In your 20s, it’s easy to feel invincible — you’re young, you’re healthy and there’s so much life ahead of you. Why worry about your health now, when you’re in your prime?
But neglecting to take care of yourself during your 20s can negatively impact your health later on in life. By starting these habits now, you can put yourself in a good place to stay healthy for a long time.
1. Establish healthy sleep habits.
Healthy sleep is important for both physical and mental health. By getting at least seven hours of sleep a night, you can optimize your health, improve your immune system and sharpen your cognition.
Appropriate sleep hygiene is key to a good night’s rest. This includes avoiding stimulants like caffeine near bedtime, exercising regularly, not eating after dinner time, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and keeping your bedroom dark and quiet.
By establishing these sleep habits early in life, it’ll be easier for you to stick to a healthy sleep routine later in life, when work, family and other needs tend to make our lives busier.
2. Exercise regularly.
Create a realistic goal for yourself to stay active. Join a local group where you can exercise with others who share your goals, join a gym and start a workout routine, or simply take a walk down the street. Increasing your physical activity has been proven to sharpen your mind as you age. Mix in both anaerobic activities such as weight lifting with aerobic activity such as jogging or biking for optimal results.
If you start making regular exercise a habit in your 20s, it’ll help you stay healthy, both physically and mentally, as you age.
3. Start cooking at home.
Start planning your meals weekly. This will give you an overall picture of what you eat each day and help you plan ahead to make healthier (and often more cost efficient) choices. Healthier eating leads to an overall healthier lifestyle and decreases your chances of developing obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure later in life. Your waistline — and your bank account — will thank you.
4. Make your health a priority.
A yearly physical is recommended for all ages, regardless of your medical history. Know your personal and family health history, as this can impact how often you should undergo preventative testing. Many 20-year-olds are healthy but it is still recommended to establish care with a family physician, as prevention is the key to staying healthy. It is also recommended to see a dentist every six months to maintain oral health.
5. Find a hobby.
Find a hobby in your life that brings you joy. You may not know that having a hobby can actually help lower your stress level, and reducing stress can help you remain healthy, both physically and emotionally.
So, try that yoga class that always interested you, take a cooking class, paint the masterpiece you always imagined. Regardless of what you choose, do something that makes you happy. You’d be surprised how much it can impact your long-term health.
6. Quit smoking and limit drinking.
In your early 20s, your risk of accidental injury increases due to the amount of smoking and alcohol often consumed by this age group. But not only do these both have an effect on your life now, they play serious roles in contributing to future diseases and health issues later in life.
Limit your alcohol intake and if you are in the habit of smoking, begin considering options to quit. Alcohol consumption should be limited to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
7. Get tested regularly for STIs.
Protect yourself and your partners from sexually transmitted infections (STI), which can be passed from one person to another during oral, anal or vaginal intercourse. Condom use is always advised, 100 percent of the time.
Getting tested for STIs regularly is also recommended. Most people with STIs don’t have symptoms or even know they are infected, and they can easily pass the infection to their partners. Many STIs can be cured with medication, so it is important to discuss concerns regarding your sexual health with your healthcare provider.
There you have it — the seven habits you should start now to help you stay healthy throughout life. Your future self will thank you.
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About the author
Samuel A. DeLiberato, DO, is a family medicine physician on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Clinic – Austin Circle C. He earned his doctor of osteopathic medicine degree from Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Erie, PA. He completed his residency in family medicine at The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education in Scranton, PA. Book an appointment with Dr. DeLiberato today.