A carbon footprint is a measure of the impact that our activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced. (It’s measured in units of carbon dioxide.)
What is a fitness footprint? A fitness footprint is a measure of lifestyle habits and their impact in terms of energy consumption, medical expenses, cost to employers and the employee, and life expectancy.
What you may conclude when you assess the impact of your lifestyle, including what you eat, is that unless we change our ways, one planet isn’t enough! According to ecological footprint measures, if we stay on our current trajectory of consumption, we’ll need a half-dozen planets to sustain our daily eating habits and lifestyle. Yet, all we have is Earth.
Moreover, our bodies become wider as our footprints become heavier. A report in the March 2007 Journal of Environmental Policy and Planning reinforced the idea that our dietary choices impact our ecological footprint.
What we choose to eat is critical because, according to report authors Andrea Collins and Ruth Fairchild, diet is responsible for around 25 percent of the total ecological footprint of individuals.
Given the connection among lifestyle, health, and environment, we need to assess our fitness footprint just as we calculate our carbon footprint.
Here are three steps to help you have a positive impact on our collective fitness footprint.
Step 1: Calculate your fitness footprint.
Try to determine, as specifically as possible, how your eating, exercise habits, and lifestyle affect the following:
- Overall health: How do your choices influence your blood pressure; body mass index; body fat; and risk of a heart attack, stroke, or diabetes? Calculate here (http://www.aarp.org/health/healthyliving/bmi_calculator/).
- Your life expectancy: How do your habits influence your expected longevity? Calculate here (http://longevitycalculator.aarp.org/).
- Cost to you and your employers: What do your lifestyle choices cost your employer? What does it cost you?
Step 2: Reduce and/or burn calories to decrease your fitness footprint.
- Balanced calorie consumption: Whether we lose, gain, or maintain weight depends on how many calories we consume versus how many we expend.
- Caloric impact of exercise: To maintain our desired balance in calorie consumption, it helps to know how many calories we burn during different exercises.
Step 3: Offset your fitness footprint.
- Food footprints: Food choices make footprints, according to the study I mentioned above. We can reduce our footprint – and improve our health - with sensible food choices. For example, making modest changes—such as switching from cheese to eggs for protein-could reduce someone’s individual footprint by 20 percent.
- “Green Gyms”: Another unique way to offset your fitness footprint and go “green” is to participate in earth-friendly and health-friendly exercise in the outdoors.
By living an environmentally-conscious life—one that includes a connection to community and an awareness of both food choices and daily decisions that together constitute our lifestyle—we can have an impact that goes far beyond our own fitness or how much we weigh.