10 Best Fitness Documentaries
These past three years have been challenging, to say the least. The pandemic has done nothing more than create more struggles for all of us. And since the quarantine restrictions kept us locked inside or significantly diminished our options for outside activities, the US has seen an even greater rise in obesity rates since the pandemic began. According to a Harris Poll conducted at the beginning of 2021, 42% of Americans reported gaining roughly 29 pounds since the pandemic started.
Looking for the best fitness documentaries? Let’s go.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at the 10 best fitness documentaries, what they can teach us, and how we can apply some of those lessons even when we’re required to stay inside.
Released in 1977 and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Pumping Iron” presents amateur and professional bodybuilders as they prepare for the 1975 Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe contests. The part-scripted, part-documentary film shows audiences what it takes to make it big as a bodybuilder. We are shown how professionals like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno trained and prepared to compete for the title, the challenges they had to face, and the mental discipline that has helped them climb the ladder to success. Of course, when performed at a professional level, no sport is easy. But when you’re surrounded by men whose goal is to become more prominent, stronger, undefeated, reaching success comes with significant challenges. The film’s cover describes it as a movie that “has heart, soul, blood, guts, perspiration and plenty of muscle.” And if this doesn’t tell audiences what to expect from watching “Pumping Iron,” nothing will.
The Game Changers
Released in 2018 and scoring 7.9 stars on IMDB, The Game Changers is a documentary film that presents the rise of plant-based diets amongst professional athletes. Produced by James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jackie Chan, “The Game Changers” is the sequel to the renowned 1977 documentary “Pumping Iron.” The film highlights the importance of a green, healthy diet for those in professional sports, and not only. It features elite Special Forces trainer James Wilks as he searches the truth about meat, protein, and strength by traveling the world and speaking to individuals whose careers demand them to be physically fit. Wilks interviewed many athletes, special ops soldiers, and scientists throughout his journey, managing to shed light on several outdated misconceptions about what a healthy diet should look like and how it affects not only individuals who have an active lifestyle but people worldwide.
From Fat to Finish Line
Released in 2015 and directed by Angela Lee, “From Fat to Finish Line” features 12 strangers who share one goal – to lose around 100 lbs before running the 200 mile Ragnar Relay Race. When race-enthusiast Rik Akey and blogger Katie Foster came up with the idea to form a team for the Ragnar Relay Race, their goal was to unite people who shared the dream of losing a significant amount of weight and staying fit through running. Though they started off as strangers, spread out throughout the country, the 12 participants depicted in the film gradually became acquainted with one another through social media and blogs and, of course, their mutual goal. At the beginning of 2013, they ran 200 miles from Miami to Key West, Florida. According to the film’s cover, “From Fat to Finish Line” is about a “200-mile race that makes testing their limits a team sport.” Though it scored 5.0 stars on IMDB, one might be surprised to find that this film is about camaraderie just as much as it is about fitness and developing a healthy lifestyle.
This 2013 film follows some of the world’s best bodybuilders as they train for the 2012 Mr. Olympia competition. Produced by Edwin Mejia Jr. and directed by Vlad Yudin, “Generation Iron” presents the challenges and triumphs that bodybuilders experience when training for competitions. Narrated by Mickey Rourke, the film is considered a sequel to the 1977 documentary “Pumping Iron.” It features several bodybuilders – Phil Heath, Kai Greene, Branch Warren, Dennis Wolf, Victor Martinez, Hidetada Yamagishi, Ben Pakulski, and Roelly Winklaar as they train and prepare for a challenging competition.
The film scored 7.1 stars on IMDB and is perceived by many to be a work of intelligent filmmaking, as it manages to shed light on the relatively small community of bodybuilders. In addition, “Generation Iron” shows the determination and self-control required to become a successful bodybuilder who can stand a chance in a competition such as Mr. Olympia.
Fittest on Earth: A Decade of Fitness
In the 2016 Reebok CrossFit Games, athletes competed in 15 events over 5 days in an attempt to be awarded the title of the ‘fittest man or woman on Earth.’ In other words, the title itself reveals the documentary’s central theme. Yet, something that’s not apparent unless you watch the film is just how hard this type of training can be. “Fittest on Earth: A Decade of Fitness” shows the extremely demanding training that the competitors have had to go through. The film makes it a point to show that the majority of the time, the most demanding challenges that professional athletes have to face are the mental ones. After all, wherever the mind goes, the body follows. But when the mind feels like it’s had enough, how can the body keep on going?
Forks Over Knives
This 2011 documentary has made many rethink their dietary habits since its release more than a decade ago. The film delves into the health issues that many Americans face due to unhealthy diets and lack of physical exercise. “Forks Over Knives” sheds light on the lifelong work of Dr. T. Colin Campbell, a nutritional scientist from Cornell University, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a former surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic. The two doctors conducted several studies separately, both reaching the conclusion that most degenerative diseases can be prevented, almost always, if a healthy, plant-based diet is adopted. Heart disease. Type 2 diabetes. Some forms of cancer. Drs. Esselstyn and Campbell claimed that these illnesses could be stopped in their tracks or even prevented by making healthy dietary choices. They advocate for a ‘green’ diet and attempt to support their claims through scientific findings.
However, despite their extensive research and the implications of their findings, this film remains relatively unknown to the general public.
Hungry for Change
This 2012 documentary filmed in Australia reveals secrets from the food, dieting, and weight loss industries. “Hungry for Change” exposes the marketing strategies used by these industries to mislead people into chasing after a ‘perfect’ body. The film’s purpose was to uncover these secrets and inform the population of the deceptive methods they inadvertently can fall prey to. “Hungry for Change” shows the world that wellness cannot be bought in a store and persuades people to stop believing just that. After all, the more people know about this, the better they can decide about their wellness without draining their bank accounts.
Directed by Andre Enzensberger and released in 2011, this documentary follows an MMA athlete over 8 months, revealing the challenges that athletes in this sport have to face. The trials and tribulations. The suffering and the sacrifice. The physical and mental training. The injuries were sustained during the training, and the fights themselves. However challenging, these issues are expected to become a professional athlete. Yet, the film also presents other types of challenges. “Occupation: Fighter” approaches the topics of stereotypes, relationships, and financial issues as seen through the eyes of the athlete and those around him. These are not the primary challenges one would think of when talking about the training of professional athletes. But, at the end of the day, those athletes are just people and not at all immune to normal, everyday problems. “Occupation: Fighter” has managed to beautifully depict this.
Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable
In 2003, at the age of 13, Bethany Hamilton lost her arm to a tiger shark while surfing. Yet, despite facing the type of challenge most of us can’t even imagine, she continued to pursue her dream of becoming a professional surfer. Her love for the water fueled her drive. She attributes her determination to her passion for surfing and her Christian faith. “Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable” presents Hamilton’s life as a wife and mother and discusses how her personal life choices have affected her professional life. Scoring 7.4 on IMDB, the film combines beautiful cinematography with an inspiring testimonial, thus managing to pay respects to Hamilton’s encouraging story.
I Am Maris
Released in 2018, this inspiring documentary presents the story of Maris Degener, who, at the age of 17, found herself in a fight with anxiety, depression, and life-threatening anorexia nervosa. However, the now yoga teacher and writer found her way to healing through yoga. Through her testimony, Degener beautifully describes her journey from desperation to inspiration. This documentary is a must-watch for those considering yoga but is unsure of its uses.
Whether you’re in search of a good fitness documentary for yourself, or you’re looking for something to remind you why in the world you ever opened your wellness business, to begin with, this list can come in handy. However, for the wellness entrepreneurs reading this, there might be something else that can come in handy. Have you ever heard of Persona? If not, you’re in for a treat. Persona is a business & financial management platform tailored specifically for fitness, beauty, and wellness self-employed professionals. The app helps you with payment collection, client scheduling, and expense management, amongst other things. Persona does your taxes for you and helps you save money in the process. And the best part? It’s 100% free, always. The app can easily be downloaded on IoS and Android and used for any of your business needs.