Magazine article New Internationalist

It's Your Lifestyle, Stupid [Six Brief Scenarios Highlighting Work, Exercise, Smoking, Parenting, Diet, Community]

Magazine article New Internationalist

It's Your Lifestyle, Stupid [Six Brief Scenarios Highlighting Work, Exercise, Smoking, Parenting, Diet, Community]

Article excerpt

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The cherished view of the holistic health movement is that each individual has a significant say in choosing a healthy lifestyle. Some public-health advocates agree; they stress individual behaviour and education as keys to good public health. But how much power do we actually have in influencing our own health?

Work

Carlos tries to stay healthy. He quit doing construction work after his second child was born. Carlos had repeatedly injured his back and the unregulated work sites in Santiago had taken a toll of his fellow workers too. Besides, he wanted to be around while his kids were growing up. He'd been promised a job 'managing' a new fast-food franchise right in the neighbourhood. But the new job was really stressful with long hours, low pay and constant demands from the company to meet service quotas. He was always tired and when it got really busy he felt an odd tightening in his chest.

Exercise

Maria used to run in order to stay fit. But the air in the city just kept getting worse. The car exhaust combined with the smoke of dozens of factories and workshops and when she breathed deeply it didn't feel good anymore. Already they were saying that the petro-smog that hung over Barcelona, particularly on hot days, was responsible for hundreds of extra hospital admissions - the old and the very young were especially vulnerable. Maria was not that bad but she noticed an increasing shortness of breath and chronic nasal congestion after her morning jogs.

Smoking

Alexis had struggled hard to quit smoking. It wasn't easy because he had started when he was just 14. All the other kids did it and the ads made smoking look so cool and glamorous - particularly those hard-to-get American brands. He'd relapsed several times. It was hard to resist when out drinking with his friends. Everywhere he went, even in subways, cafes or doctors' offices, the people of Minsk were lighting up. And when, in his late 40s, he finally stopped he became an anti-smoking evangelist and his friends just rolled their eyes. He knew his kids had started. He could smell it on their clothes though they kept it hidden from him. …

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