Living In Colombia Is Good For Your Health

How To Lose Weight, Reduce Stress, And Live Healthier Than Ever By Relocating To This Sunny Haven

My boyfriend and I moved to Colombia to pursue business opportunities, gain fluency in Spanish, and because the question, “If we don’t do it now, then when?” kept coming up.

We’ve been in Colombia 18 months now, and we’d say the whole experience has been a great success. Since moving, we have launched and consulted on business, improved our Spanish, and satisfied our desire for change and adventure. We have also achieved additional lifestyle improvements that we were not originally seeking, including an increase in overall health and wellness.

Prior to moving, I had a healthy lifestyle in San Francisco, one that I thought would be difficult to top in any other location. Every morning I would run along the famous Embarcadero waterfront. On days when I did not run, I chose from yoga, Pilates, and cross-fit gyms for workouts. Farmers markets were abundant, as were organic supermarkets and trendy, healthy restaurants. As a marathon runner who ate well, took supplements, and followed the health trends, I considered myself healthy and fit and was worried that I would lose these habits upon moving.

I experienced just the opposite.

If you are looking to improve your health and overall well-being, then I recommend considering relocating to Colombia for many reasons—specifically, high-quality food and produce, readily available gyms, yoga studios, and public parks, extremely affordable health care, access to inexpensive alternative medicines and treatments, great climate, and lower stress.

In San Francisco, purchasing organic food, grass-fed meat, and free-range eggs meant surrendering half my paycheck. In Colombia, local and often organic produce is extremely affordable. Walking up and down the aisles of supermarkets dedicated solely to fruits and vegetables is an adventure. A majority of the fruit I had never seen before, including the guanabana, a large, green, spiky, dinosaur-egg-like fruit about the size of a basketball. With its tangy, refreshing flavor, it is now a personal favorite.

Small farms surround the valley of Medellín, and a system of neighborhood farmers markets connects the producers to their city consumers. Visiting the President Park Farmers Market is a Sunday tradition for many residents of El Poblado, Medellín, where we’re living. In addition, healthy food stores are popping up everywhere, offering gluten-free snacks and breads, superfoods, supplements, and proteins. Large bulk markets that supply restaurants are also open to the common shopper. Starting as early as 4 a.m., these offer everything from produce and bulk dry goods to poultry, meat, and fish being chopped and packaged in front of you, ensuring its freshness.

Many of these stores and markets provide home delivery for less than US$2. Every week, we receive an organic vegetable delivery from a local farm outside Medellín. I am always impressed with the quality and quantity of vegetables; sometimes a whole trash bag of vegetables is delivered, and no order has ever cost more than US$13. With easy access to inexpensive organic produce and fresh meats, I eat even healthier than I did back in San Francisco. I rarely buy packaged or processed products, I eat out less, and, as a result, my energy levels have increased, my skin looks great, and I have lost weight.

Living in Colombia has also improved my fitness. I walk everywhere. I joined a gym only a few blocks from my house, and the city provides free programs, making fitness available for everyone of any athletic ability or age. The most noteworthy program is the Ciclovía, or “bike lane.” For more than 15 years, the Ciclovía has traversed a combined 60 kilometers throughout the municipalities in the Medellín Valley, transforming major thoroughfares typically busy with traffic into lanes dedicated to fitness.

Every Sunday and holiday, the Ciclovía brings people of all ages and social and economic classes together. You find casual walkers, joggers, families, and the more hardcore marathoners and triathletes putting in their miles. Free exercise classes, including zumba, dance, yoga, and stretching, are offered along the Ciclovía. There are 67 Ciclovías throughout Colombia, including in the capital, Bogotá. If you prefer weight training and do not want to pay for a gym membership, many parks have free outdoor gyms with barbells, weights, and other equipment.

If you’re interested in more intense training, you’ll find running, cycling, and triathlon clubs throughout Medellín and Bogotá, where you can train with professional coaches and high-level athletes for free or inexpensively. For race enthusiasts, you can find 5-kilometer races to full marathons almost every weekend for a mere US$10 registration fee. Fitness in Colombia ranges from recreational to professional levels, and the prices to participate are very affordable if not free.

In addition, I am able to take better care of myself as health services and treatments are more affordable. Massages used to be a luxury for a birthday or Christmas present. If a therapy was not covered by insurance, it was likely too expensive otherwise. In Colombia, I am able to see physical therapists and masseuses for only US$16 to US$40 for 70-minute sessions. In June, I received four deep-tissue sports massages for less than the cost of one massage in San Francisco.

I can get my teeth cleaned and have a thorough dental check-up for only US$35. Alternative treatments are also arriving to Bogotá and Medellín, including chiropractic, biomagnetic, homeopathy, and more, and for only a fraction the cost in the United States.

Nearly every study attributes health problems to high stress levels. Here in Medellín, amazing weather, friendly people, lower cost of living, and a laidback lifestyle have significantly reduced my stress. Weekly massages help, too. Things that used to be considered luxury treatments are now part of my regular routine for better living. I have never taken better care of myself, and I am healthier than ever.

If you are pursuing a healthier lifestyle, or would not mind one as a side effect of relocation, then I highly recommend you take a close look at Colombia.

Lauren Brown

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