You’ve likely been told that sticking to an effective diet and exercise routine are the keys to improving your physical health. While vastly important, quality food and fitness resources are often difficult to obtain by those in strenuous financial situations. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has left many of us in difficult fiscal states.
Between getting let go or furloughed from your job, being compelled to mass-purchase food and supplies, and trying to find a way to cover your rent and bills, not a lot of money remains for the common individual living in 2020 to spend on bettering themselves. Your body, however, still requires you to treat it with the utmost care, even if you seemingly can’t afford to do so. Therefore, knowing how to spend as little money as possible while also taking steps to improve your physical well–being is more important now than it ever has been.
The pandemic has made even those with more access to monetary and communal resources unable to live their healthiest lives. In this sense, we are all on the same playing field as we navigate the challenges associated with remaining healthy while not having access to what we previously had. Despite these challenges, it can be tremendously worthwhile right now to take steps to become a healthier person to not only improve your well-being, but in gaining some form of gratification during otherwise ungratifying times.
So, here are just a few ways that you can continue to stay healthy without breaking the bank.
The Myth of Cheap Fast Food
In the wake of the COVID pandemic, prices for food have increased by 1.5% due to an overwhelming spike in demand. A combination of food manufacturers not operating at full productivity and those over-buying in the wake of emergency have lowered the overall supply of certain foods like meats and crops, with those numbers only now starting to get better. This raises the question of how someone without much disposable income is going to afford buying a week’s worth of food as prices keep rising.
Yet, the biggest culprit of expenditure when it comes to eating does not come from a spike in food prices. Nor does it come from eating organic/natural foods. The real answer might be more insidious than you think. It comes from fast food.
Obviously, taking on a diet of eating mostly fast food isn’t good for you. Your mom already told you that when you were five. However, especially as a young adult with little money to spend, it may seem harmless to spend just a few dollars to quickly satiate your hunger, even if you know it isn’t good for you. A couple dollars here or there can’t be too bad, right? Of course, this is on top of the convenience these restaurants bring, which has become even more apparent due to the rise in popularity of delivery apps such as DoorDash and Grubhub.
Unfortunately, this trap can lead to a lot of wasted money. Even before COVID, the costs of fast food have been rising dramatically, with “fast casual” spots such as Chipotle or Five Guys raising the expected price for how much you pay for a single menu item. This, in addition to new taxes on food supplies, have led to the price of the average fast food burger rising by 26% in four years. Of course, these prices are further expanded by the amount each restaurant tacks on to every menu item to maintain its franchise. Those executive salaries aren’t going to pay for themselves.
This runs contrary to the belief that fast food, while unhealthy in excess, is a cheap method of making sure you don’t go hungry. If you were to buy all the same ingredients at your local super market, you’d be saving a big chunk of change, even as prices of food increases. Additionally, by preparing the meals yourself, you’ll know exactly what you’re putting into your meal, and can take steps to improve the overall health quality of the serving.
Some may still have an aversion to this outcome, as they profess their lack of skill in the kitchen. I can relate to this, as before I started living on my own, I had very little experience in preparing my own food. All I can tell you about this is it’s not as hard as you’d expect. As long as you follow the directions, have the correct supplies, and are willing to try new things, making food yourself will become beneficial for your health and wallet.
Fitness with a Little Help from Your Friends
One of the first businesses to close during the pandemic, and inevitably one of the last to fully open back up, was the gym. With the virus spreading most through coughing, sneezing, or otherwise causing droplets to emerge from the mouth, those physically straining themselves in the enclosed environment of a gym are at incredible risk of spreading the virus. Even as gyms around the country open back up, many are still apprehensive on jumping back in. Plus, your wallet is likely feeling a little better not having to pay that gym membership every month, assuming you haven’t forgotten to pause it by now.
During this process, we have all found ways to remain physically active. Some obtained their own free weights and modified their routine accordingly. Some avoided using weights at all, utilizing their own body weight or other materials around their house such as jump ropes or steps to circumvent the rising costs of said free weights. Some found solace in running in their local area, increasing their stamina and being able to see the world after being mostly tucked away in their homes. Some rediscovered their love for biking, going out for long rides to see the world at large. Whatever your strategy was, you’ve undoubtedly been open to trying new things.
As it slowly becomes safer to meet up with friends and acquaintances, allow me to share something that may help you over the next few months of working out without a gym. My brother, a true fitness enthusiast, was initially very discouraged at the lack of access to the gym during quarantine. We had some weights and equipment in our house, but he still felt as if he wasn’t motivated to train using this less familiar equipment.
That lost motivation came back when he started buddy training. One of his friends happened to have much better equipment than we had in our garage, which satiated his desire for better gains. More importantly, he felt extra motivations when working out with someone he knew well. When starting a new routine, it is often beneficial to have someone by your side, helping you improve your technique and get the most out of each exercise. Accountability is also an added motivator, as if you miss a workout during the week, you’re letting down your buddy as well as yourself.
If you feel similarly about the lack of a gym during of quarantine, reach out to someone you know who is passionate about fitness. From experience, I can tell you that they are more than willing to not only provide some of their equipment, but utilize their expertise to get you more familiar with an unfamiliar set up. Ultimately, buddy training is an effective training method that will still be safe even when gyms open back up.
Staying healthy is hard, even during the most pleasant of times.
Improving your diet and physical well–being requires discipline, an open mind, and the motivation to see it out to its conclusion. Sometimes, one or more of these principles just aren’t there, particularly when the steps to staying healthy are made harder or impossible while in quarantine. It’s a testament to how strong we are that many of us managed to stay healthy during COVID, even reawakening some aspect of our fitness than we had previously paid less attention to. Finally, we’ve been able to do it within the social and financial restrictions of the current day. When this whole experience is in our rear–view mirror, it is my hope that we can recognize our ability to adapt to this ever-changing climate.
After quarantine, we can continue to utilize what we’ve learned about effectively managing our food, fitness and finances for all times.