London life hacks to be healthier
Updated: Jul 13, 2019
It can be so easy when living in London to live a life of convenience. While this can be extremely helpful when we have a million and one things to juggle in our lives, it doesn’t always do our physical and mental health a world of good. London offers convenient ways to reduce your energy expenditure, cue the pretty decent public transport system, while simultaneously offering you convenient ways to increase your energy intake, cue the zillion fast food options. The maths is never really going to add up in your favour. However, there are lots of life hacks to be healthier; you just need to tap into them. This isn't meant to be rocket science, just ideas on where you can make smarter decisions.
Commuting in London
Making the most of the tube Walking up escalators or taking the steps is an obvious way to increase your fitness rather than letting yourself be vertically transported. But, only a certain type of commuter is keen for this at 8am. Ever tried to walk up both escalators in Green Park tube station? Chances are you felt like you'd completed a year's worth of lunges in one go. However, if you build this into your daily routine, you’ll be amazed at how much easier it becomes as your fitness quickly improves. It also means that you can justify lunging less in the gym. This is a simple one but it just needs to become your norm, so that it isn’t even a decision if you should or shouldn’t take the fast lane. Also if you're like me and tend to spend your life running late, you'll be sure to gain a few minutes back into your schedule. And when it comes to riding the tube itself, try to be more mindful. Jo Hooper (founder of the Mad and Sad Club) has rounded up five of the best mental health podcasts out at the moment. Listen to one of these on your commute.
Going above ground Often jumping on a bus or tube is a much more pleasant option than having a battle with Google Maps and your location pin. However, if you can get to grips with what London looks like overground rather than underground, you'll enjoy more natural light in your life. The more you’re outside and closer to nature, the more opportunities you get to be mindful and relaxed. For many people I know, this makes such a small but positive impact in their daily lives. Part train it into work, part walk it, park run it. Become a living version of Citymapper. Get off the bus one stop early, detour through a park, it’s worth the extra minutes onto your journey (especially in the summer). It doesn't need to be one mode or another, it can be a combination. If you’re running, take some alternative routes home if you fancy it. It’s fun when you start to connect the dots and realise which roads lead to where. Walking more can also save on transport costs and every little helps in London. Cycling is another great option, read here about fun London cycling cafés if you’re looking for some inspiration.
Feeding yourself in London
I love food and I spend a lot of time eating out. Life is all about balance but if you aren’t eating home cooked meals all too often, while not depriving yourself in a restaurant, get clever. I often think salad, well that's boring. But it just depends which restaurant you order it in; do some Googling ahead of time. Don’t order a salad in a Chinese for example, now that would just be sad. I would also recommend eating ‘flexitarian’ more. Meat-free options are generally cheaper, generally healthier and (more often than not) generally tastier because it’s London and businesses aren’t short on competition. Just the other day I dubiously picked a vegan option in Wagamama’s titled the ‘avant gard’n’ and it was absolutely delicious. Firstly, who knew a vegan ‘egg’ was a thing (it’s made from coconut and siracha) and secondly, hello barbeque-glazed seitan. Onto pudding. I love gelato. Why? Well it's usually lower in fat than other desserts but you still get your sugar fix. There are also so many incredible gelato places in London. That post will definitely be coming soon.
Eating in Who doesn't love a takeaway? In fact, Indian is my favourite. But if you're partial to these three times a week when you’ve had a long day in the office, pick something like Vietnamese or another lighter Asian option. Sushi anyone? In London, there are a plethora of Asian options on Deliveroo (avoid Uber Eats people). If I'm heading past Itsu on my way home after drinks, I'll see if I can get there within an hour of store closing as everything fresh is marked at half price! Itsu these days is like spotting a Starbucks, McDonalds or Pret. Not very difficult. I’m also a fan of the food app ‘Too Good To Go’, a sustainable surplus food marketplace where you can pick up leftover food from local cafes and restaurants at a reduced price. Living in London, there are tons of businesses that have signed up, so you can be sure to find something you fancy.
Drinking (including coffee) Most people enjoy a drink but it’s a case of making the ‘better’ choice when possible. For example, if you’re in your local pub, why not stick to a spirit and mixer rather than a pint. It's a controversial one, but I love diet mixers (I may as well be a Pepsi Max brand ambassador). Or, pick a good old G&T. Fair enough if you’re in an amazing cocktail bar, Pina Colada’s are the next best thing to actually being on holiday. Ultimately, be mindful of your consumption as alcohol calories sadly do count. Onto coffee. I'm not going to suggest that you order an Americano. Lattes are, in fact, my go-to drink. Nonetheless, try semi-skimmed milk and I guarantee you'll barely notice a change in flavour. With the current hype on oat, coconut and almond milks, there are plenty of options for you to play around with. But more importantly than the milk (I’m pro-calcium consumption), if coffee is a daily occurrence rather than a treat, best to omit the syrups and extra-large cups with whipped cream if you’re looking for life hacks to be healthier.
I think when it comes down to it, most people find it easier to stick to new ways, habits and routines by feeling accountable. Commit to that park run with your friend or sign up to that gym class where you'll lose your money if you cancel within 24 hours. At the end of the day though, do what's right for you. If you can implement a few London life hacks into your daily routine that work for you, they’re sure to boost your physical and mental health. Life is all about balance.