Reflections On Privilege And Health In Our Time

Paul Harter Paul Harter
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The virus does not impact all of us in the same way. NHS and other front line workers are carrying the largest of burdens for the rest of us. Living and working in fear and under stress, they are of course the heroes. Theirs are the lives most impacted, second only to the victims of the virus themselves.

The vast majority of us are secluded in our own homes. We have a far different story to tell. But those of us at home differ from one another quite dramatically as well. Many people live in crowded housing estates and struggle financially to get the next meal on the table. They too are victims of the virus.

And then there are the many business leaders who, although personally secure and housed comfortably, work tirelessly day in and day out to keep employees employed and businesses afloat through the storm. They make tough no-win decisions every day. Their struggle, though different, is also real.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s my wife and I. We live in a comfortable house in the leafy suburbs. We have the financial means to see this through without deprivation. We have a well-manicured garden. The trees are flowering and it’s warm enough for evening cocktails in the sunshine. We live adjacent to some amazing green belt, and can walk for miles without needing to drive anywhere. We have gym equipment in the garage, and our daily workouts are almost as good as before. We have plenty of free time on our hands. There’s nothing obviously difficult with this version of self-isolation. 

So, while this pandemic affects us all, it affects some people far more than others in some very serious ways. Surely there must be a high correlation between privilege and getting through this period with relative ease? Yet that’s not the whole story.

As we head into week six at home, I’m also noticing differences in patterns of behaviour among friends who share similarly privileged life circumstances. Some are active, engaged and busier than ever. Others struggle with boredom, loneliness and even depression. Some are eating better than before, while others spend days snacking on processed comfort foods. Some are getting the best sleep of their lives, while others face daily stress and anxiety. Some are exercising daily and getting fitter, while others struggle to get off the couch. And I noticed that there is not always a correlation between how people live their lives in normal times, and how they live it now.

Logically, most of us have more time on our hands than before. We no longer commute. Work pressure may have eased off.  We cannot go out and socialize as we did.

Along with the privilege of a comfortable home environment and more free time, for those of us lucky enough to have them, comes the privilege of deciding for ourselves whether we use our time to achieve goals and positively impact our lives and the lives of others, or whether we just slog through this period and come out the other end no better off, or indeed worse off, than we went in. We can use our free time to help those who need help, be they friends and family, neighbours or the less fortunate in our communities. We can also use our free time to improve our own health, nutrition and fitness. If busy-ness is less of a barrier, in fact it’s never been easier.

We still have access to the great outdoors, and we’ve been blessed with the sunniest and warmest April weather that I can remember. The parks and footpaths stay open for business and welcome all of us, so long as we respect distancing. It’s an amazing time to take regular walks, runs or cycle rides.

And though the gyms and yoga studios are closed, it’s still possible (in fact, easy) to get plenty of exercise at home. At Goal Master, we continue to support our clients with individualised fitness and nutrition coaching offering a range of programmes that let you continue to pursue your health and fitness goals, even if you have little or no equipment at home. You can find them here:

And, while our programmes come at a price, there are many dozens of free and less expensive options. Here are links to some articles that describe your many choices:

Permit us one word of caution.

Before joining an on-line class for the first time, please ensure that you are proficient in the particular type of exercise and confident that you can perform it safely, or alternatively start by hiring an on-line coach to teach you.

When this is all over and you look back, how would you like to remember your time at home? If you’re not working on the front line, if you have the financial means to see your family through, if you and your family are healthy, if you’re not working tirelessly to keep your business afloat, then you are indeed privileged in life, as well as privileged to have the freedom to make good choices. I hope you do.

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