Healthy living around the world

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

From smaller portions and longer mealtimes in France to the highest life expectancy in Spain, we’re taking a look at healthy living around the world. Access to healthcare, food, tobacco use and exercise are all contributing factors to what makes one country healthier than another, but how does Britain’s healthy lifestyle compare to their neighbours?

Different diets around the world

A recent study revealed Britain has the unhealthiest diet in Europe – not exactly a title to boast about. But our consumption of ultra-processed junk foods, such as poor quality ready-meals, has led to this negative label. In fact we eat these types of food five times more than Portugal and four times more than France, Greece and Italy!


In comparison to the UK, Spain has actually topped the list for the healthiest nation, according to Bloomberg. In a study of 169 nations it claimed the top spot and remains as having the highest life expectancy in Europe. This of course isn’t down to diet alone but the Mediterranean diet certainly can’t be dismissed.

Typically high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nut and seeds, and olive oil, this diet tends to limit red meat and moderates dairy intake. The idea is to share meals with family and friends (perhaps with a glass of red) and use healthy fats – so no butter, but instead olive oil for dipping your bread in.


It’s all about enjoying your food in France and taking your time to eat it. Where as in Britain we consume food in a rush, the French savour it.

Portion sizes are also generally smaller and when eating there’s no TV on in the background or sitting down in front of it when eating. The focus is the food and enjoying every bite.

>>How often do you sit down as a family?


Unlike Britain, the Japanese diet remains largely unprocessed. Food is fresh and a lot of grains and vegetables are consumed.

A study by the British Medical Journal found that those who stuck closer to the Japanese dietary guidelines – a diet high in grains and vegetables, with moderate amounts of animal products and soy but minimal dairy and fruit – had a “reduced risk of dying early and from heart disease or stroke”.

However, it’s not only about diet when it comes to healthy living.


Whether it’s in a class, at the gym, yoga in the park or at home with a workout video – people have different approaches to exercise and their own personal preferences. Although, those preferences can be shaped by what is the norm in your country.


In China it’s not so much about sweating buckets at the gym but more about taking a slower approach. Martial art Tai Chi is popular here, as is yoga. However, according to social networking app QQ, fast walking is topping the list of preferred exercise.

This is backed by statistics in 2018 revealing that mobile fitness apps are being used by 68.5 million people in China; 34% of this is from apps within the walking category.


Together with Iceland and Demark, you often see these countries topping the lists of happiest places to live to in the world – exercise and fitness play a part in this.

Culture Trip say exercise is the Scandinavian way of life. Almost 30% of Danish and Swedish workers living in cities cycle to and from work – with the average daily commute being around 8 miles, and 50% regularly enjoy long walks.


Brazil come second place, after the US, as having the biggest fitness industry in the world. Latin America Business Stories (LABS) state, “Brazil boasts 34,509 fitness clubs to serve 9million active members”.

LABS also highlight that public awareness of fitness took hold after Brazil hosted the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. The country’s growing obesity rate was brought to light and as a result “wellness and fitness initiatives took centre stage.”

It may seem like it’s all bad news for the UK in comparison to the rest of the world but with the rise of fitness apps and Jamie Oliver on the case with tackling childhood obesity, we’re definitely trying to catch up.

>>Read more on incorporating exercise into your daily routine

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