By Katie Rosenbrock
America loves Soul Cycle, juice cleanses, CrossFit, and gluten-free foods -- just to name a few of the health and fitness trends that are popular parts of the country’s health and fitness culture at the moment.
But what if what’s popular in American culture isn't quite up your alley? After all, maintaining a healthy lifestyle that's sustainable requires that you actually enjoy the healthy habits you're practicing. What's the point in busting your butt off at the gym if you hate working out inside? And is it really the best idea to follow that new diet plan if the thought of eating kale just sounds utterly unappealing?
Probably not. And that's OK, because there are plenty of ways to stay to fit and healthy that extend way beyond what’s perceived as traditional or trendy. What works for one person could be completely wrong for you, which means we all have to go through a period of trial and error before we find the right balance of practices that work best for us. And by "work best," I mean that they're enjoyable to you -- you find exercise to be fun and your diet is made up of foods that don't repulse you.
This means you might have to think outside of the box. So, to help spark your creativity and encourage you to look beyond what’s traditional simply because it's most convenient, we’ve rounded up a list of advice from health professionals around the world. We asked them about their cultures and what sort of practices people from their countries use to stay healthy and fit.
"The other thing Asians regularly do is morning exercise," Anderson said. "Many companies have mandatory exercise in the morning. It is also common to see seniors doing Tai Qi (pronounced chi) or other low impact exercises in the parks around town. Being physically active is part of the culture."
Having lived in Japan and Thailand I can tell you that the first thing that comes to mind when I consider the differences between Americans and foreigners -- in this case Asians -- is food," says Lani Anderson, a holistic healthcare practitioner and licensed acupuncturist who specializes in corporate wellness. "In Japan and Thailand, processed food is not so common. However, beyond that, fermented foods are widely consumed and have great fitness benefits." She encourages health conscious consumers to consider including foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempi, natto and probiotic drinks such as yakult and kambucha in their diets.
Orsoni said that one lesson she learned from areas like Italy, Spain and Portugal is to always eat your meals at a table. "[Don't eat] while running errands, and most importantly, never while driving; this leads to mindless eating," she said. "That can lead to excess weight gain because the consumer loses touch with what they ingest."
I asked Orsoni if she would share the number one tip from her book Le Personal Coach – A French Trainer's Simple Secrets for Getting Fit & Slim without the Gym and she said that it's the invisible chair pose. "I do it for two minutes every day wherever I am in the world, be it in an elevator, in my bathroom or in the lobby of a hotel!"
Valerie Orsoni, a health and wellness expert and founder of LeBootCamp is originally from Corsica and says that the French have a totally different approach to fitness. "Going to the gym is absolutely not the norm in France where people prefer to integrate exercise in their life rather than compartmentalize it in a ‘box’ as I like to call the gym," she said. “In Corsica, because of the amazing California-like weather, outdoors is the word! We walk and hike in the woods and on the beach, and we do our strengthening moves while fishing, lifting things around and doing our grocery shopping on foot while holding our bags with our arms bent at a 90-degree angle." She also mentioned that people in France tend to eat smaller portions than what most Americans might consider to be normal. "It is always a shock when I return from France and order my first meal in the United States! We never start the meal by dipping bread in olive oil like it is more and more often served here, which can easily add 400 calories to a meal," she said.
Nicoya, Costa Rica is what Dan Buettner describes as a "blue zone" -- or one of the areas of the world where people live the longest. According to our contributor Katie Jackson, Nicoya is home to more centenarians than anywhere on earth and she shared a few health-minded tips from the area’s locals upon her return from a trip there last year. Rafael Angel Brenes, a local of the area attributed his long-time bill of good health to a diet consisting mostly of fresh vegetables, fish, and chicken. “He eats very little added salt and sugar and he always gets at least ten hours of sleep a night,” Jackson wrote. She also made a point of mentioning the Nicoya people’s simple way of life. "[They] don’t sweat the small stuff. Instead, they sweat by taking advantage of the tropical climate and being active outside year-round."
Kayla Itsines is an International Certified Personal Trainer and nutritionist from Australia. As founder of the Bikini Body Training Company she creates personalized workout programs that help women target their toughest problem areas. Her favorite exercise: squat jumps. She recommends adding them to your workout routine by performing two sets of 15 repetitions. She also mentioned that she loves exercising outside to add a relaxing element to her workouts. Her favorite spot for working up a sweat is by the water at Byron Bay.
Related: How to Do a Squat Correctly
For the complete list of the 11 Interesting Ways People Stay Fit Around the World, go to TheActiveTimes.com.
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