27 Things I Have Learned in 27 Years

Last week it was my birthday. Over 27 (technically 28 I guess) years of being an alive human being, and 5 or so years where I have had some interest in being a healthy human being, I have learned some basic things about health and fitness. Here is what I believe in: 

Choose a type of exercise you love because that is the best reason to do it. The amount of exercise we're meant to do uses up too much damn time to do something you don't like. 

Nature is a gift and you should be out there enjoying it. If you've never been drenched in a warm summer storm, blinded by a blizzard, felt the sun soak into your bones, or seen the power in a burst of lighting and a growl of thunder then you are missing out.  

Variety is a saviour. Variety in exercise type will make the biggest changes to how you look and is the healthiest way to work all of your body. Plus it stops you getting bored. 

Find out what bells and whistles you really need. Realistically you could be fit and healthy using only your buck naked body to walk and perform functional strength movements. Some good shoes make moving over ground more comfortable. High quality performance clothes help manage the weather. Maybe you want a GPS watch to measure how far you are going? Work out what items will really help motivate you (I use my Garmin and yoga mat a lot) and which will sit gathering dust. Are you the kind of person who needs a gym, DVDs, a club, an apple watch? Being on either side of the spectrum from bare to tech geek is fine as long as you know what you need. 

Health is not truly reflected in how you look, how screwable you are, or your weight. Stop listening to the scale, if you need measurements to feel motivated a tape measure or body fat % is much more informative. But they still can't tell you how healthy you are. 

Learn to do the basic movements well and you'll never be without a strength workout. Learn how to squat, lunge, lift, and press without injury and you can strengthen yourself anywhere.

Diet is what changes your weight. Exercise is what changes your shape, and how you feel. 

There will be days when being healthy feels shitty. Learn the differences between unmotivated (when you could benefit from pushing through your exercise) and exhausted (when you shouldn't bother); learn the difference between a dull day when you are craving food just to add some interest and a diet that just isn't working for you.

If you eat well you will feel better. Better nutrition makes everything better. 

If you make your kids do sporty things and don't call them sports they will eventually come back to it after a teenage rebellion. Thanks, mum and dad... All those sneaky early-life hill walks...

Exercise is a necessity and not a lifestyle. Lots of people seem to totally ignore this. If you want to be healthy at all, exercise is not a do or don't. The options are all in how you do it, not whether you do it. 

Anyone who is making money is likely lying to you somewhere. Consider anything that a company says on their packaging or their website with huge skepticism. Same rule for the media, they publish bullshit new science because it makes a headline and headlines = money.

Calorie counting is desperately overrated and can make you ill. Eat mostly unprocessed foods, eat more vegetables, and you probably wont have to count them. If you do like to count calories be mindful of the effect it has on your mental health.

Your body is yours and to not embrace it is a sin. How you look is not who you are on the inside. You can be a kind, funny, intelligent person irrespective of how you perceive yourself to look. However, if you become consumed by anxiety or self hatred based on how you perceive yourself to look then it becomes who you are on the inside- you are letting your (likely irrational) perceptions change you how you think and behave. 

Too busy is a lie. People make time for what they value. What you need is to learn to value exercise and health. 

Alcohol is pretty much pointless. It's a nutritionally dead poison. However it can be fun and tasty. Try not to abuse it and try to keep your consumption of it very low.  

You crew will make or break you. Friends will support you or they won't. The ones who support you are the ones that are worth it (though make sure you don't conflate 'support' and 'never disagreeing'- good friends challenge you too!). 

'Treat' food is good for the soul. Not all food has to be a nutritional wonder, perfectly clean, have a dietary purpose. If the purpose is just that it is goddamn tasty, that's good in moderation too. 

If you are calling it a diet, its already over. Diet has come to mean a temporary burst of painful insanity that will be abandoned post-holiday. Real health requires lifelong changes that you understand and respect. 

Rest is as important as exercise. Sleep well and work in recovery time. Burn out is all too real in your professional life and in exercise. If you don't rest and recover you will push yourself to the physio's office or to an early grave.

Water is essential. 2 litres or so a day. It's amazing the change that this one thing makes. 

Abs don't mean you're healthy. And the lack of them doesn't make you unhealthy. To get abs you will need a very low body fat percentage, lower than that needed for a healthy human system. Aesthetic goals aren't a stand-in for health. 

Starting over is okay. Don't let mistakes in nutrition or fitness make you give up.

Social media is a double edged sword. It can be a wonderful motivator or highly depressing. Consider your relationship with it to assess whether its a help or a hindrance. 

Simply walking around is underrated. Again, just going for a wander is good for the soul. It doesn't feel like a workout, it gets you out there and moving. My S.O. and I use walking dogs as a way to spend quality time together. If you need just 5 minutes out the office, or need to clear your head, go for a walk

Consistency is key. Realistically your body and health care that you are out there moving moderately as regularly as possible. You can't win by doing only massive things then nothing. Steady, and consistent win the health race (though you don't necessarily have to go slow- fast bursts are brilliant cardio). 

You decide how you live based on your own values, but make sure you know those values. I am not a vegetarian who believes that it is the only healthy way to live. I believe in people working out what works for them- firstly, which nutrition and exercise they respond best to, secondly, what values they want to put on that.

Leggings are Adidas, shoes are New Balance (both birthday gifts from friends)

I hope these brief statements help you conceptualise what a healthy life could look like. I will definitely have to re-read this list myself, probably weekly, because I definitely don't always take my own advice! If you have any discussion, or you disagree with any points, please let me know in the comments!


For my 28th year on Earth, give me your best advice about health and fitness? 

Post written by Scallywag and published on Scallywag Sprints on 07/06/2016


  1. Really interesting post!

    I agree with you on all of your points, especially about consistency (as that's something I need to remember myself, I often skip workouts if I don't have enough time to do a proper session i.e I haven't organised myself well enough) and doing exercise you love, there's no point putting yourself through a gruelling session if you hate every minute of it. Also love the point about exercise not being an option, THIS IS SO TRUE! Exercise is essential and can prevent so many diseases and just in general makes everything so much better!

    I'm not sure about the fact that everyone selling things is lying though, sure there are some companies who are exploiting health and fitness to sell their products (like protein world protein powder having triple the carbs it says it has) but I think there are companies that are genuinely looking to make things better and help people.

    Anyway, great post :)

    Hannah x


    1. Thanks Hannah :)

      You're right, I'm a bit of a cynic, there is the odd company with great aims. I just suspect many will say what they think people want to hear!

  2. Happy beated birthday :) My 28th birthday isn't too far away and I'm happy where I am in life but, like you, have learnt a few things I didn't know back in my wide-eyed "yoof".
    I agree with pretty much everything you've put. The one health advice I'd give to anyone wanting to get healthier is WALK. It is the easiest, cheapest and most satisfying exercise that any able-bodies person should be able to do. That and get a dog...but I bias ;-)

    1. Thanks Anna! We do Borrow My Doggy so I completely agree with you!