The 40 Biggest Strides

In honor of our 40th anniversary, we’re celebrating the best healthy lifestyle trends to have emerged in the last four decades.

The 40 Biggest Strides
Pin it Jonathan Skow

31 Health-food stores go national It used to be that in order to get good-for-you food, you had to seek out the neighborhood health-food store—cramped, maybe a little smelly and intimidating to those who weren’t familiar with 101 uses for wheat germ. Enter the health-food grocery store chain. National and regional markets, including Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s and Hannaford, offer organic, locally sourced foods and the most nutritious packaged goods, all in well-lit and easy-to-navigate places. Just as great: More big, national chain stores—like Target, Walmart, Safeway and Publix—are now offering organic foods, helping to make pesticide-free meals available to the masses.

32 We're into our greens In the 1950s and ’60s, dinner plates were filled with meat, potatoes and soggy, grayish peas. Now, nutrient-dense, dark leafy greens like kale, collards and chard are all the rage—and we’re piling them into our grocery carts and searching for all kinds of fabulous ways to prepare them. (Massaged, raw kale salad anyone?)

33 You don’t have to go to an ashram to retreat Canyon Ranch. Golden Door. Kripalu. In the 1970s and ’80s, these spas and retreat spots emerged, giving us the opportunity to seek a serene, beautiful and transformative pause in our everyday life without having to trek to India. The success of the “spa getaway” made way for the opening of numerous day spas, meaning much-needed retreats—even brief ones— are now more convenient, affordable and something all of us can enjoy.

34 Eco-chic emerges Cotton is our most heavily sprayed crop, a fact that leaves many conscious consumers clamoring for fabrics that are gentle on our bodies and the planet. Luckily, top designers are working to satisfy the growing demand. Stella McCartney makes vegan boots; Bahar Shahpar uses sustainable fabrics like hemp and colors them with organic vegetable dyes; even Levi’s is making organic cotton jeans and Target is carrying affordable lines of organic cotton clothing.

35 Meditation goes mainstream It used to be that the only people you’d find meditating were monks and your über-crunchy neighbors who spent some time living in Tibet. Now, thanks to scores of studies proving a meditation practice can make us calmer and happier, lower our blood pressure and risk of heart attack, and help us live longer, more of us are plopping onto meditation pillows—and reaping the benefits those monks and yogis have known about for centuries.

36 Entire cities get eco-makeovers Recently, a number of cities across the country have begun to stand out as eco-friendly hot spots. Seattle’s mayor was the first to sign the U.S. Conference of Mayor’s Climate Protection agreement; Austin, Texas, meets nearly 20 percent of its electricity needs through renewables; San Francisco has a citywide compost program. These places deserve kudos for helping their residents live healthier lives—and for giving the rest of us an example to follow.

37 Tobacco acceptance goes up in smoke Although the U.S. Surgeon General’s office first issued a public health warning about the dangers of smoking cigarettes in 1964, smoking’s glamorous and rebellious image was still promoted all over billboards and on TV until recently. It wasn’t until the 1980s and ’90s that the anti-smoking message finally started getting through. Now, anyone who still lights up knows the risks—and even city governments have banned the bad habit in public places, saving all of us from harmful secondhand smoke.

38 We learn a little dirt is good for us Remember the rush on hand sanitizers and anti-bacterial soaps in the 1990s? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of products containing antibacterial agents jumped from a few dozen in 1990 to more than 700 in 2000—causing scientists to research how the increase in these products might contribute to antibiotic resistance. The verdict? These soaps and hand gels aren’t helping us stay healthy—they’re making us more vulnerable to serious infections. Turns out a little bacteria is good for us, boosting metabolism and immunity and reducing inflammation. Which means we can all relax our germophobia a bit.

39 We embrace the fact that there are no fast fixes for lasting weight loss Make no mistake: Losing weight and keeping it off doesn’t happen in a heartbeat. Rapid weightloss plans, such as the Zone Diet and the Atkins Diet, became popular because they do work quickly—for a while. But they’re difficult to maintain, primarily because they rob the body of essential nutrients and energy. Plus, most fad diets don’t encourage physical activity, which is key. The truly sustainable way to lose weight, according to the American Heart Association: a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products, along with regular physical activity.

40 Awareness of food sensitivities is on the rise Remember when a stuffy nose or chronic headaches had your primary care physician whipping out his prescription pad? Now, many M.D.s and R.D.s are talking to patients about food sensitivities, enlightening us to the fact that our morning bowl of cereal or weakness for sugar-filled desserts might be causing our health problems. “Food sensitivities are estimated to affect up to 45 percent of us, but we often don’t know if we have one,” says Beth Reardon, M.S., R.D. Experts now know that when your body is sensitive to certain foods (most often milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy and fish), a host of symptoms, including congestion, depression and fatigue, can result. Thanks to more info about these common trigger foods and how an elimination diet can help you pinpoint a sensitivity, it’s easier than ever to feel better fast— without an Rx.