How much does it cost to be healthy?

Many continue to insist that living a healthy lifestyle isn’t feasible either due to financial constraints or simply because they feel they don’t have the time for it

One of the sure signs that summer is just around the corner isn’t the sun’s rays beating down on asphalt and making it soft, nor is it the sound of gentle waves beckoning people to the beach – it’s the images of healthy foods, diets and inspirational exercise sessions flooding Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds alike. 

As statistics show that weight problems such as obesity are on the rise, so too (and might I add somewhat paradoxically) have the efforts to live a healthier lifestyle become more pronounced. Perhaps the most evident testaments are the burgeoning health food stores, the advertising for fitness classes, as well as the increasing presence of runners and cyclists on the roads.

Many continue to insist that living a healthy lifestyle isn’t feasible either due to financial constraints or simply because they feel they don’t have the time for it. But how much does living a healthy lifestyle actually cost?

As Nutritionist Claire Spiteri told MaltaToday, living a healthy life entails specific dietary choices as well as efforts at integrating exercise into the daily routines… The newsroom looked at the cost of eating healthy recommended diets for a week, as well as the cost of exercising, using walking, cycling and gym memberships as typical examples. 


Dietary advice comes from quite a few different sources, some qualified, others much less so, often spurring trends like cutting out classes of foods from the diet, but as Spiteri pointed out, the key is to achieve a balance that works for you. 

“Our body needs to be fed a high quality diet if we expect it to run in an efficient manner,” she said, adding that if we feed our body the full range of nutrients it needs, at the right portion and the right time, then appropriate weight, good health, and prevention of diseases follow through from each other. 

Spiteri explained that in living a healthy lifestyle it is important to stick to three meals a day, starting with a healthy breakfast, which is often sadly skipped.  

Ultimately, Spiteri does not recommend ruling out food classes completely, and insists on moderation, particularly with regard to foods containing fats. She recommends swapping saturated fats and animal fat products for more nuts and seeds, as well as oils derived from them. 

She added that although many tend to fear dairy products, low fat dairy products ultimately help to boost weight loss by reducing appetite and boosting metabolism, due to the presence of protein. 

“It is important to opt for lean meats to keep the saturated fat and calorific content low, and to keep away from cured meats such as bacon and sausages as much as possible,” she says. 


Although it may be hard to peel one’s self off the sofa when having a nice Netflix binge, it’s worth noting that healthy living doesn’t just depend on food choices, it also depends on exercise. Doctors recommend at least 30 minutes of walking a day, and the variety of activities available means that boredom is no longer really an excuse.

A number of major gyms contacted by MaltaToday said that the number of people subscribing to memberships and classes in particular, had risen considerably over the past five years, but they also explained that unfortunately many tended to set themselves up for failure by changing their lifestyles overnight, without giving themselves time to adjust. 

“The key to leading a healthy lifestyle is really consistency – small changes to things like their diet, moderate exercise patterns, one small step at a time, rather than a sudden shock to the system caused by over-enthusiasm, which slowly ebbs away once the newness peters out,” Cynergi Health & Fitness general manager Jim Harvey told MaltaToday. 

Similarly, the Hilton’s Living Well fitness centre told the newsroom that a significant increase in subscribers was noticed in recent years, with classes like Pilates and Indoor Cycling, in particular, enjoying quite a long popularity streak. The gym managers added that many of the new subscribers were actually foreigners pertaining to the gaming industry, but that Maltese people had also shown added interest in recent years. 

However, there are two categories of sport and exercise where Maltese people are definitely showing a keen interest; running and cycling. For proof, you need look no further than the number of participants in local events featuring both these sports. The annual Malta Marathon has seen a gradual increase from 3,517 participants in 2015, to 3,820 participants in 2016, while the National Triathlon (Triathlon Malta), has seen participants spike from 78 in 2013 to 182 in 2016. 

The general manager of the Malta Amateur Athletics Association, Edwin Attard added that even the very number of big events like marathons and charity walks and runs had spurred a wave of interest in the sport, with the association currently dealing with a large number of requests for such events. 

“Running is perhaps one of the easiest sports to build up to on your own,” Attard says, adding however that advice about the appropriate items like shoes or proper training ought to be sought in cases where individuals want to participate in big sporting events like marathons, or where they intend to take it more seriously.

“It’s important for people not to overdo it as much as possible, and not to overreach in their first attempts to lead a healthy lifestyle,” he said, stressing the importance of building up to long distance and stamina gradually through regular mild exercise.

Attard also pointed out that participating in events featuring long distances requires a certain level of dedication that those seeking to practise a sport just for the sake of being healthy might not be able to give. 

“If you intend to participate in something like a half-marathon, training around four times a week and building up to long distances would be enough, but a full marathon would end up being harmful unless you’ve given it the necessary time.”

The treasurer of the Mosta Cycling Club, Winston Pirotta, also pointed out that medical advice could ultimately indicate what type of sport is the most suitable for one’s needs. 

“For instance if you suffer from heart problems it might not be advisable to cycle outdoors, to make sure that you are under supervision. Similarly if you suffer from pain or injuries in your ligaments it is normally advised to practise cycling rather than running as it puts less strain on them,” Pirotta explained. 

Pirotta went on to explain that cycling was currently enjoying something of a revamp, with cycle groups mushrooming across the island, offering cyclists support and even greater opportunities to participate in events on a regular basis. 

“There are around seven cycle groups registered with the Malta Cycling Federation, but there are a number of informal groups of friends organizing day trips in Malta and abroad,” he said, adding that being in a registered group opened up opportunities to compete in triathlons abroad among other events.

Pirotta added that the rise in interest could be a result of general awareness about healthy lifestyles, as well as a number of tax rebates connected to commuting using bicycles.

“Now there is practically an event every weekend to accommodate the growing numbers, which ultimately results in a cycle of more people getting interested due to added exposure,” he said. 

Pirotta explained that another factor encouraging people to try their hand at cycling, was the creation of a children’s cycling academy by the club itself. 

“There are already between 20 and 30 children in our academy, but very often parents also become interested in the sport after seeing their children,” he said, adding that cycling was an interesting alternative to walking as a form of exercise. 

“You also get to access places that are not so accessible by car through the sport,” he said, adding that the distance aspect was often a source of encouragement.