15 Best Health Documentaries to Inspire an Active Lifestyle

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Health documentaries can be informative and inspirational, helping you gain insight and motivation to make changes to your health and wellness habits. Hundreds of health documentaries are available in all genres, from nutrition and diet to fitness, martial arts, and bodybuilding. Whatever your interests, you're sure to find something to watch from the list of health documentaries below.

Explained: Why Diets Fail

Explained is a documentary series by Vox on Netflix. The series aims to explain the concepts and context of several different topics. An episode titled Why Diets Fail examines the various reasons why diets don't work.

The episode unpacks the science that low carb, low fat, and body type diets as well as supplements and detoxification regimes simple do not work in helping most people lose weight. While the diet industry pushes us to avoid calories the food industry encourage us to eat more of them.

On Yoga: The Architecture of Peace

On yoga is an inspirational and educational film that unravels the popularity of yoga as it began in remote locals in India an the Himalayas to populous cities like New York. It follows the photographer Michael O'Neil as he speaks to various Yoga gurus from around the world.

This film traces the roots of yoga while also conveying a deep passion for the practice that will motivate you toward a deeper connection or new start with your own yoga practice.

The Illusionists

The Illusionists is a documentary film that will inform you about the pervasiveness of unattainable beauty standards and how they are used in marketing. You will see these standards revealed from around the world in an eye opening way.

While watching this film, you'll feel encouraged to work toward body acceptance and you may even feel justifiably angry at the multi-billion dollar industries that profit off of insecurities and body hatred.


Cooked is a journey into what it means to create the meals you eat. It will inspire you to feel a deeper connection with your food and encourages a more rounded, personal relationship with the food you eat. While food is often seen as a battleground of what you should and shouldn't eat, Cooked will help you reclaim the personal and cultural significance of food.

The documentary series compels you to get back into the kitchen, relearning lost culinary traditions and food preparation techniques while focusing on the ingredients and cooking methods used to provide nourishment to yourself and those you cook for.

American Weightlifting

American Weightlifting is a documentary film that examines what it takes to compete at the sport of weightlifting. You'll get an inside look at the extreme dedication these athletes and their coaches have for their sport while getting a glimpse at the struggles and setbacks involved.

This documentary is inspiring and informative for anyone interested in Olympic weightlifting and what it takes to compete internationally in the United States.

I Am Maris: Portrait of a Young Yogi

I Am Maris is a documentary film about a 17 year old yoga teacher. Maris is a survivor of a life-threatening struggle with anorexia nervosa who overcomes anxiety and depression to pursue her dream of becoming a yogi and teacher.

You'll be inspired by her story of perseverance, healing, self-acceptance, and passion. This film demonstrates the healing power of finding a physical and mental passion that build self acceptance and confidence. It may just inspire you in your own pursuit of building a yoga practice.

Too Big For the World

Too Big For the World examines the standards women face when wanting to take up space. While men are encouraged to get bigger, women are typically pressured to become smaller. Women who want to be muscular and grow in size are often confronted with discrimination and harassment.

This documentary traces the life and pressures of Irene Anderson, a bodybuilder and middle-aged mother of three who breaks boundaries while combatting society's expectations of women. You'll be inspired to view bodies and physical fitness differently after watching.

The Dawn Wall

The Dawn Wall tells the incredible story of Tommy Caldwell, a free climber who strives to conquer the 3000-foot Dawn Wall of El Capitan, a vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park known to be exceedingly challenging to climb.

This inspirational tale demonstrates the passion and dedication it takes to train for such a physically and mentally exhausting feat. You'll also be amazed at how Tommy braves all of this, accomplishing more than many others before him, despite losing his index finger in an accident. A genuinely uplifting and moving journey.

Miss Representation

Miss Representation is a film that illuminates how mainstream media and society tend to greatly under-represent women in positions of power and influence in the United States. You will face the disparity in today's culture that minimizes women in sports and positions of influence.

Media's focus on girls' youth, beauty, and sexuality creates issues with body image and dissuades girls from seeking more meaningful pursuits and passions. Boys face pressure to be strong, aggressive, and dominant. This eye-opening informative documentary will help you build confidence and body acceptance as you learn about the issues faced by girls and boys today.

Through My Father's Eyes

Ronda Rousey is a famous UFC and MMA fighter who was the first female UFC champion. She is a decorated athlete including a two-time Judo champion in the Olympics at the age of 21. Through My Father's Eyes delves deeper into the life of Rousey as her star rises, outlining the struggles she overcame to get there.

You'll be inspired and motivated watching her train, push, and survive. Especially if you enjoy watching the sport of MMA as there is plenty of fight footage to admire.


Accomplice is a mountain biker's dream documentary, with footage from all over the world of top riders. Any cyclist or those who enjoy extreme sports will want to watch this documentary for its inspiring feats of skill and beautiful scenery.


Resurface tells the story of Bobby Lane, an Iraq war veteran who experienced many years of depression, seizures, and nightmares. He meets a big wave surfer, Van Curaza, who helps vets like Lane find peace through the sport of surfing.

Lane and Curaza demonstrate how being active and close to the ocean provides a healing mind-body experience that helps Lane and other veterans cope with their traumas. A truly touching story of how sport can hold a significant place for many.


Fightworld is another inspiring and educational documentary series about fighting sports around the world. It reveals the various fighting styles and practices from other cultures while demonstrating how sport can be an incredible passion in the lives of people around the world.

You'll learn about the fighting techniques in Israel, Myanmar, Senegal, Mexico, and Thailand while accompanied by host, fighter, and actor Frank Grillo.


Limitless tells the stories of eight different women runners from India while promoting running as a pursuit for women all over the world. In India, these women face difficulties and roadblocks while simply trying to get out and run, something that brings them joy but is not as easy as it is in America.

This documentary will motivate you to lace up your running shoes while allowing you to view the challenges and passions of women runners from India.

Born Strong

Born Strong is a motivating and inspirational documentary about strong men — their passion, love, and dedication to the sport and competition. The film follows the four strongest men on Earth as they compete for the title of the strongest man.

You'll first be introduced to each competitor in their home country, then follow them to The Arnold Strongman Classic. Strong men featured in this film include Eddie Hall, Hafthor Bjornsson, Brian Shaw, and Zydrunas Savickas.

A Word From Verywell

Documentaries can inspire, motivate, educate, and change your perspective on topics of all kinds. Health documentaries such as the ones above will entertain you while allowing you to see how varied health and fitness are around the world and how they can change people's lives.

By Rachel MacPherson, BA, CPT
Rachel MacPherson is a health writer, certified personal trainer, and exercise nutrition coach based in Montreal.