Written by STEPHANIE SUMELL Photos by MICHAEL COONS
C rista Scott kicks off her day by drinking a mixture of hot water, fresh-squeezed lemon juice and apple cider vinegar. “This helps to detox the liver and it gives me a great boost of energy,” the 26-year-old says. “I also drink about a gallon of water a day (because) staying hydrated is key.” Scott, an ambassador for Gnarly Nutrition, a natural sports supplement company, is one of many young adults who have made their health a priority.
Now more than ever, men and women in their 20s and 30s are taking steps to live longer and healthier lives—something they hope will prevent them from having to make dramatic lifestyle changes later on.
Many millennials take pride in making choices that have a positive impact on their physical and mental health. Those choices might include taking a regular exercise class, researching a food or product before consuming it or simply climbing the stairs instead of taking the elevator.
“More people are becoming educated about the consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle,” Scott says. “In a time when health insurance costs are skyrocketing and cancer is around every corner, I believe people are starting to become more concerned with their own health and (illness) prevention.”
Maybe that’s why a diet of nutrient-rich foods—coupled with regular exercise—is the norm for 20- and 30-somethings who have chosen to live healthy.
Raymond Martherus, the marketing director for Lassens Natural Foods & Vitamins, says the chain of health food stores is attracting more young people than ever before.
“The values of the store haven’t changed. We aren’t specifically targeting younger people. But we see more and more of them shopping in our stores.”
He says many customers have inherited healthy eating habits from their parents.
“It’s how these younger people have grown up and who they’ve grown up with. Many of them were taught to reach for the apple instead of the chips.”
And that’s not taking into account the chic factor of eating right.
“California is the look-good, feel-good state,” Martherus says. “A lot of the health movements come out of California.”
He says people in California often set a precedent for those in other states.
“Being an innovator or an early adopter is part of what makes eating healthy foods cool. It’s being one of the first to use a product, whether it’s kale or quinoa, before it becomes commonplace,” Martherus says. “Eating right is infectious. Once someone sees someone else that looks good and feels good, they want to create a similar lifestyle.”
Those sorts of intentions have prompted universities across the nation to offer programs and services that promote health.
Deborah Gravelle, the director of wellness promotion and education programs at CSU Channel Islands, says the university strives to help students develop and maintain healthy habits.
The school offers regular yoga, meditation, aerobics and other classes in its recreation center, and professionals are on site to address any and all mental and emotional issues students might experience.
“It’s about the whole person,” Gravelle says. “Our ultimate goal is to address the body, mind and soul.”
To do that the university strives to stay up-to-date on the services students want and need. Gravelle says students are becoming increasingly vocal about the importance of having exercise classes on campus.
“We try to keep abreast of trends. It’s important to understand what students are into at the moment.”
Gravelle says CSU Channel Islands expects the wellness promotion and education programs to grow over time.
The university is one of many to invest time and money into health-related ventures.
CSUN’s new $59-million student recreation center includes an indoor jogging track, a rock climbing wall, workout equipment, basketball courts, outdoor pools and several exercise studios.
The center was designed to meet the growing demand for gym space among students who are interested in exercise for more than just burning calories or building muscle.
Cal Lutheran has new and improved rec facilities as well—an aquatics center that doubles as the official training site for the U.S. Olympic water polo team, a two-story football and soccer stadium, and the Forrest Fitness Center, which offers advanced training facilities for the student body.
Activities that engage the body and the mind are becoming increasingly popular among young adults. Yoga, for example, has become a mainstay for many in their 20s and 30s who want to combat the negative impact daily stressors have on their health.
Sri Hari Moss, the co-owner of Yoga Upstairs in Agoura Hills, says his classes combine different styles of yoga to meet the needs of his students—people of all ages and ability levels.
“A lot of the students in their late 20s and 30s are starting to feel the aging process,” Moss says. “They are starting to get sore backs and sore necks, and they want to do something about it.”
The teacher describes yoga as the “union between ourselves and God.”
“Yoga is the ability to still the mind so that it doesn’t fluctuate from one thing to another,” he says. “Once you can control the mind, you find that it alleviates a lot of the suffering we have in our lives.”
Moss says many of his older clients tell him they wish they had started practicing yoga earlier.
“The best time to start a yoga practice was 20 years ago. The next best time is now,” Moss says.
Living the lifestyle
Yoga and other activities are often just one aspect of what is, for many, an entire way of life. Clothing and equipment companies are contributing to the cool factor associated with being healthy by creating products that are both functional and stylish.
Lululemon Athletica, an upscale brand of active wear, has opened almost 300 stores since it was established in 1998.
The company has capitalized on the idea that workout clothes aren’t just for the gym or yoga studio.
Jessica Easter, an area community manager for the company, says its customers “have a finger on the pulse” of the latest trends in music, art and style.
“We make products that can be worn to the studio, at the studio and maybe even out to dinner following a sweaty class,” she says. Easter says because of their busy lifestyles people “value functional fashion and are looking for technically beautiful clothing that takes them from studio to street and back again.”
And, for many, an oversize T-shirt and holey tennis shoes just won’t cut it.
“People are becoming more aware of the benefits of living a healthier, happier, more fun life,” Easter says. “With that increase of awareness, there is a greater need for (active wear) designed for any sweaty pursuit.”
Those sweaty pursuits are what many would consider to be the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle.
And, what is healthy?
It depends whom you ask.
Elisa Rega, 28, says she believes food has changed radically in the last 30 years.
She believes many foods—especially those that are processed—contain harmful ingredients. So Rega tries to eat organic, home-cooked meals that are low in carbohydrates and high in protein to avoid feeling lethargic.
“I believe the food industry . . . is constantly trying to trip you into thinking something is healthy when it’s really not. The word ‘natural’ will be written all over a box, but it actually means nothing.”
She says that’s why people need to pay attention to what they consume so they don’t fall prey to baseless marketing ploys. She uses information from books, magazines and articles on the Internet to make smart food choices.
Hint: It can’t be bought at a drive-thru.
“There is so much information on the Internet,” Rega says. “Anyone can educate themselves if they want to.”
And many do.
Rega is one of many young consumers whose preference for fresh, locally grown foods that are free of additives has changed and will continue to change the food industry.
“It wasn’t until I got to college and started feeding myself that I had to take responsibility and make my own decisions,” she says. “If I’m at a party or if it’s free, I’ll eat anything you put in front of me. But if I go out and buy something, I try to buy mostly organic foods that make me feel good.”
She isn’t alone.
Scott, a long-distance runner, says a healthy lifestyle will never go out of style.
The Ventura resident, whose research on the benefits of outdoor exercise has been published in three scientific journals, says she tries to live a balanced life by preparing her own meals, practicing yoga regularly, climbing rocks, lifting weights and taking time to relax and meditate each day.
“We are all human,” Scott says. “You should focus on daily activities and habits that improve your quality of life while at the same time allowing yourself to indulge every once in a while.”
Scott is not an anomaly. Her active lifestyle aligns with a greater cultural shift that does not diminish the importance of health and well-being but lays the groundwork for a brighter future.
Developing healthy habits early will decrease the risk of suffering from diabetes, cancer and other life-threatening diseases later on.
“I think the more focus we place on healthy living, the more we will benefit in the long run,” Scott says. “We will be more productive at work, have richer relationships, and the cost of healthcare will significantly drop. Health and fitness is a vital tool in prevention of illness.”
From the millennials’ perspective, that’s pretty cool.