The topic of health and fitness is not something I can say plays a major role in my life. However whilst studying abroad you begin to notice lots of differences between your new country and your home country.
Of course, I have an interest in leading a healthy lifestyle. This is also the case for the Spanish. I have noticed that in the area in which I live in Valencia there are pilates studios aplenty and this seems to be a very popular past time. In addition to this, because I live in close proximity to the beach there are amazing opportunities to go for a run along the sea front or to play a quick game of beach volleyball. There is also a lovely beach bar where you can grab a smoothie or a salad to accompany your healthy activity.
Naturally, many of the things above mentioned appear in lots of countries, however, Valenbisi is quite unique. This is a system of bicycles stationed around the city, for which you can purchase a yearly ticket for a very affordable price of around 30€. This scheme is particularly popular with students at the various universities in the city and the roads around the city are well equipped with bike lanes to support the cyclists. Of course, we have such schemes in the UK, for example in London, but it seems more widespread in Valencia and a great motivator for the citizens in their goals to lead a more healthy lifestyle.
Moreover, opportunities for running are in great supply in Valencia. It is a unique city in terms of the river which runs through the city which is no longer a flowing river, but actually a river park. Aside from being the perfect destination for runners, there is also outdoor exercise equipment available for the use of the public. These are great fun and are often very popular.
In terms of the Spanish lifestyle, they stay up late and often eat dinner around 10pm, which for someone used to eating dinner at around 6pm, first comes as a massive shock. To tell you the truth, I have never really gotten my head around this. Mainly because you would assume that having such a late end to the day would mean a later start. However, this is untrue, because the Spanish are also often found up early in the morning, getting a paper or a quick coffee on their way to work.
I believe this lifestyle is heavily influenced by the classic Spanish siesta. The idea that everyone stops in the late afternoon for a quick nap leads to later nights and early mornings. However, in modern day Spain and especially in the winter the siesta is not so prominent.
The Spanish diet is a varied one. I wouldn’t say it was worlds away from British cuisine, of course, there are the typical Spanish dishes. Paella actually originated in Valencia and is supposed to be eaten for lunch. But in terms of other food, it is fairly similar to the UK. The mealtimes are what make the eating habits to different from ours. Coffee is also ten times more popular in Spain it seems. People generally stop to have a coffee, without the need for a takeaway cup. It seems more ritualistic than simply a caffeine fix.
Horchata is a very interesting health drink typical to Spain. It tastes somewhat like milk, but is made from nuts, it boasts many health benefits and is also quite tasty. It is mostly drunk throughout the summer months. It is also, I believe, gluten free, which is a very popular lifestyle choice in Spain, with many people choosing to avoid gluten.
I would say that fast food chains are on a similar level in Spain to in the UK. However, if I had to make an observation, I would say that there are less in Spain. Kebabs, however, seem to be a lot more popular. Tapas is also very popular, and can be enjoyed in a healthy way by ordering vegetable or fish dishes. Alcohol is enjoyed regularly in Spanish culture and is sold very cheaply in the supermarkets. This may be a disadvantage to the health of the country.
In Valencia we have the Mercado Central, which is an enormous food market, which sells an abundance of fresh produce and meat and fish. It is always a bustling place to go, even just for a walk around, as the architecture inside is quite breathtaking.
All in all, as in any country, health and fitness is important to the people of Spain. There are a few differences between the UK and Spain in terms of the topic, however I believe there to be more similiarities than differences.