in October 2019, it was announced that the UK would introduce an Environment Bill to “help ensure that we maintain and improve our environmental protections as we leave the EU”, including focussing on air quality and PM2.5 in particular.

For runners and cyclists, an immediate concern, however, is how we can actively work to improve our health (and continue doing what we love) without inadvertently harming ourselves.

Unfortunately, running in heavily polluted air has been linked to inflamed lungs, increased risk of asthma (I experienced this firsthand at the age of 18, when I moved to Paris), and instances of heart attack, stroke, cancer and death. Needless to say, these risk factors are enough to put people off, and encourage them to run on a treadmill (boring), or worse still, avoid exercising outdoors entirely. But is this entirely justified?

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Live pollution meter of London (18/02/2020 10am)

Even the scientists admit the problem is complex. Andrew Grieve, Senior Air Quality Analyst at King’s College London, says “when you’re running, you’re breathing a lot more than you are just walking along the street and your inhalation rate is massive so you’re bringing in more pollution.” In fact, someone running a marathon will inhale the same amount of oxygen as a normal person would sitting down over two days. Most people also tend to breathe through their mouths, bypassing the nasal filters, which can work to reduce pollution intake. The carbon monoxide alone can inhibit the body’s ability to transport oxygen around the body, thus making running that little bit harder too.

On the plus side, running is really good for you. Although I couldn’t find any studies looking directly at the effect of running in polluted areas (other than this, for elite athletes over marathon distance), a study on people walking in polluted areas up to 16h a day or cycling up to 3.5h per day suggested that the benefits of activity outweighed any harm from pollution in all but the most extreme of cases.

Conclusions

The benefits from active travel generally outweigh health risks from air pollution and therefore should be further encouraged. When weighing long-term health benefits from PA (physical activity) against possible risks from increased exposure to air pollution, our calculations show that promoting cycling and walking is justified in the vast majority of settings, and only in a small number of cities with the highest PM2.5concentration in the world cycling could lead to increase in risk. (Tainio, Marko, et al. “Can air pollution negate the health benefits of cycling and walking?.” Preventive medicine 87 (2016): 233-236.)

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Photo by James Purvis

However, there are things we could be doing to both decrease our risk of being negatively affected by air pollution, and also improve the air quality where we live.

  1. Choose lesser polluted routes when walking, running or cycling around cities. Choosing to walk or cycle on a quiet road instead of a busy one can sharply reduce the amount of pollution you take in. Even using a parallel road one block over from a traffic-clogged one can reduce your exposure by 50%. If you’re looking to run or cycle around London, consider downloading Clean Air Run Club on your phone to score routes by air quality.
  2. Run in the morning. Pollution increases throughout the day, especially in summer.
  3. Aim to find green spaces, or roads lined with trees – these are havens from pollution, and even a small amount of greenery between you and the traffic can dramatically reduce pollution levels!
  4. Take note of particularly bad air days using a live air quality monitor. These will often be on hot and humid days. If you can, avoid running/cycling outside on these days, perhaps getting in some cross training indoors, or a run on the treadmill.
  5. Take public transport. Although particulate pollution in tube lines is up to 30 times higher than roadside, Prof Frank Kelly, chair of Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants (COMEAP), said people should continue to use the tube given the relatively short time spent underground and lack of evidence of harmful effects. Using public transport also reduces fumes expelled by cars, cleaning the air above ground that we breathe for the rest of the day.
  6. Eliminate wood burners and fireplace usage. Wood fires are sold as ‘eco’ or ‘clean’ alternatives to electric heaters or gas fires, but are far from it, and are a big contributor to wintertime pollution across Britain. Reducing wood burning reduces deaths and pollution-related ill-health.
  7. Switch to clean energy sources and aim to conserve energy at home and work. By switching to a renewable energy that is generated by natural sources such as solar, water and wind, you can help to fight harmful levels of air pollution.
  8. Lobby governments. For real change to be seen, governments need to prioritise pollution and other environmental issues (which go hand in hand), and now is the time to pressure them.
  9. Stop driving (especially around urban areas) unless absolutely necessary. Although you may believe driving a car protects you from the worst of the fumes, pollution levels inside cars are usually significantly higher than directly outside the car on the street, due to exhaust fumes being circulated around the enclosed space.

The good news is that we know the impact of pollution and we know what we can do to reduce it. We also know that even small improvements have substantial and immediate benefits for us all. What is needed now is for global governments to step up and reassess funding priorities. Pollution is the biggest environmental health risk in Europe, and it’s time something was done about it.

 

This article was adapted from a piece I wrote for EcoAge. For more of a deep dive into the issue of pollution, head on over. 

Come and find me on YouTube and Instagram for more running content!

Seven Worlds, One Planet – what can we do to help?

The latest episode of BBC’s Seven Worlds, One Planet left viewers devastated and reeling, after the true impact of poaching was seen so starkly on screen. Mountains of confiscated tusks were piled up, representing just half of the elephants killed in Africa in just one year.

“Elephants have used their great intelligence to help them survive Africa’s driest times for millennia, but today they face an even greater threat,” said David Attenborough, before appearing next to the two last remaining Northern White rhinos in the world, destined for extinction.

This series has been one of the first BBC-Attenborough collaborations to lay out, from the very beginning, the plight of the many incredible animals shown, thanks to climate change. They even showed the filming process, where the effects of anthropogenic climate change are evident to each and every film maker. Viewers’ hearts were in their mouths when the team were able to finally capture some footage of elephants in a clearing, before being shot at by nearby poachers. The result of the shooting was an elephant’s death, showing all too clearly how stricter regulations and more anti-poaching patrols are needed to make an impact on the incessant desire for elephant tusk, rhino horn and numerous other animal body parts, especially in the East.

So what can we do from here? Other than never buying products originating from the wildlife trade (furs, many traditional medicines, ivory jewellery etc) there are many charities doing great things to make an impact, and with a little more funding from each of us, real change could be made.

 

The best conservation charities around the world

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

I applied to volunteer at DSWT in my final year of school, for my year off before university after seeing them in a programme about elephant conservation. Unlike many ‘rescue’ centres, DSWT is guided by real biologists and works with locals to find what is really needed on the ground. Despite the fact they never responded (I don’t think they work with gap year students, probably for good reason), I’ve been a massive fan since.

The DSWT doesn’t only work to protect elephants. Understanding that species don’t exist in isolation is key to conservation efforts, and DSTW work to safeguard habitats known to house many animals, not just umbrella species like elephants and rhinos.
Donate now. 

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International Rhino Foundation

The International Rhino foundation has been working to protect rhinos for around 25 years to ensure the survival of this impressive yet heavily persecuted animal. They work across Africa and Asia where the primary conservation efforts are needed. The charity works with local anti-poaching efforts, who personally protect each remaining population of rhinos. Here the problem is multi-fold – not only are the rhinos being hunted, they are also unable to regrow their population due to increasingly fragmented habitats and tiny population sizes. Just a few weeks ago, the last remaining Sumatran rhino in Malaysia died out. These conservation efforts are sorely needed.
Donate now.

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Recognise this lonely Sumatran rhino from episode 2? Its species has since become extinct in its native Malaysia.

WWF

The World Wildlife Fund is one of the oldest and most popular conservation charities out there. They work across the world and across species, aiming to maintain species diversity (more important than any one species) and habitats, from preserving the health of waterways to protecting forests globally. Their impact is extensive and thorough – a good choice if you want to make a difference wherever scientists decide it is needed most.
Donate now.

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WWF works with political parties globally to tackle wildlife loss

Marine Conservation Institute

While the plains of Africa and rainforests of South America do require significant help when it comes to conservation, marine wildlife is also severely threatened by climate change. Previously thought of as untouchably vast, people are now realising that our oceans are not only incredibly vulnerable, but also key to ecosystems on land and the survival of life on Earth. The Marine Conservation Institute uses science to catalyse international conservation efforts, and aim to have protected at least 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030 (currently the level is under 5%).
In December, Patagonia is matching every donation made to the MCI, so now is the time to donate!

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Currently, only 5% of the world’s oceans are protected. MCI suggests over 30% is required to have significant positive impacts on biodiversity.

Jane Goodall Foundation

Jane Goodall is a conservationist and biologist who ventured into Africa in the 1960s to learn more about great apes. In 1900 there were more than 1 million chimps living in the wild. Nowadays there are fewer than 340,000, and that number is rapidly declining. Using the vast amount of data collected by the Jane Goodall institute, the charity is able to inform conservation efforts and restore important habitats for our close cousins. I am a fan of the JGF because it is evidence-based, and uses chimpanzees – our closest living relatives – to protect areas that may otherwise be exploited, thus protecting countless other species at the same time.
Donate now.

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A graph taken from Jane Goodall Foundation, showing how conservation efforts have helped increase Chimp habitat.

RSPB

Conservation is not only required for large, fluffy animals half way across the world. Here in the UK, many birds, both endemic and migratory, require all the help they can get to survive and thrive. With the loss of almost all forest cover in the UK, as well as an increase in extreme weather events, the RSPB works to conserve rare species and lead on policy change. Donating to this charity closer to home could have noticeable impacts in your own back garden or local park.
Donate now. 

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Nature documentaries have the power to be a huge force for good. Past documentaries have been criticised for glossing over the human impacts on nature, and showing solely the most beautiful, untouched parts of each ecosystem. However, watching documentaries such as these can increase willingness of viewers to make lifestyle changes for the better and increase public awareness of the issues, even encouraging policy change and charitable donations.

People in the UK can watch Seven Worlds, One Planet here.

If you’d like to make more of an impact, why not consider learning more about fishing, ethical banking and green energy?

A trip to Fes – Riad Fes & Hotel Sahrai

Recently I was lucky enough to be taken on a press trip to Fes, Morocco’s second largest city, to review two sister hotels in the area. Having been to Marrakech twice, I was excited to visit somewhere new in Morocco and with its rich and interesting history, Fes seemed like the perfect choice!

Some background: Fes was founded in the 8th Century and for a while was one of the largest cities in the world. Now, with a population of 1.2 million, Fes is known for its medina, probably the largest pedestrianised site in the world, and its university, the University of Al Quaraouiyine which was founded in 859 and the oldest continuously functioning university in the world.

This trip was gifted but as always all views are my own! We flew directly from Gatwick with Air Arabia. All images by the incredibly talented Tamsin Hurrell. Follow her on Instagram!

 

 

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Riad Fes

We arrived late in the evening to Fes airport, and after a short drive arrived at our first hotel, Riad Fes. Despite being late, after a short walk down a dark alleyway, we found ourselves in the most spectacular courtyard. We later discovered that the Riad had previously been someone’s home, and the original architecture had been painstakingly removed, cleaned and replaced, each tile by hand!

Our room was beautiful and overlooked the pool (a rare feature for hotels within or surrounding the medina). When the hotel had been bought, the surrounding houses were purchased too, making the hotel significantly larger (and maze-like!) than a traditional riad. If you ever visit Riad Fes you will be blown away by the architecture – I know I was!

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Breakfast buffet

After a good night’s sleep and a hearty buffet breakfast, we headed into the medina for a 3h tour of the sights. The first thing I noticed was the number of chickens for sale on every corner – meat eating in Morocco is very much a matter of pointing at the one you want to eat and then taking it home with you. Being vegan this was quite tough to watch, but I also noted that the chickens all seemed in much better shape than any commercially raised chicken I’ve seen in the UK. The reality of eating meat may be tough to witness for some, but the same thing happens here in the UK, only under much more intensive (and often cruel) production methods, out of sight.

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Walking round the medina was incredible – having visited Marrakech’s medina multiple times, I was blown away by the size of Fes. One of our first rules was ‘if you get lost, stay where you are. If you move, you will only get more lost’. Needless to say, I stuck to the group closely! Within the medina are thousands of stalls, run by locals selling all sorts of products, much the same as Marrakech. However, each city has its speciality – a key product to trade between cities (and now around the world). In Fes, it is the tanneries, producing leather that is now exported across the world.

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The tanneries operate in much the same way as they did when they were first built in the early centuries. Stone wells contain liquids designed to strip hides of fur and flesh, before being softened in ammonia (which I am told is bird poo!) and dyed. They’re visually appealing for sure, although perhaps not for everyone.

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You are offered mint to smell as you head up to the tanneries

Hotel Sahrai

Following our tour of the medina, including the oldest continually running university in the world, we headed back to the Riad to be transported to our second hotel, Hotel Sahrai. Both hotels are owned by the same group, but they couldn’t have been more different! Where Riad Fes is traditional and cosy, Hotel Sahrai is expansive and modern. Situated on a hillside outside the medina, the views are also amazing, looking out onto the huge city of Fes.

 

 

We were lucky enough to be able to try their Namaste yoga package, providing yoga sessions morning and evening for hotel guests – the best way to wake up and warm up into the day! I’m not an avid yoga fan but when it’s on the roof terrace of a gorgeous hotel in the early Moroccan sun I can make exceptions!

Here are some pics from around the gorgeous hotel – you can see why I loved it so much 🙂

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The pool overlooks the medina

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Enjoying the second, smaller pool with Tamsin

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Have you ever visited Fes? Comment below or head over to my Instagram!

Ten vegan influencers to follow this Veganuary

With veganuary firmly underway, it’s good to have a little inspiration on your Instagram feed. There are plenty of huge food-based accounts dedicated to sharing vegan recipes, but my favourite accounts are always those with a face behind them. So without further ado here are some of my favourite plant-based instagrammers to follow.

 

Clare – @Thelittlelondonvegan

I started following Clare a long time ago for her beautifully colourful feed and excellent restaurant recommendations. If you’re not London based the photos are still beautiful, but if you are London based, her account will provide you with lots of information on the best vegan options around London. Expect plenty of colour, lots of smiles and terrible puns in the captions. Love.

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Jane – @plantbasedjane

Another great instagram account with a million delicious vegan recipes, as well as plenty of advice for those looking to eat more plant-based. I love her long(ish) captions and friendly feed. This is a frequent go-to for cooking inspiration. Jane is also nut free, so if you’re the same, follow her immediately!

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Immy – @sustainably_vegan

I featured Immy in my ‘eco influencers to follow’ post, for her work with sustainable brands and because she founded the Low Impact Movement (which has plenty of delicious recipes!). However, she fits firmly into the category of excellent plant-based blogger too, and for that she is making a second appearance. Unlike the previous two bloggers, her personal page is not food-based (although does include plenty) but includes lots of advice on how to live a low-impact lifestyle, including being plant-based! Follow both her accounts.

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Brett – @Brettcobley

Brett (or Epivegan as I used to know him!) is a vegan chef, cookbook author and podcast host, sharing his activism and recipes. Brett is onmipresent across almost any social media platform you could think of, so there’s no excuse not to give him a follow!

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Niki – @rebelrecipes

Niki has recently released a beautiful plant-based cookbook, but also continues to share recipes on her beautifully curated Instagram feed and blog. One of my favourite things about her account is the photography, but even if that isn’t your thing, there’s plenty of value on each of her platforms. Use her Instagram to whet your appetite, then visit her blog to make the recipes yourself!

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Laura – @thefirstmess

Laura is pretty well known, with over 265k followers taking inspiration from her beautiful looking creations. She has already released a cook book, which is testament to her prowess in the kitchen, but if you don’t want to fork out (no pun intended), she also provides a myriad of recipes, for free, on her blog. So no excuses for hummus and toast everyday (I’m talking as much to myself as anyone else)! Follow for recipes, life inspo and thoughtful microblogging.

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Sophia – @sophiaesperanza

Sophia isn’t exactly a well kept secret in the vegan community, but if you’ve never heard of her, get on it now! Whilst most of her images are modelling photos (not that we’re complaining), she also shares some educational posts and stories re the meat/dairy industry. Follow for beautiful photos, animal videos and saving farm animals.

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James – @jamesaspey

Youtuber and Instagrammer James is no stranger to the limelight, having done speeches to over 30m people on veganism. He has also gone undercover at many farms and slaughterhouses to show exactly what goes on in these places. A lot of it is hard-hitting stuff, between which he often shares recipes (mainly on his YouTube, I believe). Not for the faint hearted, but I do think that anyone who is interested in continuing to eat meat/wear fur etc should at least know where their food is coming from, and James certainly makes that very obvious.

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Serena – @vegansofldn

Serena Lee runs an Instagram account called Vegans of LDN which is on of my go-to places to find recommendations of some of the best places for a good plant-based meal in London. Whether you’re vegan or not, the food Serena posts is both delicious-looking and useful to know, especially if you’re London-based!

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Flora – @foodfitnessflora

Is it cheating if I put my own name in here? I asked a friend who their favourite plant-based instagrammer was, and my name was the only one that I’ve not already got on this list, so here I am! My goal is to show that eating a vegan diet doesn’t need to be restrictive, boring or tasteless, and I try to use my blog to share delicious (and easy, and cheap) recipes with you all. Follow on Insta and YouTube for plenty of fitness (yes it is possible to be super fit and eat a vegan diet), recipes and sustainable living inspo.

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I hope you found this list helpful! There are so many amazing vegan bloggers/youtubers/instagrammers out there, this is just a little list of a few of them! I would love to hear some of your favourites, as well as how your Veganuary is going, and whether you plan to keep it up! Lots of love 🙂

Vegan Gingerbread

This recipe is perfect for Christmas (and honestly any time of year yes please), and is just so easy to make! This makes so many biscuits and they’re perfect for storing and having as a mid-morning snack. Let me know if you make these – I’d love to see your creations!

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Ingredients:

  • 1tbsp chia seeds
  • 300g plain flour
  • 100g coconut flour
  • 1/2tsp baking powder
  • 150g muscovado sugar
  • 2tbsp ginger
  • 1/2tbsp cinnamon
  • Sprinkle of ground cloves
  • 100g coconut oil
  • 100g dairy free margarine
  • 50ml dairy free milk

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Method:

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees
  • Mix the chia seeds with 3tbsp water and leave to thicken
  • Mix together the flour, coconut flour, baking powder, sugar and spices in a mixing bowl
  • Heat the margarine and coconut oil and mix together. Mix in the chia seed mix with a fork until incorporated
  • Pour oils into the dry mixture and mix.
  • Add the milk slowly and mix in until the mix is holding together
  • Leave to thicken before rolling out on top of clingfilm (it will be easier to do in 2 batches)
  • Cut out whatever shapes you like and place on a tray with baking parchment (or foil)
  • Place in the oven and cook until browning at the edges, 10-15 minutes (depending how soft you like them)
  • Let cool and ice (or not) as desired!

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Top 8 eco-influencers

This post was originally written for Freda, a brand I’ve been working with for the past month or so. Freda is a sustainable menstrual product subscription service that allows you to choose exactly what you want/need and get it delivered through your letterbox for exactly when you need it. The eco-credentials are amazing, and the brand also works with UK-based period poverty initiatives to provide menstrual products to those who can’t afford them, from school girls, to refugees, to homeless people. An amazing brand with amazing values. Give them a follow!

I’ve always preached supporting the people who you want to see grow. Whether that means sharing their pages, spreading their message or buying their products and services – it all helps! So I thought I’d share some of my favourite eco influencers, big and small. These are the people making waves. Share share share!

Venetia Falconer – @venetiafalconer

Producer and presenter Venetia Falconer is queen of sustainability and eco-friendly living, from food to fashion. Her captions are educational , funny and relatable, which is something we should all be looking for a little more on Instagram. Follow for sustainable outfit ideas, vegan food and a little thought-provoking education. Want more? Subscribe to her podcast, Talking Tastebuds.

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Natalie Glaze – @natalieglaze

Natalie is a model and founder of the eco brand Stay Wild Swim. She always promotes reusing clothes for as long as possible, as well as buying from charity shops. What I love about Natalie is that she’s balanced – for the vast majority of us, a zero waste lifestyle where we live off only what we already have is not possible, but Natalie shows us how to live that little bit more sustainably in everything we do. Follow for beautiful fashion, lots of plants and travel.

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Kate Arnell – @kate_arnell

Zero waste eco blogger and YouTuber Kate posts about all things eco, especially in the fashion industry. She promotes repairing clothes and purchasing on the basis of ‘cost per wear’ – expensive clothes are worth buying if you’re going to love and wear them for decades to come! She provides links and recommendations of plastic-free alternatives to some things you wouldn’t even thing are very damaging to our planet, including chewing gum and plastic toothbrushes. Well worth a follow.

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Clare Press – @mrspress

Clare Press is the sustainability editor of Vogue Australia but based in the UK, where she hosts her podcast, Wardrobe Crisis. She is passionate about conscious living, and being aware of what goes on behind fast fashion. She has also published multiple books on the topic of fast fashion, ethical clothing and issues within the supply chain. Well worth a follow as someone who really knows her stuff both in terms of sustainability and ethics in the fashion world.

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Immy Lucas – @sustainably_vegan

Immy first started her account to talk about living a zero waste lifestyle and veganism. Since then, she’s founded Low Impact Movement, an educational platform that uses social media to help reduce person waste and raise awareness of the issues surrounding our intrinsically wasteful lifestyles. Both pages are worth a follow, and if you like it, you can find her blog and YouTube too.

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Jo Becker – @treesnpeace

“You have two homes, the earth and your body. Take care of them”. You can find this quote in Jo’s Instagram bio, and it summarises nicely what she stands for. Jo actively campaigns for living more sustainably, including calling for a reduction in unnecessary plastic packaging in supermarkets. Did you know that UK supermarkets generate 59 BILLION pieces of plastic annually? This is just one of the many pieces of information you can learn on Jo’s page. Support her work by supporting her pages.

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Zanna Van Dijk – @zannavandijk

Zanna has recently co-founded the Stay Wild Swimwear range with fellow top eco-influencer, Natalie Glaze. Zanna is vegan and regularly donates part of the profits from other collaborations to charities invested in helping the environment. It’s great to see people with larger followings maintaining an eco-friendly lifestyle. Follow for workout ideas, recipes and information about how we can all help save our oceans.

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Gemita Samarra – @gemitasamarra

Gemita is one of those girls that just does it all. Stunt performer, documentary film maker and founder of the My Name Is Human project, she appears to be superhuman. Gemita works tirelessly to help refugees and homeless people, and acts as a voice for both, in between campaigning for everybody to live more consciously. There are some hard hitting truths on Gemita’s page, but unfortunately that’s the reality of caring about the plight of the environment and people less fortunate than ourselves. Follow and learn.

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Alcohol and fitness

Alcohol and fitness. How do these words fit together in your mind? Are they compatible? Or does one exclude the other? It’s interesting how often people ask me if I drink – I would have thought that the amount I talk about gin would have answered that question years ago. 😉 I thought I’d make a post about it, since a huge number of my followers are of university/early work age but also interested in health and fitness. Since health can be a total minefield I thought I’d clear a few things up.

Alcohol has calories

Because alcohol is essentially a carbohydrate, it can contain a lot of calories – plenty more than you might expect for a drink. It also interrupts how our bodies deal with other foods, slowing down the absorption of nutrients and reducing the amount of fat our bodies burn for energy. A pint of beer contains around 200 calories, while a glass of wine (175ml) contains around 125 calories. However, if you take these into account when thinking about your daily diet, it is very possible to work around this fact! I enjoy drinking a couple of times a week and do not find that it affects my weight whether I have them or not. I just factor in the calories of alcohol (very roughly) and have fewer snacks that week. Simple!

Alcohol can lead to bad decision making

Drinking can lead to cravings for sugar and carbohydrates. Most of us have felt that post-night-out craving for chips/burger/kebab, and this can have serious consequences on our healthy intentions. When I was at university I used to keep a bowl of porridge or sweet potato fries at home to eat after a big night out. After drinking and dancing for a long period of time, your body craves nutrition, so it is best to feed it something with a little more nutritional value than Bobby’s kebab shop can offer. Pre-plan before a night out to make sure you’re prepared. Another favourite late night snack is toast with olive oil or a large bowl of granola. Find what works for you and stick to it – your body and bank will thank you!

The aftermath

Obviously excessive alcohol can leave us a little worse for wear the morning (and let’s be honest, the entire day/2 days) afterwards. When we are hungover, it is mainly because our bodies are severely dehydrated which actually makes your brain shrink, pulling away from the sides of your brain case. This is because alcohol is a diuretic, making you wee more than you would usually in order to flush out more toxins from your body (yes, alcohol is a poison). Pretty much anyone who drinks has had a hangover, but there are ways to reduce your likelihood of getting one!

  1. Drink a glass of water for every glass of alcohol you consume.
  2. Opt for lighter alcohols – the darker the alcohol (red wine, rum, bourbon), the more congeners they have, exacerbating headaches the next day.
  3. Take electrolyte salts and/or an aspirin (with lots of water) before you sleep. I drink minimum 500ml right before bed if I’ve been drinking.
  4. Avoid caffeine on your night our and in the morning. You may feel like you need it but your body won’t thank you. Caffeine is also a diuretic and will make you even more dehydrated! Just give yourself water and time to recover.
  5. Take ibuprofen and eat anti-inflammatory foods in the morning. Alcohol triggers inflammation in the body which can make hangovers feel worst, so getting swelling down is key.

When hungover we can be tempted to eat alllll the foods in my opinion it’s OK to have that greasy fry up you are craving if you’re hungover, especially if you’ve factored it in to your weekly diet. However, after a night out our bodies are craving health, so opting for something more nutritious might actually make you feel better (and has less of an impact on your fitness goals).

My favourite drinks:

I am a sucker for a gin and tonic! Slimline or full fat, depending on how many I’m having. Gin will always be my go to spirit, but some people cannot handle it at all. Find what works for you and don’t overindulge (or it might not work so well next time).

For a dinner party I like white wine. Red wine is said to have some health benefits but the sulphites don’t agree with me hugely, so it’s not my go to. However a glass here and here is absolutely fine for me. Of course I also love a good champagne, but the sugar and bubbles make me hyperactive and drunker faster, and also leave me with a worse hangover if I have to many.

If I’m planning on having more than a few drinks, I might opt for something fairly plain, like a vodka lime soda. Tastes delicious and fresh without having the added sugar and impurities of other drinks.

On special occasions (picnics in the park) I’ll drink Crabbies, an alcoholic ginger beer. It’s spectacularly bad for you but to be honest, life is for enjoying, and Crabbies makes me happy because it reminds me of summer.

Summary

I think it’s important to know how alcohol affects your body and your mind – both biologically and for you, personally. Everyone reacts differently, and some people decide that drinking is incompatible with their fitness goals. In my opinion, as with pretty much everything for me, I think it’s all about moderation. Live life, enjoy yourself and know your limits.

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7 Bad habits ruining your progress

Sitting all day

The majority of us have jobs that require us to sit still for long periods of time. This means that the amount we move throughout the day is minimal, and when combined with taking transport to and from work, this can really take its toll on your body! Studies show that even if you workout regularly, sitting down for extended periods of time can increase your risk of mortality, presumably from accumulating

Eating too fast

Calories are calories, right? Pretty much, yes, but you can eat a lot more calories if you don’t pay attention to what you’re eating. It takes the body around 20 minutes to process the food you’ve just eaten, so eating quickly can allow you to eat way more food before your body even notices you’re eating. Slow down and give your body time to catch up!

Snacking throughout the day

Similar to above, snacking throughout the day can cause you to lose track of the amount of calories you’re consuming. I don’t count calories, but by grazing through the day I end up eating so much more than when I stick to eating only at meal times. I don’t deprive myself of snacks, but if you’re hungry, try to set yourself snack times, rather than nibbling at little bits throughout the day.

Working out too much

This sounds strange but actually there is such thing as working out too much and it might be easier than you think. As you get fitter, you may be able to push yourself harder, but your body still requires time to recover, and the harder you push yourself, the longer that time is. Aiming to fit in intense workouts everyday is unachievable and frankly, dangerous, as it can lead to burnout and/or injuries. In addition, workout out intensely too frequently means that you’re unable to put 100% effort into each session, so you’re better off doing fewer sessions at a higher intensity. to get more progress. Struggle to take a day off? Mix up your workouts to alternate between high intensity and low intensity sessions.

Not getting enough sleep

OK so I swear I bang on about sleep as a cure-all, but IT BASICALLY IS. When your body is well rested it simply functions better, meaning fewer things go wrong. In terms of your progress, this means:

  1. You have more energy to put into workouts, and you’re less likely to miss workouts because you’re too tired.
  2. You don’t reach for snacks throughout the day because a) you don’t get such a bad energy slump and b) motivation is increased when you have more energy, so you’re more likely to stick to any plan you’ve set for yourself.

Eating diet foods

It can seem counterintuitive, but diet foods are anything but good for your diet. I had a pack of low-calorie ‘light’ crisps the other day, and I swear they were made from salted cardboard pulp. I’m sure their main method of helping diets is that no one could finish an entire packet because they were so disgusting. Other diet foods may feel a little bit satisfying but nowhere near as good as the real thing, so you end up eating more of them. OR you think ‘these are low calorie so I can eat more’ and eat more than you would of the original, but feel way worse afterwards. Just ditch the low calorie/fat/carb snacks. Find good food that you enjoy and eat everything in moderation.

Skipping meals

Thinking: If I eat one meal less, I’ll lose weight. Sure, if you don’t compensate, that may be true. However, we’re all human, and we our bodies are much cleverer than we give them credit for. People who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight than those who don’t, and skipping any other meal can lead to ‘grazing’ throughout the day, which is a healthy diet killer. Instead, try sticking to balanced, nutrient dense meals that won’t leave you hungry.

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How I keep healthy with a full time job

Although I only started working in ‘the real world’ in August, I have been asked time and time again how I’m keeping healthy. As with so many people I have a desk job, I work in a city and I have an almost unlimited supply of food throughout the day. So how do I stay healthy?

Keeping fit and healthy isn’t something that just ‘happens’ for me – it’s something I have consciously worked hard at for the past 8 years of my life, figuring out what works for me. Although I’m still perfecting it all, I’d love to share with you all what I find works for me, as someone who works 8h a day sitting down at a desk!

 

Edit: I have recently started working 25h a week after 8 months of working full time, which allows me a little more space to focus on my blog, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube. I think I probably work more than ever now, but the proportion that is spent sitting at a desk has decreased. However these rules still stand as I go to the office 4 days a week still! 

Walk

People looooove to see X workout or Y workout on Instagram, but I never see people talking about the power of the humble walk. I LOVE to walk. It’s my thing, and I’m getting very good at it (I’m known for being a speedy walker). Sure, walking isn’t as hardcore as a boxing session or as glamorous as a weights session, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t work wonders. If you think about it, your workout only makes up around 4% of your day. If the other 96% is spent sitting on your ass then that 4% isn’t really going to matter. My advice: get walking. Walk the journey to work if you can – I walk up to an hour to and from work. I also walk for at least 30 minutes in my lunch break. Maybe you don’t have the time to do that much, but make a conscious effort to head out for a walk when you have a minute. It’ll do wonders for your health (and, surprisingly, your endurance in other sports too!).

Tea breaks!

There is something I call tea/pee (like a tee-pee but not). It involves drinking lots of tea and peeing all the time. Doesn’t sound scientific enough for you? You’d be surprised. Drinking herbal tea has a myriad of health benefits, lots of which are to do with the fact that you’re consuming more liquid, which is easy to forget. During winter it’s incredibly warming and year round flavoured teas can be good to see you between mealtimes or snack breaks. The increased liquid in your system will obviously make you wee more often, and this, combined with filling up your tea all day, means more standing up and walking around, which has a bunch of other benefits (see above). If your colleagues make fun of you for having a weak bladder, laugh at them, because they should be sad they don’t know about tea-pee. Toilet/kitchen right next to your office? Head to one on another floor.

30 minute rule

I try not to sit down for more than 30 minutes continuously. It hurts my back, makes me lethargic and makes my Garmin angry (it continuously buzzes at me to ‘MOVE’). Every 30 minutes (if I haven’t moved since the last 30 minutes), I get up and walk somewhere. It doesn’t matter where, but 2 minutes of activity for every 30 minutes of sitting down should really be your minimum when it comes to your desk job. Tea-pee should help with this. Offer to get other people tea too. Either they’ll join (in which case yay you get company), or they’ll give you their mug, which means more trips to the kitchen (aka more steps).

Lunch

Lunch at my work is both amazing and frustrating. We get lunch supplied, which is incredible, and usually it’s pretty good and healthy – that’s the amazing bit. The frustrating bit is that it’s always between 12pm and 1:30pm, which means that even if I’m not hungry in those hours, I have to eat, lest I starve by the afternoon. For most people this isn’t an issue, as you’ll be bringing in your own lunch. Try not to fall into the trap of eating it by 11am and being sad by 12pm when you’re hungry again. I set myself a specific meal time (12:40pm) and don’t eat in the hour before, because I know I’ll regret it when I’m really full by the time we get to lunch. Eat your lunch slowly and for gods sake, NOT AT YOUR DESK. If you insist on eating at your desk, turn your computer off and enjoy your food without work/internet of any kind. Paying attention to what you are eating will increase enjoyment of it, make you feel more satisfied, and allow your brain to have a break, which it will probably need by lunch time.

Snack-attack

The dreaded snack cupboard/shelf/drawer/kitchen is a health killer. It’s continually restocked by well-meaning people and feeders, who probably want to feel better about their snacking habits. Snack-attack is like an avalanche and once snacking starts, it’s sooooo difficult to stop (experienced first hand). My desk is literally 2ft from the snack shelf, and my convenient wheely chair means I don’t even have to get up to get any. HOWEVER, I am aware of the relentless pull of snackaging, and have set some boundaries in place. I try (emphasis on try) to only snack at set times, twice a day max. Considering the amount I eat throughout the day, I am not in need of extra snacks, and know that when I do snack, it’s out of boredom. Be aware of your snacking habits, find your triggers and figure out what you want to do. For some people this is allowing literally NO SNACKS throughout the day. I don’t want to be sad, so I allow myself snacks, but limit them to certain times and distract myself with tea when I am tempted to get more (see tea-pee). In addition I’ve stocked the snack shelf with ‘healthy’ snacks (graze boxes and nakd bars), in the hope that people will see that it’s full and there is no space for their double chocolate cake and doughnuts. Just remember, snack-attack calories are still recognised as calories by your body, even if you don’t count them yourself.

Find time to workout

Let’s be honest, when you’re working 40h+ a week you’re tired quite a lot of the time. Maybe all the time. So struggling to the gym early in the morning or after a long day might not be top on your list of desires, but if you want to be LESS tired, ironically it should be. Working out improves circulation and alertness, which can help you work better too. It can also give you motivation in other areas of life when you start to see progress in the gym, and once you’re in a routine it becomes MUCH easier. I tend to workout after work, but if I can’t fit that in I’ll go before, at around 7:30am. My advice is to find a gym or class that you like, and do that at least 3 times a week. I train around 5-6h a week even when I don’t reeeeeally want to, and 9 times out of 10, I feel 1000x better after the workout. So try to fit in a workout before or after work, or even just 30 minutes hard during your lunch break. Give it a go, you’ve really got nothing to lose!

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Not what I meant by ‘a desk job’

Vegan french toast

If you grew up eating french toast on the weekends as a special treat, you’ll know what a treat it is. If you’re vegan there’s no reason to miss out – I prefer this version to the non-vegan version too. It’s also ideal if you have some bread that’s a little past its best as you won’t be able to tell at all with this! Perfect with mixed berries and maple syrup on top 🙂

 

Ingredients:

  • 1tbsp maple syrup
  • 240ml almond milk
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 5 slices bread (sourdough works well – not too soft)
  • Coconut oil
  • Toppings of choice (works well with anything you’d usually put on pancakes)

Method:

  • Mix all the ingredients except the bread in a mixing bowl
  • Heat a tsp coconut oil in a frying or griddle pan
  • Dip the bread slices in the mixture for a couple of seconds – you don’t want them totally drenched
  • Once the pan is hot (before the oil burns) place the slices of bread in and cook until browning on one side (around 3 minutes in a hot pan)
  • Using a spatula, flip the bread to cook the other side
  • Top with desired toppings and serve up!

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