30 Health and Fitness Skills to Master in your 30’s
Your health isn’t something you own. It is something that is borrowed and you have to pay the rent daily. I’ve seen the bucket lists about what you should aim to achieve before you turn 40. 9 financial goals to achieve! 20 places to visit!
But when it comes to health and fitness, it isn’t enough to simply achieve it once. To tell you to get to a healthy BMI (body mass index) before 40 is insufficient, since the real health marker would be to have a healthy BMI and maintain it for life. Just to have done something before you are 40 won’t cut it.
Since you can’t achieve any permanent state in your health, the best thing you can do is to anchor health and fitness habits that you can carry through the rest of your life.
So in this spirit, as I enter into the final year of my 30’s, on the road to turning 40 in October 2024, here is my list of 30 Key Health and Fitness Skills to adopt and master while you are in your 30’s.
1. Fight the desire for comfort - sit less and MOVE more.
- Very little in our day demands physical exertion compared to how humans evolved. Life could happen from the comfort of your couch if you truly desired. So be extra intentional about getting in movement.
- How many hours do you sit? Actively fight the sitting culture. Stand at your desk, take the stairs, actively commute to work if you can, and don’t sit at the terminal before your flight, walk around instead.
2. Make walking a daily routine.
- Aim for at least 10,000 steps a day.
- Start and end the day with a 30-minute walk – and choose 1-2 days for a longer one
- Take 10-15min walks after each meal
- Bonus – add a pack to the walk to for load bearing and balance and coordination improvements
3. Learn how to safely pick up heavy shit – AKA the Deadlift
- Approach the barbell and line up with the bar directly over the middle of your feet. Feet directly underneath your hips.
- Eyes forward and arms reaching out, send your hips back as far as you can while you bow forward slightly
- Only bow so far as you can maintain and arched back. When you reach your mobility limit then drop your arms straight down.
- Without changing your back angle soften the knees to reach the bar and take a grip outside your feet.
- Now drive your knees into your forearms pressing them out slightly.
- Chest and eyes up…. LIFT!
4. Train don’t exercise.
- Exercise is something you do for immediate outcomes. Training takes thoughtful planning and detailed execution to arrive at long-term goals. This is instant vs. delayed gratification.
- You are committed to being a MOVER already and are looking for ways to increase your STEP COUNT. Those two boxes checked will handle your energy output in your day.
- Training is the time when you go BUILD MUSCLE, STRENGTH, and improve your AEROBIC CAPACITY. These variables have a dramatic impact on your health when you improve them and keep them at an elite level for your age.
- Training demands better nourishment and recovery and this mentality will have a carry over to better habits and practices in other areas of your life.
5. Muscle is a key to longevity – learn how to build it.
- Muscle mass is linked to decreases in all causes of disease
- Muscle is a metabolic sink for everything you consume
- Muscle gives you function regardless of how you build it. More muscle equates to more functional strength even if you use machines or build it through static postures.
- LEARN HYPERTROPHY Training methods: Dedicate time to a program like PUMP LIFT to learn how lifting in particular rep ranges for specific sets and reps build muscle
- Learn how to lift weights through space – Yoga can build muscle and so can rock climbing, but our ability to move external objects is the most effective way to build muscle and also translates to our overall functional capabilities dramatically.
6. Mix cardio and strength training.
- Concurrent Training is when we blend cardio with strength training within the same training program.
- Strength training as well as Zone 2 training both offer many health benefits, but it’s not the only training method one should rely on.
- Incorporating a mix of intensities and types of workouts can provide a well-rounded fitness regimen. Using combinations of Cardio and Strength training together is a terrific way to train intensity zones safely
- Try out PERSIST Functional Pump Conditioning workouts or our Aerobic Bodybuilder Ebook.
7. Fall in love with ZONE 2 cardio.
- Dr. Peter Attia, a world-renowned Longevity Doctor, is an advocate for “Zone 2” training, often referencing its benefits in his discussions about longevity, performance, and overall health. “Zone 2” refers to a specific heart rate zone that is typically characterized by a heart rate that is 60-70% of one’s maximum. Training in this zone is sometimes known as “low-intensity steady-state” (LISS) training.
- Several reasons why I love Zone 2 training include:
- Mitochondrial Biogenesis: new formation of mitochondria which are vital for cellular energy production. More and healthier mitochondria can improve athletic performance and may contribute to longevity.
- Fat Metabolism: Zone 2 training encourages the body to utilize fat as its primary fuel source. This can enhance your flexibility in using different energy sources.
- Recovery: Because Zone 2 training is low intensity, it doesn’t create the same kind of muscle damage and inflammation that high-intensity workouts can.
- Mental Health and Well-being: The steady and rhythmic nature of Zone 2 training can be meditative and stress-relieving.
8. Master how to do a pull up.
- Grip strength as measured through how long you can hang from a pull up bar is one of the best predictors of longevity. Additionally, more time spent hanging can heal and/or prevent a wide range of shoulder and neck pain and dysfunction.
- Action Steps:
- SPEND MORE TIME hanging – get a pull up bar for your doorway at home and each time you pass under it hang for 10-15 seconds
- Get the static hang time up – men in their 40s should be able to dead hang for two mins and women a minute and a half. Get your times higher than that before you’re 40 and try to maintain it after.
- Build a pull-up – From hanging work towards being able to pull yourself up and over the bar for 1, 2, or multiple reps
- Use Bands
- Use your legs to help you jump up
- Use a pull up assistance machine at the gym
- Get a set of TRX straps or gymnastics rings and work on your body rows to build some capacity for pulling alongside your static hanging.
Better Push ups and Pull Ups
9. Extend your hips – mobilize!
- Mobilize for extended hips. Sitting is unavoidable at times and at other times is desired for focus, comfort, and relaxation. We’ve already discussed spending less time sitting and more time moving. Now it’s time to talk about perhaps the most valuable mobility drill we have to unglue the damage of extended sitting.
- When we sit our hips are in a flexed position. When we stay in this position for extended periods, the muscle that cross the hip joint that are designed to flex the hip (aka Hip Flexors) start to get shortened, tight, and dysfunctional. They pull on the hips, pelvis, and low back in a way that can lead to pain, discomfort, and full body mechanical changes that are not optimal for health and wellness.
- If we routinely spend time in hip Extension we can combat some of the mechanical ill effects of sitting:
- Couch Stretch – The is performed by placing the knee at the base of the back rest cushion on a couch. The shin is positioned vertical against the back rest of the couch and the opposite leg is placed in front of the body for support. The goal is to squeeze the glute muscle and extended the hip while simultaneously trying the get the butt closer to the heel. 1-2mins/day or every other day in this position is sufficient.
- ATG Split Squat – This is a leg-strengthening exercise that doubles as a hip extension stretch and mobility drill. Mastering this drill as part of your strength training routine and performing it 1x per week as part of your lower body strength training is sufficient.
10. Spend more time on the floor.
This one I’m taking from my good friend and world renowned Mobility and Strength specialist Dr. Kelly Starrett.
Kelly is a proponent of spending more time on the floor as part of a broader approach to movement, mobility, and overall health. Benefits:
- Improved Hip and Ankle Mobility: Regularly sitting on the floor and moving in and out of floor-based positions can enhance hip and ankle mobility. Many floor positions, like the deep squat or cross-legged sitting, naturally take our joints through a broader range of motion than typical chair sitting.
- Improved Posture: Traditional chair sitting can promote poor posture, especially if one is not mindful of their sitting position. In contrast, many floor positions encourage a more neutral spine. Transitioning between floor positions also frequently prompts postural adjustments, which can be beneficial.
- Reconnection with Natural Human Behavior: Historically, humans spent much more time on the ground than we do in the modern era of chairs and couches. Being on the floor can reconnect us to some of these foundational human positions and movements, potentially offering both physical and psychological benefits.
11. Learn how to do a full depth squat.
Squatting has been a part of human evolution since the beginning of our species. Some cultures still spend long periods of time in this position every day and the degree of hip, knee, and low back pain and dysfunction is dramatically lower in those populations.
- Ass to Grass – learning how to perform a full depth squat starts with achieving pain free FULL RANGE OF MOTION
- Perform your first pain free squat – Elevate your heels and use hand assistance
- Build some volume – 1 rep turns into 10 reps turns into 3 sets of 20
- Build some load – graduate to a goblet squat and build up to 20 reps at 70 pounds for men and 20 reps at 50 pounds for women
- Learn the mechanics of a full depth back squat
- Progress the Back Squat – Work up to a Bodyweight Back Squat for 10 reps at FULL RANGE OF MOTION
12. Prioritize protein.
- Learn how much protein is ideal for your body. Try to get your bodyweight in grams of protein every single day. Improve your energy, build more muscle, reduce cravings, and increase your metabolism with this simple daily hack.
- A winning practical approach is to aim to Get 40-50 grams of protein for breakfast. The standard American Diet is lacing in protein at breakfast. Do this and you will be way ahead of the rest.
- Whenever you can, go for lean sources of protein like low-fat/nonfat greek yogurt, lean ground beef, chicken, turkey, tofu, etc.
13. Fill your plate half full of fruits and veggies.
- More food volume, fewer calories. You’ve likely heard the comparison. 5 Cups of Broccoli is equal in calories to a small handful of Almonds. This highlights the difference between Food Volume and Food Density.
- Our bodies know we are FULL when our stomachs get stretched by a certain volume of food. Maintaining a healthy weight can be supported by eating foods that fill us up without delivering massive amounts of calories.
- Filling our plates of food half full with fruits and veggies ensures we get lots of food volume and limits our calorie density.
14. Learn to meal prep and make 5 ingredient meals.
- Learning how to prepare some of your own food will give you a tremendous amount of control over your diet. You can avoid calories and lower quality ingredients sneaking into your food.
- If you simplify your meals to 5 ingredients it can make preparing meals Easy and much less intimidating.
- Protein – lean meats, dairy, tofu, fish, etc
- Veggie – broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, peppers,
- Carb – Fruits (banana, apple, pear) or Starch (oatmeal, rice, potato)
- Fat – avocado, butter, olive oil, almonds
- Pick up to 5 ingredients from the list above and make a meal.
- Meal Preparation can be as simple as preparing your kitchen and pantry with items from the list above
- Batch cook some chicken breasts and ground beef
- Cook several cups of rice and store in the fridge
- Have a counter top full of fresh fruit
- Prepare 5 jars of overnight oatmeal with 5 ingredients each that you can reach for in the morning quickly
- Oatmeal + Protein Powder + Greek Yogurt + Flaxseeds + Banana
15. Limit processed foods.
- You don’t have to avoid them completely. But choose whole, natural foods over processed ones more often.
- If you’ve adopted the 5 ingredient meals then you’ll naturally reach for whole foods most of the time.
- Limiting processed foods is a HUGE hack to cutting back on unnecessary calories and avoiding the foods that are often hard to control quantities with (ultra processed and hyper palateable foods like DORITO CHIPS)
- DON’T DENY YOURSELF COMPLETELY – limiting vs denying is different. If you attempt to remove them all forever you will FAIL. You are inevitably going to binge on them if they are forbidden, so include them sporadically.
16. Stop drinking your calories.
They don’t fill you up and make it easy to over-consume. Liquid calories bypass many of the mechanisms in the digestive system that signal the brain we are full.
- Start drinking your coffee black – the amount of calories that get added to coffee drinks is astonishing.
- Ditch the juices and smoothies and opt for eating fruit and proper meals
- If you choose to drink alcohol, then stick to drinks that get you the booze without the calories
- Watch out for calorie bomb drinks that are sugar filled pre and post workout. You are better off eating your pre and post workout meals to ensure you get sustained nutrient release.
17. Eat more fiber.
- Incorporate fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- My top 10 High Fiber Foods:
- frozen berries
- green beans
- frozen peas
- chia seeds
18. Learn how to read a nutrition label.
Let’s face it, processed and packaged foods are part of life. If you know what to look for on a food label you can begin to understand how any food can fit into your diet as a regular staple or fun indulgence from time to time.
- Serving Size – how big is the serving size relative to the whole package? If it is a bag of chips that you would normally eat in one sitting, but their are technically 3.5 servings per container, then the calorie and nutrition facts associated with the label are misleading you. You want to know how many total calories you are actually going to consume. Who actually eats 12 almonds from a bag with 50 almonds in it that is sold individually?
- Calories per Serving – Processed foods generally carry more calories per serving than a whole food item. So when we use processed and packaged foods we just want to be mindful that we aren’t over consuming calories. Learn how to figure out what the calories per serving looks like.
- Protein per Serving – I will often reach for packaged and processed foods to find easy sources of protein that don’t require any time to prepare. Knowing how many grams of protein there are per serving is a great skill to have. 20 Grams of Protein per 100 Calories would be an extremely high protein food. Anything less than 10 grams of protein per 100 calories is considered low protein and not a suitable source for your needs.
- Added Sugar – Sugar is not inherently bad, but the over consumption of it leads to lots of unnecessary calories and poor glucose metabolism for many. Sugars that show up in foods naturally aren’t the ones that we necessarily need to be so worried about. It is the added sugars that companies are using to make the foods more delicious and easy to overeat.
19. Sleep consistency is key.
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule.
- Aim for 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep per night.
- Rather than focusing on your alarm to wake up, SET A BEDTIME ALARM. This alarm signals to you that you have 1 hour left before you want to be in bed. This is when you begin your wind down routine.
- Don’t have a wind down routine yet? Then Establish a Bedtime Routine. This could include:
Turn off work, limit electronics, get in a hot bath or shower, read some non-fiction, write down your list of things to do tomorrow so you don’t think about them, watch a non-stimulating TV show, put on blue blocker glasses…
20. Improve sleep quality.
Once you have made your sleep time consistent it is time to improve how good that sleep can be. 8 hours of restful sleep has a much different impact than 8 hours of broken and light sleep.
- Environment – Make your room cold (65-68 degrees) and dark. Remove electronics from the bedroom including and especially your phone. Make it quiet or turn on soft white noise to drown out sound. Ear plugs work too. Sleep naked or with minimal clothes on to promote temperature control.
- Limit Caffeine after Noon – I generally encourage clients to count back 6-9 hours from when bedtime is going to be and cut off caffeine of all kinds. Some people, myself included, are more sensitive and need about 12 hours.
- No Heavy Meals Before Bed: Lots of food in your digestive tract will mean elevated heart rate and respiratory rate and a very active digestive system while you sleep. These will lower sleep quality.
21. Develop a stress reduction practice.
Spend Time in Nature. Chronic stress is an enemy for physical and other aspects of our well-being. But the answer lies just beyond that door over there.
Incorporating a stress-reduction practice is a necessity. And nature has an innate calming effect on the human psyche.
Spending time in nature has been scientifically proven to lower cortisol levels, reduce heart rate, and alleviate feelings of anxiety.
By making a conscious effort to spend time in natural settings, you get two for one: the physical reward of activity, and some hard-won mental tranquility to boot.
22. Prioritize some device free time.
To be honest, I need to work on this one more. But it’s worth it. Setting aside device-free moments fosters introspection, authentic interactions, and mindfulness. Excessive screen time hurts our health and mental well-being. For me personally, it also takes me further away from being present with my kids. So I’m looking for a more balanced relationship, including intentionally putting devices down at times.
23. Embrace the Happiness Equation and Practice Gratitude
Happiness can be defined as: Happiness = Perception of an Event – Expectation of an Event. This equation emphasizes the role of our expectations in shaping our emotional response. By managing our expectations and cherishing simple moments with gratitude, we enhance our joy and resilience, focusing on the valuable everyday experiences that define our lives. This one has been big for me over the last few years especially, as my life responsibilities have grown.
24. Cultivate a hobby.
Pursuing a hobby is a form of self-care, offering relaxation and mental rejuvenation. Engaging in hobbies releases dopamine, leading to pleasure and reduced stress. Instead of monetizing or seeking perfection in hobbies, participate in them for their intrinsic joy. I have been golfing more, either alone or with my dad, and I love it!
25. Invest in meaningful social connections.
We thrive on social connections, impacting our overall well-being. Seek out those strong social ties that bring emotional support, better physical health, shared joy, personal growth, and a sense of belonging. Tip: go deep and find those friends and relationships you can really lean on in hard times. I have a regular call with two of my close friends – I highly recommend this, even if you need to schedule it to make it happen.
26. Financial health tip – Learn the 50/30/20 Rule.
I’m a money worrier. So addressing money stresses with a structured approach, like the 50/30/20 rule, help make finances more objective and less emotional for me.
The 50/30/20 Breakdown:
- 50% Needs: Direct 50% of your income to essentials like rent, groceries, utilities, and transport, securing a stable life foundation.
- 30% Wants: Use 30% for non-essentials such as dining, vacations, and leisure, enhancing life quality and joy.
- 20% Savings: Save 20% for unforeseen expenses, future investments, and retirement, ensuring financial security and peace of mind.
Balancing your budget, just like your diet, gives confidence your overall life structure is supporting your goals.
27. Breathe right.
Prioritize nasal breathing during sleep and low intensity training. For sleep, I use mouth tape and a nose strip – simple as that. Breathing impacts our health and well-being significantly. Nasal breathing, compared to mouth breathing, offers unique benefits that influence how we feel, function, and perceive our surroundings.
Benefits of Nasal Breathing:
- Clean & Moist Air: The nose filters dust and foreign particles and humidifies the air, promoting respiratory health.
- Deep Breathing: Nasal breathing fosters diaphragmatic breathing, facilitating better oxygen exchange and promoting relaxation.
- Boosted Nitric Oxide: Breathing through the nose increases nitric oxide intake, benefiting circulation, blood pressure, and immunity.
- Enhanced Oxygen Uptake: A controlled, slower intake of air through the nose improves oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange, optimizing body oxygenation.
- Restful Sleep: Reduces snoring and sleep apnea chances, leading to better sleep quality.
Wellness isn’t always found in complex routines. A simple practice like nasal breathing can transform the quality of your day.
28. Take care of your digestion.
Prioritize digestive health – choose foods that nurture your gut.
Our gut, our “second brain,” profoundly influences both our mental and physical health. Eating right isn’t just for weight management; it’s about optimizing the bond between our gut and well-being.
- Gut-Brain Connection: The gut-brain axis facilitates communication between our gut and brain, impacting various health outcomes.
- Benefits of a Healthy Gut:
- Mood Balance: The gut produces much of our serotonin, affecting mood. A balanced gut can help mitigate mood disorders.
- Nutrient Uptake: Efficient nutrient absorption from food leads to enhanced health and energy.
- Immunity Boost: A nourished gut strengthens our immune defense.
- Cognitive Clarity: A well-functioning gut promotes clearer thought processes and memory.
- Foods that Nurture Your Gut:
- Probiotic-rich: Include fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut for beneficial bacteria.
- Prebiotic Foods: Opt for garlic, onions, and asparagus to nourish beneficial gut bacteria.
- Stay Hydrated: Water aids digestion and food transit.
- Eat Mindfully: Eating slowly and consciously enhances digestion and nutrient intake.
29. Check up on your mental health.
As a fitness professional, I talk so much about physical health. But the mind impacts the body tremendously. While physical health checkups are common, mental health reviews often lag. Yet, just as we monitor our physical health, routine mental health evaluations can preemptively safeguard our minds.
It is extremely sad to me that the stereotype of the strong, fit person seldom emphasizes tending to your mental and emotional health as a positive.
My life has been enriched by seeing a professional, who offers a non-judgmental space for authentic self-expression and validation. I have learned strategies to handle emotional challenges and understood more of what triggers me, and what can help. Embrace your resilience and talk to a pro.
30. Know your numbers: Holistic Health Metrics for Optimal Well-being
Now is the time to get proactive about your health. Regular health screenings, blood tests, and understanding vital metrics gives you insights into your overall well-being, guiding potential lifestyle adjustments. I dialed in on these even further after reading Peter Attia’s Outlive.
Essential Metrics to Monitor:
- Blood Pressure: Indicates cardiovascular health. Persistent high levels can hint at hypertension and its associated risks.
- Body Composition: Beyond weight, body composition reveals fitness levels, metabolic health, and potential health concerns.
- Blood Chemistry Benchmarks:
- Lipids (Cholesterol, Triglycerides, HDL): Gauge heart health, with imbalances elevating coronary disease risk.
- Fasting Glucose & Insulin: Reflect metabolic health, signaling potential diabetes onset.
- Thyroid & Sex Hormones: Key for metabolism, mood, reproductive health, and vitality.
If you want to learn more about monitoring your health metrics, check out my biohacking resource guide next.
As I’ve gotten older, the significance of making the training and nutrition practices above into daily habits is huge. But a healthy lifestyle encompasses so much more than eating and movement. Choose one or more of these tips and take action!