Why is it important for men to look after their health?
We all know that exercise is good for our health, and we know we should be regularly exercising, but that doesn’t mean we do it. Unfortunately, life gets in the way; our job, children, family commitments - all seem to suck away all of your energy and time. So we tell ourselves we will get back into exercising when there is less on our plates, the trouble is, we never seem to have less to do.
We may find that the extra weight we have gained is enough to get you back to exercising, but let's think about all the other health benefits we gain from keeping active – bear in mind this doesn’t have to be endless hours in the gym, as let's face it, the majority of us don’t have spare hours per day. You will be glad to hear that just half an hour, 5 times per week, is all you need to meet the government exercise guidelines.
Let's have a glance at nine of the benefits men can gain from meeting those guidelines:
1. Healthier blood vessels
To respond to changing oxygen demands, blood vessels must be flexible enough to widen and narrow. Smoking, cholesterol build-up, and just plain ageing tend to stiffen vessels, increasing heart attack risk. A growing number of studies show that exercise training helps maintain the ability of blood vessels to open and constrict in response to changing physical demands.
2. Lower risk of high blood pressure
When blood pressure rises, the risk of heart disease and stroke accelerates. Unfortunately, blood pressure can rise in men as age increases, but they don’t have to. The more physically active you are, the less likely is to rise.
3. Reduced inflammation
Regular exercise has shown to reduce levels of C-reactive protein, a measure of inflammation. That matters because cholesterol-laden plaques on the lining of the arteries are most likely to break off and cause heart attacks when they become inflamed.
4. Lowers cholesterol
As men begin to get older, cholesterol levels move in the wrong direction. Levels of LDL cholesterol (so-called bad cholesterol) gradually increase, and levels of HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) tend to fall. Unfortunately, that combination of higher LDL and lower HDL is the biggest risk factor for heart disease. The best way to keep levels of LDL cholesterol down is to eat a diet low in saturated fat (that you find in processed meat and full-fat dairy products), and to eat foods high in unsaturated fat, such as nuts, seeds, and oily fish. One of the best ways to boost your levels of HDL cholesterol is regular exercise.
5. Lower risk of diabetes
Adult-onset diabetes – fuelled mainly by too much body fat, is one of the biggest health concerns on the horizon. Staying active can help keep the weight off, but research shows that even for people who are overweight or obese, exercise reduces the risk of diabetes.
6. Lowers risk of colon cancer
Colon cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer death in men. Approximately 80% of cases of the disease could be prevented, experts say. A healthier diet (with more fibre and whole grains) is part of the prescription. But exercise turns out to be just as important as diet. Studies have shown that physical activity may reduce colon cancer risk by as much as 30 to 40%.
7. Strong bones
Another unwelcome effect of ageing is thinning bones, which can lead to a greater risk of fractures. Those who regularly exercise generally achieve greater peak bone mass (maximum bone density and strength) than those who do not. Exercising can also help maintain muscle strength, coordination, and balance, which, in turn, helps to prevent falls and related fractures. This is especially important for older men and people who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis.
8. Longer life
An active life also means a longer, healthier life. Active men are less likely to develop cardiovascular disease, as well as reaping all the benefits already mentioned.
9. Quality of life
Regular exercise will lead to a better quality of life. How? Regular exercise will help with your mental health – it can ease the depression, anxiety and stress that can come with everyday life. Tension from a long day at work? Exercise can help to relieve it. A brief 30-minute session of moderate-intensity exercise, such as a brisk walk or jog, swim, cycle, exercise class or a game of football, can help boost your energy levels, help you have a better-quality night’s sleep, and improve your self-esteem. Whatever your age, exercise is important. Putting aside 30 minutes each day to invest in your future health is well worth it and easier than you think. Most often, the hardest part is starting. Once you take that first step to form a habit and feel the benefits, it will become easier.
Find more about building habits here.
How much exercise should I get?
Exercising for just half an hour at least five times per week, or every day if you can, can help reduce the risk of many health problems, including diabetes and cancer. The activity can be anything you enjoy, from walking, jogging, swimming, cycling; to sports such as football, tennis, badminton. Even better, add 30 minutes of strength training 2-3 days per week. Although it might seem a lot at first, half an hour per day shouldn’t be too difficult; if you can find the time for a slightly longer session, even better. The more time and energy you can put into it, the more likely you and your health will benefit.