Katie Bulmer-Cooke: Health and fitness no longer a luxury – it is now part of daily life

Sunderland Park Run at Silksworth Sports Complex.
Sunderland Park Run at Silksworth Sports Complex.

Four years ago, when I sat in front of the very scary Lord Sugar on BBC’s The Apprentice with a business plan for a healthy eating restaurant in Sunderland, not only did he not believe in the idea, other people told me I’d maybe missed the mark with it too.

Many people said that it was too niche, or there wasn’t enough demand, or that Sunderland wasn’t the right place for something like that.

Well eight weeks ago, me and my friend Joanne opened the doors to our Guilt Free Kitchen in Shiney Row and our customers have certainly proved the doubters wrong.

Even I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how many people in the city really care about their health and having a good quality diet that is nutritionally balanced.

Over the last eight weeks we’ve catered for those simply wanting to choose a healthy option to those with gluten free and sugar free dietary requirements. We’ve done vegetarian and vegan buffets, work place lunches and loads more ... hopefully lots more to come too!

Observing this shift in food choices has made me wonder if we are on the cusp of changes in other health behaviours.

Over the last decade there have been major changes in lifestyle choices such as smoking, with more people quitting or even just switching to vaping.

There are also more gyms than ever before, with big chains and small independently owned facilities, and they are all busy!

There are more opportunities to be more active, with events such as Park Run and Good Gym popping in across the UK, and there are more people getting involved.

It’s clear to me that health and fitness is no longer seen as a luxury, it’s become part of daily life for many.

I hope that these positive shifts in all areas of health, fitness and lifestyle continue so that our younger generation can grow up seeing a more active and healthy lifestyle as the norm and not a fad or something that only some people do.

It’s quite scary how many young people are overweight and inactive and the impact this can have on their long term health, especially as an adult ... it is heart-breaking.

Obese children are more likely to have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, breathing problems such as asthma and because kids can be cruel to each other they are at greater risk of poor-self esteem and confidence.

We are on the edge of an exciting time in terms of lifestyle change. Opportunity is everywhere, including right here in Sunderland, from free events to regular activities that cater for all ages, abilities, and fitness levels.

There is more choice when it comes to food (bad as well as good), but there is also more education around which choices are best to make. So with this in mind, there is no time like to the present to start making some lifestyle changes.