Take a health MOT

Mil­lions of men are glued to the TV watch­ing the World Cup - but only a frac­tion will play the game or take any other ex­er­cise. For, while men like watch­ing sport, less than half of those aged over 35 do enough ex­er­cise to keep them healthy, say ex­perts..

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Health -

AC­CORD­ING to re­search, af­ter the age of 35, men are in­creas­ingly likely to do less than the rec­om­mended level of ex­er­cise, which is at least 30 min­utes of mod­er­ate ac­tiv­ity, like brisk walk­ing, five or more days a week.

Such phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity can de­crease the risk of cer­tain can­cers, heart dis­ease, high blood pres­sure and di­a­betes, as well as help­ing to im­prove mental health, re­duce stress and anx­i­ety, and im­prove sex­ual per­for­mance.

This year’s Men’s Health Week (June 14-20) is fo­cus­ing on rais­ing the heart rate of more than a mil­lion men aged be­tween 35-64.

Dr Ian Banks, the pres­i­dent of the Men’s Health Fo­rum which runs the event, ex­plains:

“We’re try­ing to get a mil­lion more men mov­ing, as lack of ac­tiv­ity is among the biggest is­sues for male life ex­pectancy, prob­a­bly greater than even smok­ing or al­co­hol. ”

Just 40% of men over 35 do at least the min­i­mum rec­om­mended amount of ex­er­cise, de­spite the fact that the ben­e­fits of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity are clear. Last year, a Swedish study found that mid­dle-aged men who start ex­er­cis­ing reg­u­larly can ex­pect to live 2.3 years longer than males lead­ing seden­tary lives.

Couch pota­toes, mean­while, should bear in mind that World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion fig­ures show more than 20% of coro­nary heart dis­ease and 10% of strokes are due to phys­i­cal in­ac­tiv­ity.

Banks uses the “male-friendly” metaphor of a car left stand­ing for a long time to ex­plain what hap­pens to the body if it’s not ex­er­cised.

“You leave a car stand­ing, it will seize up, sim­ply be­cause it’s not been used. The hu­man body has to be used too, oth­er­wise it seizes up - it’s as sim­ple as that.”

Banks says most men cite pres­sure of work, stress, divorce and chil­dren as the rea­son for their lack of ex­er­cise.

But he points out that the week is ad­vo­cat­ing easy ways of stay­ing healthy which will slot into men’s ev­ery­day lives.

These easy mea­sures could in­clude us­ing stairs in­stead of the lift, get­ting off the bus one stop ear­lier and walk­ing the rest of the way, or clean­ing the car by hand rather than go­ing to the car wash.

“If you walk briskly for just half an hour a day, it takes your level of ac­tiv­ity out of the dan­ger range,” stresses Banks.

A study by re­searchers at the Uni­ver­sity of Otago in New Zealand found that peo­ple who sim­ply can dou­ble their sur­vival chances by mov­ing out of the bot­tom 20% of fit­ness lev­els.

In­ter­est­ingly, while this is also the case for women, the dif­fer­ence is that af­ter the age of about 25 men’s ac­tiv­ity lev­els drop, while women’s re­main roughly the same. This fact is re­flected in mor­tal­ity rates: 22% of men in Eng­land and Wales die be­fore they reach the age of 64, com­pared to just 13% of women.

“Men are dy­ing early. We’re say­ing that this is a real prob­lem, and here’s a way of do­ing some­thing about it,” says Banks.

In a bid to get more men mov­ing, events in­clud­ing ‘MOT’ checks for men and health im­prove­ment cam­paigns are be­ing held around the coun­try as part of the week, which is sup­ported by a host of sport­ing per­son­al­i­ties in­clud­ing the For­mer Eng­land test wicket-keeper Jack Rus­sell, Har­lequins rugby player Danny Orr, snooker favourite Jimmy White, and for­mer New­cas­tle, Arse­nal and Eng­land foot­baller Mal­colm Macdonald.

“Health can all too of­ten be taken for granted,” Macdonald says. “But check­ing your health out ev­ery now and again is vi­tal to stay­ing fit. You do it for your car, don’t you? Then why not do it for the driver too?”

Pro­fes­sor Alan White, a pro­fes­sor of men’s health at Leeds Metropoli­tan Uni­ver­sity, ex­plains that mod­ern man’s lack of ex­er­cise is re­lated to the fact that to­day’s work is of­ten of­fice-based, in­stead of labour in­ten­sive.

Af­ter leav­ing school men they of­ten get seden­tary jobs, with­out chang­ing the eat­ing or drink­ing habits of their youth.

“They’re still eat­ing for an ac­tive body, but they’re in­ac­tive and there­fore weight goes on,” says White.

“Un­less you or­gan­ise some­thing af­ter work, you will be­come un­fit and over­weight.

“You have to do some­thing about it - it doesn’t just hap­pen.”

He sug­gests that Pri­mary Care Trusts ad­dress the is­sue by or­gan­is­ing phys­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties for men in the evenings, and that em­ploy­ers be­come more proac­tive about how they keep their work­force healthy.

Part of the prob­lem is also linked to the way men put on weight, says White, who ex­plains that while women tend to put weight on grad­u­ally as they age, men put it on around their mid­dle af­ter the age of about 25.

This weight se­cretes fat-re­lated tox­ins, which can in­crease the risk of prob­lems in­clud­ing high blood pres­sure, di­a­betes, high choles­terol and some can­cers.

“Weight around the midriff is par­tic­u­larly prob­lem­atic, and phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity is linked to weight,” stresses White.

He points out that as well as the ob­vi­ous health ben­e­fits of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity, it can also im­prove mental health - sport is great for stim­u­lat­ing ‘feel-good’ hor­mones, as well as of­ten be­ing a very so­cial ac­tiv­ity.

“A lot of men think they’re too old - that ex­er­cise is for younger men,” he says, high­light­ing the fact that age can be­come a bar­rier to ex­er­cise.

“Start­ing ex­er­cise, even at 50, 60, 70, has great health ben­e­fits.”

He ad­vises men to get out of old habits, and sug­gests: “Re­think the way you live your life so you’ll be more ac­tive. “You can add years to your life, as well as life to your years.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.