Food, fitness and health: how to be at your best in your 20s

 

Under 30? This June, we're celebrating Youth Day by encouraging youthfulness through a holistic approach to your wellbeing. Here's a millennial's guide to managing your diet, exercise and health.

Confident versus self-absorbed, tolerant versus politically correct, cooperative gig-workers versus angsty achievers - no matter who you ask, everyone has an opinion on what millennials are really like. But whether or not you fit a millennial stereotype, one thing probably rings true - you care about your body, health and wellness.

Confident versus self-absorbed, tolerant versus politically correct, cooperative gig-workers versus angsty achievers - no matter who you ask, everyone has an opinion on what millennials are really like. But whether or not you fit a millennial stereotype, one thing probably rings true - you care about your body, health and wellness.

That's a great approach to have as you wade into adulthood, because prioritising your health when you're young will stand you in good stead in the future. We asked some experts for guidelines on how to enjoy your best health in your 20s, and here's what they had to say.

Now's the time to foster healthy eating habits for life

Your 20s are the perfect time to build a good foundation for heathy eating habits, says Candice Smith, Head of Vitality's Nutrition Strategy. Here are some of her pointers:

  • You can still increase your bone density up till your mid-20s, so get in three cups of calcium-rich dairy each day. For example, blend fresh fruit and plain yoghurt together for a daily smoothie; cook your oats in milk; mix plain cottage cheese into mashed veggies; and add milk to soups.
  • Cut down on junk and fast food, and learn cooking skills to save yourself time when life gets busier in your thirties.
  • Look up a serving-size comparison chart online to learn about portion control and remember that breakfast-eaters are more likely to meet their daily nutrient requirements and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Stock up on affordable healthy foods, like eggs, canned beans, lentils, pilchards and tuna. Buy wholegrains (like brown rice and oats) in bulk, and seasonal fruit and vegetables, which cost less.
  • As far as possible, cut out sugary drinks and drink water instead.
  • If you drink alcohol, moderation is key. Too much can lead to unwanted weight gain and increase your risk for developing high blood pressure, heart disease and certain cancers. Binge drinking is toxic, so stop at the recommended limit of one serving of alcohol a day for women and two for men.

Experiment with exciting sports and activities while you have the time

It's important to establish good exercise habits in your 20s because it's much easier to make exercise a part of your lifestyle when you're young, says Mari Leach, a biokineticist at Discovery Vitality. "Plus, with regular exercise," she adds, "you'll likely have more energy and confidence to help you cope better with the daily stresses of life." Here are her top tips:

  • At this stage, your energy levels are higher and you generally have more free time. Use it to explore different exercise types and see what you enjoy. Don't be shy to try out new activities that help you develop different physical skills, like rock climbing, salsa dancing or adventure racing.
  • Experiment with what intensity of exercise shows the best results on your body. Falling back on what worked in your youth can help you enjoy exercise again and get results when you're older.
  • Create a strong foundation for cardiovascular fitness and strength training by increasing your muscle and bone mass.
  • Learn correct exercise techniques and work on your mobility. This will help prevent injuries and develop good muscle memory and movement patterns.

Stay in the loop with preventive screenings

We asked Dr Deepak Patel, Principal Clinical Specialist at Discovery Vitality, how 20-somethings can keep an eye on their health status while they're young. He suggests the following screenings as some of the preventive measures you can take:

Recommended screening Frequency Top health tip
Dental check-up Once a year If you're sexually active, you need to protect your body. Talk with your partner about how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases or an unwanted pregnancy.

Females and males aged 11 to 26 should also get the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine to protect from genital warts and, for women, lower the risk of cervical cancer.
HIV test Once a year
Flu vaccination Once a year
Pap smear (women only) Once every three years
HPV vaccination (If not yet completed)
 

Centuries ago, the Greek philosopher Aristotle remarked, "Good habits formed at youth make all the difference." This truth still holds, so start making small, smart choices today to pave your way to better health and wellness tomorrow.

Now have a look at these tips to stay healthy and youthful in any decade:
 

Have you found out your Vitality Age?

Your Vitality Age is a measure of how healthy you are relative to your actual age.
It measures all aspects of your wellness like exercise, nutrition and stress. Plus, completing the assessment can earn you 2 500 Vitality points!

By finding out your Vitality Age and doing a Vitality Health Check you will increase your cash back on HealthyFood at Pick n Pay or Woolworths and HealthyCare at Clicks or Dis-Chem. Find out today.

Age backwards with Vitality!

If you've already found out your Vitality age and aren't too thrilled with the results, don't worry. There are many ways to lower your Vitality Age and be rewarded in the process.

To get started, why not:

  • Sign a non-smoker's declaration or treat your smoking addiction by attending Allen Carr's Easyway Clinic - members receive an 80% discount!
  • Join Vitality Active Rewards to earn weekly rewards for staying physically active.
  • Visit the Vitality HealthyFood Studio to learn how to cook delicious, healthy meals at home.

Click here to find more ways to earn points and improve your health, step-by-step.

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