Food, fitness and health: how to be at your best in your 30s


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

After the tumultuous 20s, their 30s are for many people a time of accepting and embracing who you are and what you really want in life. It's often a demanding decade, as you may become more single-minded and focused in establishing your niche or career. This can be time-consuming, as can increased domestic duties if you are busy growing your young family.

Increased responsibility can mean that healthy habits are at risk of falling by the wayside in favour of convenience. And while it may take more planning and creativity than before, prioritising your health is well worth the effort in the long run. We asked some experts for guidelines on how to enjoy your best health in your 30s, and here's what they had to say.

Try online shopping and other time-savers that enable healthy meals

"If you're very busy, plan your week's meals and give online shopping a go to save time and effort," suggests Candice Smith, Head of Vitality's Nutrition Strategy. Here are some more of her pointers for 30-somethings:

  • Prepare healthy meals in advance for days when you'll be too busy to cook from scratch. For example, cook in bulk on weekends and freeze portions separately for the week ahead. Packing a healthy lunchbox will lower the temptation to buy unhealthy foods at work.
  • Staying hydrated aids concentration, so keep a bottle of water on your desk and finish it by the end of the day. If plain water is too bland, throw in fresh fruit or vegetable chunks for flavour, or try unsweetened herbal teas.
  • 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.
  • For women: Iron-deficiency anaemia is common among pre-menopausal women, as you lose a lot of iron through menstruation. Keep up your iron-levels by eating enough foods like liver, lean meats, legumes, nuts, dried fruit, whole grains, eggs, fortified foods, and dark green leafy vegetables. If you're trying for a baby, speak to your doctor about folic acid supplements to prevent birth defects.

When you're short on time, choose quality over quantity

Life is generally busier and more stressful in your 30s. "When time limits you, the quality of your exercise is more important than the quantity," says Mari Leach, a biokineticist at Discovery Vitality. Here are her top tips:

  • A decrease in muscle mass as we get older can add to extra weight gain, as your metabolism slows down. High-intensity interval training is very effective to burn calories in a short time. Lengthen your rest periods when you're unfit and shorten them as you get fitter.
  • If you do 15 to 20 reps with a weight and feel like you can do more, the intensity of your exercise is too light. Gradually up the game to make the most of each rep.
  • Make exercise part of your daily routine if you can't fit a full workout in your day. Take the stairs, park your car further away from the shops, engage in active play with your kids or fit a few 10-minute workouts into your day.

Stay in the loop with preventive screenings

We asked Dr Deepak Patel, Principal Clinical Specialist at Discovery Vitality, how 30-somethings can keep an eye on their health status. 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 a woman and are (or would like to fall) pregnant, take a daily supplement containing 0.4 to 0.8 mg (400 to 800 µg) of folic acid and eat a diet rich in calcium. Dairy products provide the best sources of calcium.
It's also important to vaccinate yourself against flu. If you are pregnant, this decreases the chances of your baby contracting flu in their first six months.
HIV test Once a year
Flu vaccination Once a year
Pap smear (women only) Once every three years

American activist Betty Friedan once remarked, "Aging is not lost youth, but a new stage of opportunity and strength." Make the most of all the opportunities that come your way in your 30s to pave your way to better health and wellness in the future.

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

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