There is a statistic somewhere that out of a group of men surveyed in Australia, 60 percent of them believed they were a picture of health and good to look at.
Consequent measuring of health markers proved that less than 40 percent of them were in fact healthy, meaning that 20 percent of Aussie men may be confidently walking around oblivious (or in denial) about the deficiencies in their wellbeing (or attractiveness).
In the ominous sounding ‘Global burden of disease study’ the measured numbers of men dying from almost anything, even accounting for income level and country of residence, far outweigh those for women. Considering heart disease is the king of male mortality, caring for heart health should be a no brainer.
Maintaining a healthy body weight and composition is part of heart health, though shopping by the heart tick or just eliminating sugar in the coffee isn’t going to cut it. Exercise plays a massive part in improving health, including stabilising blood pressure and sugars, it’s an essential factor in burning off stored fat, and in maintaining a healthy level of load on the muscles.
The heart is primarily a muscle, and so just like the biceps and the abdominals, a lack of using it leaves it weak. And just like the abs; a lack of exercise and too many doughnuts mean it can become surrounded by an unhealthy layer of fat, which in the heart’s case makes it much harder for it to do its job as the engine of oxygen transportation.
The American Council of Sports Medicine (ACSM) reports that: “Large prospective cohort studies of diverse populations clearly show that an energy expenditure of approximately 1000 calories per week of moderate-intensity physical activity (or about 150 minutes per week) is associated with lower rates of CVD (cardiovascular disease) and premature mortality”.
That’s just over 20 minutes of something that makes you sweat and puff every day of the week. How many people do you know that actually achieve that? And this ONE thing can create a longer, healthier life.
It must be pointed out that a 150minute game of squash or soccer that just about kills you once a week is not the same thing. In fact, theoretically, more than three or four days between training sessions and the body loses any physical benefits of that one session.
So yep, weekend warrior sport is practically a waste of time. Think about doing a set of squats with 150kg, without any previous training, or doing nothing else but that once a week on a Saturday – logically this cannot create any progressive improvement in muscle strength, so the same applies to the heart.
This is an unlikely newsflash to anyone, however exercising the healthy amount per week appears a progressively harder task in the modern environment.
So how do we fix this to help men live longer, healthier lives?
In the world of personal training anecdotal evidence would suggest that women are far more likely to take a long-term view of their health and understand the regular commitment required to progressively increase their cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength.
So creating situations where the family can train together or participate/compete in a sport may be one solution, and provides a mutually beneficial support system.
Team sport and the social outlet it provides is statically a more inspiring environment for most people, and the accountability created to show up to training and games can provide the necessary regularity of training to create improved fitness and heart health (bearing in mind the weekend warrior caveat).
Injuries (in NZ predominantly old rugby ones) can prove a stumbling block to exercise for some men. The importance of managing these and defining ongoing strategies that mean regular exercise can be maintained, cannot be stressed enough.
If muscles and bones are left to atrophy and degenerate the problem gets exponentially worse; in almost all situations it becomes a move it or lose it scenario, so following physio or trainer advice is essential.
And the most common argument of all time should prove utterly unjustified if you do the maths; assuming sleeping hours of eight, fitting exercise into 20 minutes of what remains of the day, is just two percent of that figure. Taking a little more than two percent out of your day to statistically improve the chances of a longer, healthier life? Fairly sound investment.
And if you don’t sleep for at least eight hours every night, that’s a whole other article….