The 18 Best Documentaries to Inspire a Fit Lifestyle

Movies That Will Make You Want to Move

It's not every day that a fitness professional tells you to head to the couch for a dose of fitness inspiration, but sometimes that's exactly what you need. There's certainly motivating about watching other people achieve their goals while overcoming obstacles and learning new things, and documentaries are a great way to witness such achievements.

So the next time the weather's keeping you inside, or you just don't feel motivated enough to whip up a salad or head to the gym, go ahead and make a date with your couch. Any of the following documentaries are practically guaranteed to stir up your inner fire for living a healthier life.

1
Forks Over Knives

Meat eaters take note! Forks Over Knives may make you rethink your habit of burger and fries. This film dives into the health challenges the United States currently faces and whether consuming whole food, plant-based diets could be the remedy so many people need. And if the documentary inspires to you makeover your pantry and fridge, the ​Forks Over Knives website has lots of recipes and tips to help you make the transition.

2
Hungry for Change

If you're constantly feeling confused and disillusioned by the diet industry, you're not alone. The filmmakers behind Hungry For Change help uncover the secrets and deceptive marketing strategies employed by the food and health industries to keep you buying new products in the search for wellness. The good news is, knowledge is power. Once you understand how these industries work, you can make better decisions about your health without completely draining your bank account.

3
Bigger Stronger Faster

This documentary takes a hard look at the use of performance-enhancing drugs in the pursuit of, you guessed it, becoming bigger, stronger, and faster. Filmmaker and film subject, Chris Bell, leaves you asking the question, "Is it really worth it?" Hopefully you'll agree, the answer is "no."

4
Bikes vs. Cars

If you've ever thought about starting a bike commute to improve your health while reducing environmental pollution, it's time to watch Bikes vs. Cars. This documentary dives into what it takes to make bike commuting a safe endeavor, the challenges activists often face, and ultimately, the many benefits of adopting this lifestyle. It doesn't come without obstacles, but the payoff can be huge.

5
Froning: The Fittest Man in History

Whether Rich Froning is actually the fittest man in history is up for debate, but this CrossFit legend is certainly a force to be reckoned with. The 2015 documentary follows Froning as he pursues his fourth CrossFit Games title, diving into his life as more than just an athlete, but as a son, father, and husband—not all that different than you or me.

6
Super-Size Me

Supersize Me is a classic documentary from 2004 that focuses less on what can happen when you choose healthy habits, and more on what can happen when you don't choose healthy habits. Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock puts his own body on the line as he consumes nothing but McDonald's for 30 days straight. Clearly, he has his own biases, and his experiment is far from scientific, but it's hard to ignore the message—that maybe eating too much highly processed fast food isn't worth the potential drawbacks.

7
Occupation Fighter

For a "never give up" message of inspiration, look no further than the 2012 documentary, Occupation Fighter. This film follows a hopeful MMA athlete for eight months through the trials and tribulations of the sport, the sacrifices he makes for training, and the drive it takes to stay hopeful in the face of adversity.

8
American Weightlifting

Not all athletes win multi-million dollar contracts or endorsement deals. In fact, many athletes pursue their sports while holding down full-time jobs and juggling family life while trying to figure out how to pay for coaches, training sessions, and the equipment required to excel.

American Weightlifting is a documentary that takes an inside look at the hard-core athletes of Olympic weightlifting in the United States​—the men and women who receive almost no financial support, but still, train and compete internationally. It's a hard road, but when you're passionate about achieving your goals, every sacrifice is worth it.

9
Marathon Challenge

The NOVA documentary, Marathon Challenge, proves that with the right training and support, practically anyone can accomplish a major fitness challenge—even running a marathon. The film follows 13 generally sedentary adults as they lace up their running shoes and get to work. Individually and together they learn what it takes to drastically change their lifestyles, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

10
Road to the Games

If you've ever wondered what it takes to train and compete in the CrossFit Games, then it's time to sit down and watch the Road to the Games series that follows amateur CrossFit athletes as they train, eat, and live their everyday lives, all in the pursuit of excellence. The film provides an honest look at the joys and challenges so often faced by those who strive to be the best.

11
Pumping Iron

Were the '70s the golden age of bodybuilding? If you're not sure, the classic 1977 documentary, Pumping Iron, may convince you. It takes a partly-true, partly-scripted look at amateur and professional bodybuilding competitors, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno, and what it takes to succeed in such a highly competitive sport.

12
From Fat to Finish Line

What would happen if 12 people who all lost 100 pounds, teamed up to undertake a 200-mile relay race together? Shared experiences, laughter, commiseration, and probably a few tears. From Fat to Finish Line follows just such a cast of real-life characters as they seek to support each other on their ongoing fitness journey.

13
May I Be Frank

May I Be Frank is an incredibly poignant film of complete transformation. Filmmakers follow Frank Ferrante, a 54-year old man, as he seeks to transform his life from an obese, pre-diabetic, drug addict struggling with depression and a challenging relationship with his daughter, to a healthier man who loves himself and has the capacity to enjoy meaningful relationships with others. If you've ever wanted a complete makeover, consider using this film as your inspiration.

14
Spirit of the Marathon

There's nothing quite like crossing the finish line after a hard-won, grueling race like the Chicago Marathon, but watching Spirit of the Marathon may give you a glimpse into what you can expect. This documentary follows six runners from all walks of life as they train for and compete in the iconic race.

15
Enlighten Up!

Yoga has morphed from a fringe spiritual practice to a popular fitness trend, and Enlighten Up! filmmaker, Kate Churchill, was convinced yoga could transform anyone, even a serious skeptic. So Churchill enlisted Nick Rosen, the film's requisite guinea pig, to engulf himself in the world of yoga, traveling near and far to learn about the practice ​and the people who practice it.

16
The Sharp End

You may occasionally head to your local rock climbing gym to scale a wall or two, but that's nothing compared to the death-defying heights and insane risks that professional climbers face. For an inside look at the mountains these incredible athletes climb, and the camaraderie they develop along the way, sit back and relax while watching The Sharp End.

17
Hood to Coast

Hood to Coast is an adventure. A team challenge. A limit-pushing physical feat. And now, it's a documentary by the same name.

Every year, hundreds of teams of runners lace up their shoes and take off in packs, following roads from Mount Hood in Oregon all the way to the Pacific Coast. The total race covers almost 200 miles of often-challenging terrain, and most racers are simply everyday people pushing themselves to do extraordinary things. This documentary will remind you that you really can do anything, especially when surrounded by friends.

18
Bicycle Dreams

Race Across America is considered one of the toughest bicycle races in the world, if not the toughest. Competitors cycle across the United States in just 10 days, pushing themselves to scale mountains and push through brutal weather conditions, all to say they did it. Bicycle Dreams follows racers as they undertake the physical journey, but the mental challenge becomes even harder after one of the competitors is killed in a head-on collision.

Continue Reading