Written by Alexandra Ravenscroft, a Richmond-based Nutritional Therapist and Personal Trainer.
I am in the enviable position of loving what I do for a living. I live and work in Richmond – which I consider to be one of the loveliest places in the UK – as a personal trainer and nutritional therapist and work with people in and around the borough to help them improve their health.
On a weekly basis I will read articles or research about the increase of obesity, the degradation of our food, the rise of alcohol consumption and lack of exercise and how this is negatively impacting our long-term health.
As I spend a large proportion of my time in Richmond, I have started to note what people do to keep fit and healthy. Whenever I am in Richmond Park, on the green, in the Deer Park or running along the river I will always see people out training, on bikes, rowing or taking part in British Military Fitness. Many of the restaurants serve healthy and nutritious meals and with Whole Foods opening in 2013 I can say that good food, health and fitness are important to the people of Richmond.
Some time ago I read a newspaper article that said Richmond upon Thames was one of the healthiest London boroughs, so with this in mind, I started the search to find out what this actually meant. As I began to research and read articles and studies, it dawned on me that these statistics could be used in a positive way to help other London boroughs, or areas of the UK, that were not performing quite as well in the health and happiness stakes. I think that as the people of Richmond clearly work hard to incorporate good health into their routines, then we should all be reminded to keep this up.
Richmond is an affluent area: fact. It comprises some of the most expensive housing stock in the country, a large celebrity population, beautiful parks and scenery as well as fabulous shops, bars and restaurants. With annual salaries and house prices above the UK average, it stands to reason that the majority of the Richmond population will be well-educated, have a large amount of disposable income and are far more likely to be able to spend their time and money improving their health and general well-being. Often low income levels and a lack of access to safe outside spaces are considered a reason for lack of exercise and poor diets. Having said that, I am convinced that many areas of London and the UK can take a leaf out of Richmond’s book and improve their diet and exercise levels.
It wasn’t difficult to find positive information about Richmond. In November of last year, LACA (Local Authority Catering Association) published an article where Richmond was praised (along with Islington) for “inspiring food leadership”. This was due to the work that was done to promote healthy and sustainable food. Richmond was praised for supporting community food growing, improving school food, helping residents reduce food waste, encouraging food outlets to use healthier ingredients and buying ethical food in school and local authority canteens (such as Fairtrade products, free range eggs and sustainable fish.) http://www.laca.co.uk/news/islington-and-richmond-top-london-borough-league-table-good-food
When looking at the results from the 2001 census (results from the 2011 census will not be available until September 2012) Richmond was classed as the healthiest borough with low levels of long-term sickness and high levels of good health. http://legacy.london.gov.uk/gla/publications/factsandfigures/DMAG-Briefing-16.pdf
Richmond is the second ‘slimmest’ borough in the UK and the health of people in Richmond upon Thames is better than the England average. Life expectancy, rates of infant death and deaths from smoking, and levels of obesity and physical activity in both adults and children are all better than average.
Not surprisingly the people of Richmond were the happiest in England (second only to those in the City of London) in a 2009 survey http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/jun/23/richmond-on-thames-happy-survey
Within the borough you can join running clubs, take up Bikram yoga, Martial Arts, dance lessons and Pilates. There are a number of gyms, and fabulous running, cycling and walking routes. You can exercise alone, in a group or with your family. Whatever the time of year you can enjoy the parks and open spaces and it doesn’t have to cost you a fortune.
I believe that many of the other London boroughs could adopt some of Richmond’s healthy habits, but we need to also ensure that we keep our impressive healthy statistics at a high level. After all, we want to keep Richmond in the top spot!
Alexandra Ravenscroft is a Richmond-based Nutritional Therapist and Personal Trainer.