10 Best TED Health Talks

For inspiring speeches given by leading innovators, TED health talks never fail to deliver.

TED is a nonprofit that seeks to spread ideas through short videos that last for 18 minutes or less. The initiative began as a live conference in 1984, before the Internet revolutionized information dissemination, and originally focused on technology, entertainment, and design—hence the TED acronym.

Since then the organization has branched out and covers just about any topic under the sun, including health. According to the website:

“We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives, and ultimately, the world.”

With that in mind, here is a collection of the best TED health talks to inspire your healthy New Year’s resolutions.

1. The killer American diet that’s sweeping the planet

The standard American diet, also known by the abbreviation SAD, consists of mostly processed food, factory-farmed meat, and too-few vegetables. As this style of eating has spread, rates of obesity and related conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease have soared. First this happened in the U.S., and now it’s affecting people worldwide as other nations adopt American-style eating.

In this TED health talk, renowned health expert Dr. Dean Ornish explains how many of these health problems are not only preventable, but also reversible by simply changing the way we eat.

2. Why some people find exercise harder than others

Some people love their daily sweat. They look forward to it and have no problem returning to their exercise routine if they happen to miss a day. And for others, exercise seems like the most arduous task imaginable. Most days, it would take an act of Congress to get them to the gym, and even then, resistance would be fierce.

Why the difference? In this TED health talk, social psychologist Emily Balcetis reveals the fundamental differences between exercise lovers and loathers and offers a simple way to overcome the dread for those falling into the latter category.

3. Why dieting doesn’t usually work

Is losing weight on your New Year’s resolution list this year? If you’re like many people, it is.

Many people approach this seemingly elusive goal by adopting a strict diet, perhaps accompanied by an exercise plan. Yet, thousands of people have tried every diet out there only to find there’s no lasting effect on their waistline.

In this TED health talk by neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt, viewers will learn the secret behind why diets sometimes hinder weight loss efforts instead of help. You’ll also learn Aamodt’s methods, borne from personal experience, for potentially helping you finally lose those extra pounds.

4. A broken body isn’t a broken person

Life with chronic pain can sometimes feel like a war against your own body. Cross-country skier Janine Shepherd knows that feeling well. Shepherd was a dedicated athlete and Olympic hopeful when a truck hit her during a training ride, leaving her a partial paraplegic.

Doctors told her she wouldn’t recover, but Shepherd didn’t listen to the messages that her body was broken and applied her athletic perseverance—her nickname was Janine the machine—to ditching the wheelchair, not only learning to walk, but learning to fly airplanes.

5. The opportunity of adversity

In this TED health talk, learn how runner Aimee Mullins turned a birth defect—she was born without shinbones—into the opportunity to achieve her dreams and inspire thousands of people along the way.

Watch this video for creative fodder about turning your challenges into a personal legacy.

6. Play is more than just fun

As children grow into adults, most people stop playing somewhere along the line. With family responsibilities and the social expectations that we adopt serious attitudes, play frequently falls to the wayside. But what if play is an important part of health?

Play researcher Dr. Stuart Brown says playing, laughing, and general roughhousing do more than make us laugh. They make us happy and keep us healthy. With research showing that laughter can also alleviate chronic pain, this TED health talk will hopefully inspire you to incorporate more play into your life.

7. All it takes is 10 mindful minutes

Most days, we may rush from here to there, always thinking, planning, analyzing, and worrying. What would happen if we took just ten minutes to do be present?

Mindfulness expert Andy Pudicombe talks about the benefits of eliminating thought from the mind for that short period of time and provides tips to achieve that elusive mental freedom in this TED health talk.

8. The mystery of chronic pain

Chronic pain is sorely misunderstood, says pediatrician Elliot Krane, who believes that the condition is an independent entity and should not be forever linked to a primary condition. In this video, Krane talks about his experience treating a young dancer with a painful wrist condition.

Krane’s ideas about pain, namely that it alters how a person’s nervous system functions, could revolutionize the future of chronic pain treatment.

9. Why I’m a weekday vegetarian

Many studies tout the benefits of eating a vegetarian diet, but eliminating meat can seem like a scary proposition. In this TED heath talk, journalist Graham Hill talks about his culinary adventure of adopting a meatless diet on weekdays.

Whether you opt to reduce your meat intake or simply glean good information, Hill’s talk is sure to open your eyes about the abundant opportunities outside ideas of all or nothing.

10. Your genes are not your fate

Genetics research is advancing at a speedy clip, and new studies continually come out linking health concerns ranging from obesity to fibromyalgia with genetics. For those wanting to shape a healthy future, take heart. Dr. Dean Ornish says our genes don’t have to be our destiny.

In this TED health talk, Ornish reviews research outlining how eating healthy and even expressing more love positively influences genes and helps to reduce the risk of disease.

If these TED talks have whetted your appetite for health videos, you’re in luck because the Internet is awash in information. Other sites featuring similar content include Discovery Fit and Health, Health Guru, and The New York Times’ health video channel.

What is your favorite TED health talk?

Image by PopTech via Flickr