It’s time we recognised that where we live determines a lot about our physical fitness

Unless one suffers from a disease, a lack of physical fitness is almost always seen as a personal failing. In this article, we want to dispel this myth by highlighting how where we live impacts our ability to engage in a more active lifestyle. The infrastructure available in our towns to make active commuting easier (active commuting involves commuting either by walking or cycling), the way our streets are designed, the accessibility of local spaces to the public, all make significant, lasting impacts on how people navigate their lives. Of course, there’s no question that engaging in a healthier, more active lifestyle ultimately depends on our willpower, but make no mistake: Where we live is going to make a big impact, especially over time.

From fires in America and Australia to floods in Germany and China, the importance of reducing carbon emissions has become clearer than ever (to most of us). To achieve this, we need modes of transportation that are friendlier to the environment, but green modes of transport are crucial for another reason: They’re also friendlier to us.

The benefits behind car-free (or at least, car-light) cities are vast; In this article, we’ll go over why we need to start paying more attention to the ways we are shaping our cities.


In 2019, the highest proportion of obese men and women was recorded in Malta. But a slew of studies have shown that obesity, which is often a direct consequence of lack of physical activity, is not just a personal failing, it’s also a result of infrastructure.

The design of our cities has a lasting impact on how we move and participate in everyday life, influencing our chances of experiencing poor health outcomes like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Transitioning from conventional to electric vehicles is necessary for our climate, but it’s also time we recognised localities need to be designed around people, not cars, and that for people, movement is the language of life.

The introduction of trees, sunshades/shade structures, pedestrianization, eScooter stands, sidewalks, cycling lanes, benches, parking zones, and park and rides are some of the best investments we can make today to guarantee greater returns in the future.

Read more on this:
Does Urban Design Influence Physical Activity in the Reduction of Obesity?
The Influence of Urban Design and Planning on Physical Activity

Research has also shown that the presence of pedestrian infrastructure directly increases people’s participation in active commute – mainly in the form of walking, cycling, and mass transit significantly, thereby improving their health over time.


Across the EU, there has been an alarming 13% rise in mental health conditions and substance use disorders in the last decade alone across all ages. Researchers explain that this crisis is concurrent with the increased ownership of smartphones, increase in digital media usage and consequent disconnection from each other, our natural environment, and our bodies.

Exercising starts a biological cascade of events that results in many health benefits, such as protecting against heart disease and diabetes, improving sleep, and lowering blood pressure. High-intensity exercise releases the body’s feel-good chemicals called endorphins, resulting in the “runner’s high” that joggers report. But for most of us, the real value is in low-intensity exercise sustained over time.

Read more about this here:

We need to take a step back from our screens and take a walk outside. In order to make this happen, we need to make our outdoors a lot more welcoming. Most studies and trials showed an improvement in mental well-being: compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalisation, increased energy and positive engagement, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression.


Fort Fitness is not suggesting we throw away the medicine and just exercise instead, the point isn’t to find out whether exercise or medicine is better, but to emphasise that we need both, and the one won’t work without the other. Movement is vital for maintaining “mental” fitness.
On this note, it’s also important to keep in mind that there’s no ‘mental’ and ‘physical’ health – there’s just health. The body of literature showcasing the cruciality of movement, be it in the form of exercise, walking or wandering around is vast. Regular participation in exercise decreases overall levels of tension, elevates and stabilises mood, improves sleep, and improves self-esteem. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.


Malta has a staggering car ownership rate of 766 motor vehicles per 1,000 people. It’s time to bring that number down. Opponents of initiatives designed to hinder car usage often decry these visions of a car-free future as urbanist fantasies that will cause more congestion as well as harm to businesses by cutting off their customers’ access. There’s extensive research that undermines both of those arguments. Walkable streets tend to benefit small businesses, and the principles of induced demand appear to work in reverse: traffic doesn’t get worse, because people find alternative ways to navigate an area that’s unwelcoming to cars. With a serious investment in multi-story parking lots complemented with initiatives such as car-free zones and other measures to dissuade parking in streets, this change is possible.


Our relationship with technology definitely needs work, but technology is by no means a downside. You won’t find many people who will say good things about the Covid-19 pandemic, but if there is one silver lining to this event, it’s that we have learned that remote working not only does work, it works brilliantly. Data has drawn a clear picture in favour of increased remote working, showing increased productivity, as well as an emphasis on work done instead of hours worked.

One of the biggest advantages to remote working – where possible – is the ability to skip commuting altogether. As more of our jobs become compatible with remote working, shifting away from private cars will become easier.

2021 vindicated remote working. Now, 85% of managers believe that having teams with remote workers will become the new norm.



The European Mobility Week reminds us that we need to take seriously the introduction of changes that encourage walking, cycling, exercise and outdoor activities in our localities. It’s time we reconnect with our bodies, our environment, and the world outside our screens.


Senior Lady Exercising

Why Exercise is the World’s most Potent and Underutilised Antidepressant

How many times have you struggled to actually put on those running shoes and go out for that run? How many times did you rationalise skipping exercise because “you have more important work to do?”? How many times did you come up with an excuse to skip your gym session after work or school because of this or that?

You’re not alone. Especially in the beginning, exercise is more work than fun.

But as you get into shape, you’ll begin to tolerate exercise, then enjoy it, and finally depend on it.

A mountain of studies draw a clear picture: Regular aerobic exercise will bring remarkable, transformational changes to your body, your metabolism, your heart, and your spirits. It has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress. It’s a common experience among endurance athletes and has been verified in clinical trials that have successfully used exercise to treat anxiety disorders and clinical depression. If athletes and patients can derive psychological benefits from exercise, so can you.

How can exercise contend with problems as difficult as anxiety and depression? There are several explanations, some chemical, others behavioral. Below, we look at a few of the most convincing findings about exercise to date:

The effects of exercise are comparable to actual antidepressants

We want to be clear here, we’re not advocating exercises replaces antidepressants. What we’re pointing towards here is the importance of having both. James Blumenthal, PhD, a clinical psychologist at Duke University, has explored the mood-exercise connection through a series of randomized controlled trials. In one such study, he and his colleagues assigned sedentary adults with major depressive disorder to one of four groups: supervised exercise, home-based exercise, antidepressant therapy or a placebo pill. After four months of treatment, Blumenthal found, patients in the exercise and antidepressant groups had higher rates of remission than did the patients on the placebo. Exercise, he concluded, was generally comparable to antidepressants for patients with major depressive disorder. A year later, Richard found that between participants taking antidepressants but not engaging in activities, versus participants taking antidepressants and also engaging in physical activities, the latter had lower depression scores than did their less active counterparts.

Exercise is pivotal to managing anxiety

Researchers have also explored exercise as a tool for treating — and perhaps preventing — anxiety. When we’re spooked or threatened, our nervous systems jump into action, setting off a cascade of reactions such as sweating, dizziness, and a racing heart. People with heightened sensitivity to anxiety respond to those sensations with fear. They’re also more likely to develop panic disorder down the road. Jasper Smiths and Otto

Says Jasper Smits, PhD, Co-Director of the Anxiety Research and Treatment Program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and co-author, with Michael Otto, of the 2011 book “Exercise for Mood and Anxiety: Proven Strategies for Overcoming Depression and Enhancing Well-being. Smits and Otto reasoned that regular workouts might help people prone to anxiety become less likely to panic when they experience those fight-or-flight sensations. After all, the body produces many of the same physical reactions — heavy perspiration, increased heart rate — in response to exercise. They tested their theory among 60 volunteers with heightened sensitivity to anxiety. Subjects who participated in a two-week exercise program showed significant improvements in anxiety sensitivity compared with a control group.

Whether you run a marathon or do just a 15 minutes light workout, exercise helps

Karmel Choi, a clinical and research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health performed a study with the aim of finding a link between exercise and mood. “We saw a 26% decrease in odds for becoming depressed for each major increase in objectively measured physical activity,” “This increase in physical activity is what you might see on your activity tracker if you replaced 15 minutes of sitting with 15 minutes of running, or one hour of sitting with one hour of moderate activity like brisk walking.”

“What our study would say is that any kind of movement can add up to keep depression at bay. I think that’s why our study findings were especially appealing. It didn’t say you have to run a marathon, do hours of aerobics, or be a CrossFit master just to see benefits on depression,” says Choi.

To read more about this, click here

Then why do we struggle so hard to begin exercising?

Starting out too hard in a new exercise program may be one of the reasons people disdain physical activity. When people exercise above their respiratory threshold — that is, above the point when it gets hard to talk — they postpone exercise’s immediate mood boost by about 30 minutes, Michael Otto explains in his book. For novices, that delay could turn them off of the treadmill for good. Given that, he recommends that workout neophytes start slowly, with a moderate exercise plan.

Physicians frequently tell patients to work out to lose weight, lower cholesterol or prevent diabetes. Unfortunately, it takes months before any physical results of your hard work in the gym are apparent. “Attending to the outcomes of fitness is a recipe for failure,” he says.

“Many people skip the workout at the very time it has the greatest payoff. That prevents you from noticing just how much better you feel when you exercise,” he says. “Failing to exercise when you feel bad is like explicitly not taking an aspirin when your head hurts. That’s the time you get the payoff.”


The Secret Ingredient to Successful Time Management

How many times have you made a promise to yourself (or otherwise) to start doing something, only to end up backing down shortly after? Have you ever stressed yourself out by trying to incorporate too many stress management tactics? Have you lost sleep trying to fit more into your sleep routine?

It’s easy to get wrapped up in hobbies, habits, life hacks, and new commitments.

Sometimes, to squeeze more time out of the day, we sacrifice some less-celebrated yet vital habits, like sharing an evening routine with my wife or being present with my kids when I get home from work.

But the more you try to scramble to fit it all in, the more you find yourself diminishing the effectiveness of each practice.

It’s important to remember that every decision has an opportunity cost. Your actions don’t just consume energy or money, they consume time. Time is infinitely more valuable than money because, unlike money, you can never get it back. First, when you give your time to something, you’re taking it from something else. Second, while we may be awake for a good 16 hours, research suggests that in an eight-hour workday, the average worker is only productive for two hours and 53 minutes. That’s right–you’re probably only productive for around three hours a day. With so little time actually disposable to us, prioritising what we start with, and what we actually do, becomes fundamentally important.

Habits like family dinners are not traditionally categorized as personal-development practices, but they significantly impact my well-being. Too often, we neglect the benefit of these seemingly mundane habits when we are setting new goals.

One of the best solutions to figure out your way forward is to make a list of all the things you’d like to be doing, for example:

  • Exercise
  • Mobility
  • Meditation
  • Naikan gratitude/reflection practice
  • Family dinner
  • Spend the last hour of each day with my wife and go to bed at the same time
  • Call a family member
  • Take a 20-minute nap
  • Go biking
  • Go on a walk or hike
  • Spend time in nature (grounding)
  • Wim Hof breathing
  • Cold shower
  • Sauna
  • Write for a few hours each morning
  • Learn to play the piano or guitar
  • Play chess, solve riddles (cognitive development)
  • Sleep eight hours
  • Study
  • Read educational non-fiction
  • Read fiction or easy non-fiction at night
  • Do Brazilian jiu-jitsu, play tennis, or play some other active game with/against other people

There’s no way you can do all the above in one day, so the first is to prioritise. What are the activities that can wait until a time where they can fit better? And what are the activities that you absolutely should not miss?

For example, daily walks get you out in nature, provide mild exercise, and have a similar effect to meditation.

Identify what habits are essential and, thus, must be prioritized. Four habits—exercise, quality nutrition, time in nature, and time with family—offer more benefits than all the others combined.

For anyone who has more goals than time, I highly recommend taking the time to list out everything you want to do.

Get it all down in a journal or on a computer document so that you can add to it when new ideas come to you. This process will give you a sense of perspective when times are overwhelming, and you lack motivation, or when life seems stagnant.

In 15 Steps: How to be a good gym member

Most of us have already stepped foot into a gym, and in case you haven’t, the experience is likely what you expect –  Jacked guys wrestling against heavy barbells, hip-hop music bellowing from the speakers, and a cacophony of grunts, yells and cheers. We get it: Going to the gym as a beginner can be a little unnerving.

But save for the odd one out, you can rest assured that most people you’ll find at the gym are incredibly respectful, eager to help you out, and happy to stay out of your way and let you do your thing. (Yes, this includes the ever-intimidating powerlifters – they do get loud but they’re really gentle giants.)

On the other hand, keep in mind you’re not the only person who will be training at a gym, so what you do – and what you neglect to do – is going to impact fellow gym-goers. You may not be going to the gym to make friends, but you should still make a conscious effort to familiarise yourself with standard etiquette. Following proper etiquette means you’re a lot likely to get help or a friendly tip should you ever need it; in addition, other gym members are likely going to treat you and your stuff based on how you treat them, so what have you got to lose?

In this article, we’ll tackle some basic questions that inevitably pop up in every beginner’s mind: How long is too long to stay on a machine? Can I use more than one piece of equipment at a time? Is it OK to ask that guy when he’ll be done?


Here’s how you can guarantee a seamless experience at the gym, one machine wipe-down at a time:


1. At the gym, a towel is mandetory 

No one likes to work-out in other people’s sweat. Opt for microfiber towels because they’re the most effective at absorbing your sweat in real-time.

2. Go all in with that deodorant

Make sure your clothes are clean, and always carry deodorant with you – especially if you’re going to the gym after work. 

3. Be mindful about using your phone

It’s extremely disrespectful to take a selfie in between sets. Not only are you wasting your time, you’re also hogging a machine that another gym goer may want to use. Also, it’s tacky, period.

4. No one’s going to stop you from wearing earbuds, but keep in mind you’re not alone

People may need to politely inquire how long you’ll be on a machine, so always try to take a quick look around you and scan for cues once in a while.

5. Keep your relationship with machines monogamous

In other words, please do not use two exercise stations at once. If you want to combine moves, consider combining a machine exercise with an exercise that requires no equipment, like a squat.

6. Don’t be disruptively noisy

Dropping weights on the floor is a no-go. If you’re trying so hard you can’t lower the weights down slowly, then you should be using lighter weights. Same goes for grunts and ‘Arrrghs!’ – try power-breathing instead: Inhale while lowering the weight, exhale when raising. In simpler words: Shut up!

7. A spotter is there to provide assistance, not to save you from getting crushed.

You’re not really doing your work-out if your spotter has to rip three of five reps off your chest.In other words, don’t overdo it with weights.  Not only is it inefficient and likely to lead to an injury, it’s also the kind of thing that leads to damages and disruption, especially while your spotter tries to keep you alive.

8. Always place dumbbells, weights and platforms back to their original place

It bears repeating: Back to their original place – even if that’s not necessarily where you found them. Don’t be inconsiderate just because others are. Nothing will get you the ire of other people at the gym like dumping equipment wherever. 

9. Once you’re finished, strip the barbells 

It can be both annoying and time-consuming for others to have to drag the plates off barbells, especially if you’ve attached multiple weights.

10. Wipe things down after you use them 

Please wipe your sweat off of machines, barbells, floor mats and anything else you use. Even if you “didn’t sweat that much,” wipe it down. This is basic gym etiquette and reduces the smear of sweaty germs all across the equipment.

11. Respect personal space

Gyms get crowded, especially during the first few months of the year. But no matter how many people you’re battling, you should still make an effort to respect everyone’s personal space. 

Not only is it uncomfortable to exercise in close proximity with a stranger, but it’s dangerous — one failed attempt at an overhead press could spell broken feet for both of you. 

12. Signal your space

Before swinging a kettlebell, run in place or stretch on the floor – this should give a pretty clear indication that your present location is a no-go zone for others.

If you have to leave to use the restroom or get water, place some sort of marker on the equipment you’re using. A pretty universal sign that says “Hey, I’m coming back to this” is draping your towel over the equipment — the towel proving its handiness yet again.

13. Don’t be afraid to ask for space

If you feel like someone is too close to you, let them know. You shouldn’t have to endure the discomfort, and it’s easier to ask someone to take a step or two away than to receive (or inflict) an injury.

14. Walk in with a plan

Planning your workout will save you a lot of fiddling around and make your workouts go by much quicker. Remember, the most valuable resource at a gym is time.

15. Time is the most valuable resource in a gym

This is important to repeat: Respect people’s time. Making friends at the gym is excellent – it keeps you motivated to keep going, and it makes it easier to ask for help should you need it, but remember that most people are limited on time. Don’t chat someone’s ear off – even if they are your buddy.