20 Healthy Things You Should Be Doing In Your Twenties

Photo of Esme Benjamin
Wellness Editor7 November 2016

Any thirty-something will tell you, your twenties is a decade for laying foundations for the future, and that includes good health. The actions you take now will manifest in years to come (your biography becomes your biology, as the saying goes) so do yourself a favor and start implementing these twenty healthy things now.

Be authentically yourself

It’s hard to be happy when there’s a disconnect between the person you present to the world and the person you are on the inside. Pretending is burdensome, so be brave and vulnerable instead.

Don’t stay with the wrong person. Don’t stick with a job that doesn’t make your soul sing. Don’t make big life decisions — or postpone them — based on the expectations of other people. Nobody cares as much as you imagine. And if they do care, either they’ll get over it or you’ll get over not having them in your life anymore.

Honesty feels like a huge sigh of relief, and the sooner you show people the real you, the sooner you’ll figure out who your cheerleaders are. Everybody else will fall away, just as they should.

Eat mindfully

You know you feel good when you eat veggies and drink enough water. You know you don’t when you’re hungover and shovel junk into your mouth while watching Netflix.

Indulge every week, but be conscious of when you need to cut back. Try not to binge drink too often; you’re fun enough already.

Treat what you put into your body as an act of self-care, don’t gorge or restrict food as a way to salve sadness, anger, stress or boredom. Feel your feelings, don’t consume them.

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Take control of your fertility

One in eight couples have trouble conceiving, and your twenties — before babies are firmly on the agenda — is the time to start safeguarding your fertility.

If you’re a woman on the contraceptive pill, take a break to learn about the natural rhythms of your body. The pill can mask hormonal imbalances and ovulation issues like PCOS which make it harder to conceive. Tackling potential complications now, before baby fever really hits, will save you hassle and heartbreak down the line if you decide to start trying.

Give your fascia some love

Your entire body is wrapped in a web of connective tissue called fascia, which runs over and between muscles, attaching and stabilizing them. If it gets dry or brittle from lack of use the chances of getting an injury or suffering from wear and tear in the future increase exponentially (think creaky knees and a painful lower back).

Invest in a foam roller or therapy balls and use them after your workout, or just before bed. Targeting tender areas helps lubricate and release tight, knotted tissues to keep you limber and pain-free.

Do your kegels

Your pelvic floor muscles wrap from your pubic bone to the base of your spine. If they become loosened, which is particularly common in women after childbirth but can happen to men too, this leads to issues with incontinence and sensitivity during sex.

Keep them toned by contracting the pelvic floor muscles for ten seconds, and then releasing. Repeat 10 times, and work up to more sets of varied lengths (shorter or longer holds).

You could also try incorporating more Pilates and barre into your workout routine — two exercise disciplines that both stress the importance of the pelvic floor.

See a therapist

You spend money on gym membership every month, it’s time you prioritized your mental health too.

Find a therapist who can help you work through your destructive behavior patterns, substance dependency, disordered eating, childhood trauma or anything else — big or little — that’s lurking in your head. We are all messy, complex creatures (albeit some more than others).

And no, your friends are not your therapists. Hire a professional whose job it is to give you their undivided attention and guide your self discovery.

Desk job damage control

Doctors are calling sitting “the new smoking”, which is terrible news if you spend most of your day desk-bound. Solutions that will keep your body happier include the standing desk, the treadmill desk, and the under-desk bike.

A lumbar support for your office chair is a small investment that will go a long way towards maintaining the healthy “S” curve of your spine. And don’t forget to make time in your workouts for muscles that get particularly lazy when you sit all day. Tricep strengthening and hip flexor stretches that target the hugely important (and often extremely weak/tight) psoas muscle will prevent your body from seizing up.

Set yourself one big fitness challenge a year

Climb a mountain, run a race, cycle a big distance.

Committing to a physical feat will give you a reason to keep training all year round. Plus there’s the camaraderie of undertaking the challenge with friends, the feel-good factor of raising money for charity, and the psychological benefits of getting out of your comfort zone and into the wilderness.

Travel the world, but limit sun exposure

In her imaginary college commencement speech, published in the Chicago Tribune and later appropriated by Baz Lurman, Marcy Schmich opens with: “If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it.”

It doesn’t matter if you have a darker skin tone, or you just feel more confident with a tan — make sunscreen a staple part of your grooming routine now.

Cover your face, neck and chest every day as a bare minimum. It’s easy to imagine, with your velvety twenty-something skin, that wrinkles won’t happen to you, but they will. Oh, they will. Especially if you’re not diligent with the factor 30 (P.S here’s a good all-natural facial one that doesn’t use chemical blockers).

Get into yoga

There’s a reason recent estimates put the number of global yoga practitioners at 200 million: it works.

The laundry-list of benefits includes increased flexibility (FYI it’s great for fascial release), better posture, lower blood pressure, improved balance, and bolstered cardiovascular health. It also exponentially reduces stress, which is vital for all kinds of disease prevention.

Even if you started yoga in a bid to touch your toes, it might end up changing you in subtle ways you never anticipated. The emphasis on mindfulness and showing compassion to yourself and others seeps into your subconscious, making you effortlessly calmer, kinder and more patient.

Build your tribe

They say you’re only as good as the five people you spend the most time with, so choose wisely. Seek out people who buoy you up, tease out your deepest thoughts, call you on your s**t, plumpen your intellect, and smoother your inner critic with love.

Accept that there will be lulls. Your friends will move away, start families, or just have other priorities that aren’t you — but it’s worth fighting to stay in each other’s orbits.

Air out issues before they turn into resentments, and remember social media is not an adequate substitute for a face-to-face (or face-to-Skype) conversations.

Get smart with supplements

You should be eating a balanced diet that covers most of your nutritional needs, but a bit of smart supplementation is never a bad thing.

The evidence that gut health has huge knock-on effects throughout the body is mounting, so make sure you take a good probiotic that can withstand stomach acid.

Almost everybody lacks adequate levels of Vitamin D, which enables calcium absorption and contributes to strong, healthy bones. It’s hard to get Vitamin D from food and most of us don’t see enough sunshine to sufficiently top up levels, so supplementation is essential.

Omega 3 is crucial for your heart, brain, eye sight, joints and fertility, and unless you’re eating a lot of oily fish you’re probably deficient. Bonus: It prevents acne and wrinkles.

Almost 10% of women are anemic. Iron is important for your energy levels, immune function and strong hair and nails.

Don’t go overboard with chemical cosmetics

Considering your skin absorbs most of whatever is slathered onto it, you might want to consider the chemical content of your favorite lotions and potions.

Invest in natural and organic products like Juice Beauty, SW Basics and good old Dr. Bronners, or at least a happy medium — think Liz Earle or Aesop which are botanical based but incorporate non-harmful manmade breakthrough ingredients too.

Incorporate weekly strength training

Research suggests weight baring exercises torch fat without burning muscle at the same time (which straight cardio is guilty of), raise your basal metabolic rate, and continue burning calories long after you’ve finish working out.

For women lifting weights is especially important. Osteoporosis is estimated to affect 200 million women worldwide, and studies show strength training can help reinforce your bones, making them far less brittle as you age.

Find your thing, exercise-wise

Not exercising regularly enough is a major regret of many thirty-somethings. You use it or you lose it, people.

Don’t force yourself to slog it out on the treadmill when there’s a whole world of trampolining, aerial yoga, boxing and underwater spin to explore. Experiment until you find a workout that has you joyfully anticipating the next sweat session.

If ClassPass operates in your city, sign up with friends and make trying new studios a social thing (you can grab drinks after as a reward).

Tiny efforts add up

Health doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach; a case of virtuous meager salad versus all-you-can-eat Pizza Hut buffet.

Small decisions like taking the stairs, eating a balanced breakfast in the morning, or trying to cook from scratch at least a couple of nights a week will all inch you close to your wellbeing goals.

Go for regular check-ups

Don’t put off health niggles; in the most serious of cases, procrastination can be life-threatening.

If you have health insurance (or live in a country with free universal health care) make a point of booking an annual check up. Besides addressing any small issues that have been on your mind, you might discover small actionable improvements you can make for your body.

Form good sleep habits

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends between seven and nine hours of sleep per night for adults, but many of us — especially those in their twenties with a busy social calendar — regularly get fewer.

Lack of sleep lowers immunity, making you more susceptible to a spectrum of serious diseases; hinders creativity and productivity (bad news for your career); encourages weight gain; and increases cortisol — the stress hormone — which breaks down collagen, speeding up the aging process.

Don’t put up with lumpy beds in rental apartments — invest in a good mattress with proper support to save you back. Buy an alarm clock instead of relying on your phone, so you can leave it charging in another room. And if you have trouble drifting off take a melatonin tablet — the synthetic version of the sleep-promoting hormone — instead of stronger prescription meds.

Learn to set boundaries

If you’re a people pleaser by nature, it’s time to practice saying “no.” Set boundaries when they’re needed and understand the value in constructive confrontation.

Many of us also need to get better at reigning ourselves in. Turning down another night out when we need some rest and recuperation is a necessary act of self care. Say no to FOMO.

It’s never too late to start

Finally, give yourself a break. Cease the negative self-talk, and don’t hold yourself to impossibly high standards you would never expect from another human.

Tomorrow is a new day.

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