Healthy Living Documentaries That Are Worth Binge-Watching

Living a healthy lifestyle is something that millions of Americans struggle to do every day. It can be difficult for those trying to lose weight, exercise, or eat better if they don’t have some inspiration. One of the best ways to start a healthy lifestyle is to see it done in a relatable way. Luckily, there are tons of health-related documentaries out there for viewers to explore. Read on to find some that could motivate anyone to take charge of their health journey.

What The Health Takes A Deeper Look Into Meat And Dairy

a man in a doctor's office in what the health
What The Health/YouTube
What The Health/YouTube

Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn released What the Health in 2017. The documentary chronicles the global impact of the consumption of meat, fish, and dairy products, while also critiquing giant leaders of health and pharmaceutical organizations.

The filmmakers closely examine how diet can lead to chronic disease and how the world’s biggest healthcare, pharmaceutical, and food industries are potentially corrupting individuals. Many of the physicians and researchers interviewed for the film are strict vegetarians and vegans.

The Light And Darkness In Cycling Is Seen In Bicycle Dreams

man riding his bicycle on a road in bicycle dreams
Auerfilms
Auerfilms

Bicycle Dreams was released in 2009 by director Stephen Auerbach. It follows competitors in the Race Across America, a three thousand-mile cross-country bicycle race. The film focuses on the riders as they deal with issues from the race such as brutal weather, sleep deprivation, and more.

When one of the competitors has his life taken by a pickup truck, the other riders must deal with the aftermath as they race to the finish line. Sal Ruibal of USA Today said the film has “beautiful scenery and inspirational words from riders and coaches.”

Supersize Me Gives An In-Depth Look Into The Obesity Epidemic

man holding McDonald's fries and soda in supersize me
The Con/Kathbur Pictures
The Con/Kathbur Pictures

One documentary that was popular during the 2000s was Supersize Me. The movie centered around director Morgan Spurlock, who decided to eat McDonald’s food every day for a month.

Supersize Me details how harmful regular fast food consumption can be for the average person and how prevalent it is around the world. The film earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature and Spurlock has since released a sequel called Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!.

Sicko Was A Box Office Success For Michael Moore

Michael Moore putting a rubber glove on in Sicko
Dog Eat Dog Films/MovieStillsDB
Dog Eat Dog Films/MovieStillsDB

Michael Moore is arguably one of the most recognized documentarians in film history. While most of his movies are confrontational, Sicko is a little more subdued. The 2007 documentary explores the American health care system.

Moore explains that the system is very corrupted as he compares it to the health care systems in the United Kingdom, France, Cuba, and Canada. Sicko exceeded expectations at the box office by grossing $25 million with a nine million dollar budget.

Fed Up Describes America’s Addiction To Fast Food

girl wearing a blue plaid shirt in fed up
Atlas Films
Atlas Films

The World Health Organization states that almost two billion people worldwide are obese. In order to understand the obesity epidemic, Fed Up looks into the sugar and fast food industries.

Fed Up found that sugar and fast food are prevalent in most places around the world, which has led to serious health issues in children, such as diabetes and joint pain. The film was directed and written by Stephanie Soechtig and narrated by Katie Couric. It received an 80 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Hood To Coast Gets To The Heart Of Americans

a woman giving an interview in hood to coast
Cinedigm/YouTube
Cinedigm/YouTube

Every year teams compete in an almost 200-mile relay race from Mount Hood, Oregon to the Pacific Coast. Hood to Coast follows four teams of unique people as they strive to win the race.

Some of the competitors include a heart attack survivor and a group of newbie animators who are totally unprepared. Elizabeth Weitzman from New York Daily News said, “Can’t get yourself off the couch? You’ll find all the inspiration you need from this spirited look at Oregon’s titular marathon.”

Learn About American Agriculture In Food Fight

a woman sniffing lettuce in food fight
November Films
November Films

Those who want to learn more about food and agriculture in America should check out 2008’s Food Fight. The film takes a deep dive into the history of American agricultural policy and food culture starting in the early 20th century.

Food Fight continues by showing why people are rebelling against big agribusinesses to promote organic growth. The industrial food system in America may be producing a lot, but the quality of the food can lead to serious health issues such as obesity and diabetes.

Stephen Fry: The Secret Life Of The Manic Depressive Proves There’s More Than Meets The Eye

stephen fry: the secret life of the manic depressive
Jack Taylor/Getty Images
Jack Taylor/Getty Images

While some put a lot of emphasis on physical health, it’s also important to remember that millions of people struggle with their mental health. One documentary that captures this is Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive.

The two-part television documentary follows the actor and comedian throughout his day-to-day life as he manages his bipolar disorder. Fry also interviews celebrities with the same diagnosis, including Carrie Fisher and Richard Dreyfuss. There’s a follow-up documentary called The Not So Secret Life of the Manic Depressive: 10 Years On.

Pumping Iron Made Arnold Schwarzenegger A Household Name

Arnold Schwarzenegger flexing with a ballet dancer in pumping iron
Rollie Robinson/MovieStillsDB
Rollie Robinson/MovieStillsDB

Fans of older movies may remember the cult hit Pumping Iron. The 1977 documentary starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, and other muscle men as they trained to become bodybuilders.

This was the movie that put Schwarzenegger on the map. It also increased the popularity of bodybuilding and started the fitness craze of the ’80s. According to Raw Iron, Pumping Iron was so influential that the number of gyms in the United States dramatically increased after its release.

Food, Inc. Was Nominated For An Oscar

a cow over a field in food, inc.
Magnolia Pictures/MovieStillsDB
Magnolia Pictures/MovieStillsDB

Film critics credit Food, Inc. as being one of the quintessential documentaries to view when it comes to food and health. The 2008 movie takes an in-depth look at America’s food industry by focusing on modern raw food production.

Viewers were able to learn that agribusiness has been harming Americans by making their food unhealthy, ruining the environment, and mistreating animals and employees. Food, Inc. received several prestigious award nominations including the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature.

The Magic Pill Shows The Benefits Of The Keto Diet

people sitting around a table in the magic pill
Netflix
Netflix

Diet crazes come and go and one that has been sweeping the nation is the ketogenic, or keto, diet. The 2017 documentary, The Magic Pill, focuses on the keto diet and how it can benefit individuals.

The film looks at those with health ailments such as cancer, asthma, diabetes, and heart disease and examines how eating a keto diet improves their quality of life. Jade Budowski from Decider said, “Whether you’re a ketogenic believer already or mildly curious, The Magic Pill is a compelling watch, and raises some interesting questions.”

Enlighten Up! Is The Perfect Yoga Documentary

a man hanging upside down in enlighten up
Balcony Releasing
Balcony Releasing

Yoga has become a leading form of exercise and healing all around the world. Enlighten Up! is a 2009 documentary by Kate Churchill that takes viewers on an entire yoga journey.

An unemployed journalist and yoga skeptic is tasked with immersing himself into the yoga world by traveling from America to India to practice under the world’s best yogis. Famed film critic Roger Ebert said, “I enjoyed all the people I met during Nick’s six-month quest. Most seemed cheerful and outgoing, and exuded good health…”

Some Are Switching Their Eating Habits After Seeing Forks Over Knives

a woman doing an interview in forks over knives
Monica Beach Media
Monica Beach Media

Forks Over Knives may cause some viewers to change their eating habits. The 2011 documentary examines how processed food and meat are leading to serious health issues such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

The film urges its viewers to switch to a plant-based diet in order to prevent or reverse the effects of those illnesses. Physician Caldwell Esselstyn and nutritional biochemistry professor T. Colin Campbell talk about their research on the topic and their results were impressive. After seeing Forks Over Knives, Roger Ebert exclaimed, “Here is a film that could save your life.”

King Corn Highlights The Consequences Of Excessive Corn Production

two men eating corn in king corn
Balcony Releasing
Balcony Releasing

In King Corn, college friends Ian Cheney and Curtis Ellis set off on a road trip as they travel to Greene, Iowa. When they arrive, they learn about the process of growing and farming corn and see how much it’s used in American food and drinks.

It leads the boys to realize that large industrialization organizations are taking over the food industry and how that’s affecting the eating habits of Americans. King Corn has a 96 percent “certified fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Runners Will Be Inspired By NOVA’s “Marathon Challenge”

a man running a marathon in marathon challenge
PBS
PBS

NOVA is one of the longest-running series on PBS and their 2007 episode called “Marathon Challenge” is one of their best. The episode focuses on 13 people training for the Boston Marathon. The big catch is that none of them have any experience.

Over the course of the episode, viewers can see the runners turn from novice to professionals as they train for nine months. Exercise and nutritional scientists from Tufts University are there to explain how the training has positively affected their physical and emotional well-being.

Vegucated Is A Must-Watch For Aspiring Vegans

a man standing in a grocery aisle in vegucated
getvegucated/YouTube
getvegucated/YouTube

Becoming a vegan can be a huge lifestyle decision. The 2011 guerilla-style documentary, Vegucated, explores what it really means to be a vegan and how it can impact the planet.

Three New Yorkers agree to live as vegans for six weeks because they want to better their health, but come to realize that there are complex problems in the meat industry, factory farming, and the environment. Vegucated is a must-watch not only for its educational resources, but the subjects tell their story in a hilarious and relatable way.

Bikes Vs Cars Encourages People To Stop Driving Their Cars

a woman riding her bike in front of a lot of cars in bikes vs cars
WG Film
WG Film

Cars are usually the preferred mode of transportation in the United States, but the excess of cars is turning into a global issue. The 2015 documentary, Bikes vs Cars, spotlights why bicycles should be used more frequently.

The filmmakers explain that the health of the planet is in steady decline because there are so many cars on the road. Home Guides states that when cars burn fossil fuels, they release carbon dioxide and heat up the planet. Bikes vs Cars’ main goal is to encourage people to ditch their cars for bikes to help the earth and to get more exercise.

Learn About Mind-Body Intervention In Heal

a woman touching the cheek of another woman in heal
Elevative Entertainment
Elevative Entertainment

Writer and director Kelly Noonan-Gores released her documentary Heal in 2017. The film explores mind-body intervention where people with chronic illnesses ditch traditional medicine for holistic alternatives.

Alex Arabian from Film Inquiry states that the topic of mind-body intervention has been around for thousands of years and Heal shows the physical representation of its treatments. He says, “Noonan has crafted a thoughtful documentary that examines the importance of eastern medicine in our modern society and healthcare system, particularly in western medicine.”

It’s Man Against Sugar In That Sugar Film

a man holding a lollipop in that sugar film
Madman Entertainment
Madman Entertainment

Damon Gameau wrote, directed, and starred in the 2014 documentary called That Sugar Film. It’s similar to Supersize Me where the subject changes his normal diet. Gameau went from not eating refined sugar to a diet low in fat and high in sugar.

He found that sugar was hiding in everyday foods such as dairy-free yogurt, granola bars, pasta sauce, and many more. After his experiment, Gameau gained weight, became very lethargic, and developed fatty liver disease. Some celebrities make cameos in the movie including Hugh Jackman and Stephen Fry.

Don’t Look Down While Watching Free Solo

Alex Honnold free soloing the Scotty-Burke offwedth pitch of Freerider on Yosemite's El Capitan
Little Monster Films/National Geographic
Little Monster Films/National Geographic

Free Solo is a 2018 documentary that profiles a rock climber named Alex Honnold as he attempts to free solo climb El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Most of the crew were rock climbers as well, so they were able to capture the best moments on film.

The goal of Free Solo is to inspire people to achieve their goals and dreams, even if they don’t seem possible. The film also won Best Documentary Feature at the 2019 Academy Awards.