Food, fitness & health: Live your healthiest life in your 20s

August 2023

Being in your 20s can be an exciting time—from attending post-secondary education to starting your career to moving out, there are a lot of milestones during your 20s. You’re making new friends, learning new things, and experiencing life. 

One thing that may not always be top of mind when you're in your 20s is your health. That’s because for most people, being young is a powerful health tonic. Being young can be a great natural protection from a variety of illnesses. But this isn’t a cloak of protection that will follow you through the decades—as you age the healthy habits you build up now will help you later in life.

So, even if you’re in tip-top shape, your 20s can be a great time to start caring about your health and wellness.

Why? Because prioritizing your health when you're young will set you up for success in the future. How can you start making your health a priority? It all comes down to healthy eating, exercise, and preventative screenings. Let’s explore what that means when you are in your 20s.

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

Your 20s are the perfect time to build a good foundation for healthy eating habits. It may be your first time living — and cooking — by yourself, which makes it a great time for you to learn to love cooking healthy, nutritious meals. Building a ​​healthy habit at a young age makes you more likely to carry that habit throughout your life. 

  • You can still increase your bone density in your 20s, so get in three cups of calcium-rich dairy each day. For example, blend fresh fruit and plain yogurt together for a daily smoothie; cook your oats in milk; mix plain cottage cheese into mashed veggies; and add milk to soups.
  • While you may tend to over indulge in the easy-to-make — or easy-to-order — junk and fast food, now’s the time to learn cooking skills to save yourself time when life gets busier in your thirties. This will also help to build those healthy habits that stick with you through the decades.
  • Look up a serving-size comparison chart online to learn about appropriate portion sizes and remember that breakfast-eaters are more likely to meet their daily nutrient requirements! 
  • 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 much as possible, cut out sugary drinks and drink water instead.
  • If you drink alcohol, moderation is key. Too much alcohol can increase your risk for developing high blood pressure, heart disease, and certain cancers. Binge drinking has negative short- and long-term consequences for your health. Be sure to keep Health Canada’s low-risk drinking guidelines in mind — 2 drinks a day with a maximum of 10 a week.

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. With regular exercise, you'll likely have more energy and confidence to help you cope better with the daily stresses of life.

  • 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 for you.
  • 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

You might not be thinking about heading to the doctor unless you’re feeling under the weather. But it is important to know how 20-somethings can keep an eye on their health status while they're young. The following screenings are some of the preventive measures you can take to ensure you stay healthy throughout your 2nd decade.

Recommended screening


Top health tip

Dental check-up

Every 6 months

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 9 to 27 should also get the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine to protect from genital warts and, for women, lower the risk of cervical cancer.

Eye exam

Once every 2-3 years

Flu vaccination

Once a year

Pap test (women only)

Once every three years, starting at 21 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.

Looking for more information on preventative screenings? Speak to your doctor or visit the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care website to answer any questions you may have.

Please always check with a medical professional to ensure these strategies are right for you.

Related articles