Men’s health in the spotlight.
In general, men don’t go to a doctor very often. However, it is important for men of all ages to realize that being healthy encompasses being emotionally, physically and mentally fit and that seeing a health practitioner is not such a bad thing! It is great to see young men exercising, but taking care of your mental- and emotional health is just as important as brushing your teeth and washing your face.
In this article and the next one, we are going to look at the different age groups and what they need to consider when it comes to staying healthy and strong, regardless of your age.
Men in their 20s
Young men in their 20’s is, in general, the healthiest of their peers. With the correct diet, not smoking and drinking heavily, the correct exercise-regime, and cognitive practices, they can stay “on top of their game” (as it were). However, stress can develop due to peer pressure, pressure at home, due to studies and/or work, and so forth. At first stress develops as a chronic, low-grade inflammation that is not easily detectable, but it is the root of most illnesses and can start to develop at any given period. Therefore, it is important to tackle your lifestyle and make changes early on to prevent the inflammation to develop into a more serious condition. Also important for this age group is to have their blood pressure checked, as well as their cholesterol (especially if there is anybody in their family with blood pressure and/or cholesterol problems).
When it comes to diet and exercise, the biggest problem is diet. Men in their 20s are inclined to eat more take-outs, processed foods and plenty of meat, but skimp on fruit and vegetables. This result in high-sugar, high-processed fat and high-processed-carbohydrates eating pattern. It is a highly acidic diet and the foundation for inflammation in the body. In the short-term these eating habits will cause a lack of energy, weight gain, increased stress levels and a lowered immune system. In the long-term, however, it will lower your quality of life and can develop into life-threatening diseases. Did you know that a bad diet has the ability to lower male sperm count? Numerous studies were conducted and concluded that a bad diet, as well as GMO’s, preservatives, and so forth, decrease male sperm and can make men infertile!
Exercise, as we know, is not only important but also vital when it comes to circulation of the blood and oxygen through the body, as well as helping the lymphatic system to get rid of toxins inside the body. Exercises should be consistent; it doesn’t have to be done in one go. Recent studies indicate that exercising in small segments throughout the day is just as effective. All in all, the aim is to exercise for 30 minutes per day. An example:
20 push-ups when you get out of bed – staying in plank for the last minute;
Taking the stairs wherever possible;
Parking further away from entrances and walking that extra bit;
If you have a dog, walk for an extra 15+ minutes;
Before you get ready to relax on the couch after work / study, go for a walk / run. Not only is it good to get the circulation going again (especially if you’ve been sitting most of the day), but it is a great way to clear your head and get rid of stress;
Buy yourself a mini trampoline – only 20 minutes a day is what is needed. You can walk on it, bounce on it, lie on it do to sit-ups, do push-ups, and many other things (for more info on this read my previous article on Rebounding aka Lymphasizing).
Lastly, if you are sexually active, please use a condom. Don’t think STD’s “can’t happen to me,” because research has shown that individuals in their 20s are at the highest risk for contracting it!
When it comes to your body and health, ignorance, in this case, is not bliss.
Men in their 30s
Men in their 30s can have more stress due to work, family life, and so forth. Doctor Bux (a specialist in men’s health), believes that finding balance is key to a healthy body, mind and spirit. “When balance is off [Dr. Bux said], illness and disease is present in all.” It is not easy to stay clear of stress, but it is important to keep it at bay, as long-term stress can increase your risk for lifestyle disease e.g. heart disease, Type-2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and poor mental health.
Another factor that can reduce your quality of health and wellbeing is the lack of quality sleep. Not only does it play a key role in your general mood, but also in your overall thinking, productivity and the way you handle situations. Another downside of not sleeping enough, is gaining weight, the lowering of testosterone and lowering of libido levels. It is important to sleep between 6 – 8 hours per night. While sleeping your body repairs itself and at midnight, the growth hormone that repairs your muscle cells, surges. But do make sure that, even if you do only sleep 6 / 7 hours, that you’re in bed before midnight!
Once in your 30s your flexibility starts to diminish. Why? Firstly because of sitting for longer hours; secondly, the activities you do doesn’t call for a full range of motion, resulting in shortening of the muscles and connective tissue.
Many men (especially in their 20s and 30s), do not stretch enough. But I, together with the doctors and other specialists, cannot stress enough how important warm up and stretching is. It is more important than the exercises themselves! Why? If you don’t warm up properly, you double your chance of injury. When you don’t cool down before you head for the door, your muscles cannot go back to “normal” and stays contracted.
Remember: it only takes 20 seconds for your body to turn ATP into ADP (protein acid that makes your muscles contract) and if you don’t stretch after a workout, the protein acid remains in the muscles and connective tissues. This will, in turn, not only speed up your chance for injuries, but it shortens the muscles to such a degree that you can end up struggling to touch the back of your head when you are older! The build-up of protein acid can also create inflammation and this chronic inflammation (from not stretching) develops into arthritis (there is a number of younger people getting arthritis these days; not just older people).
So, what classes can you do for stretching? Pilates and Yoga. Both uses the full range of your body, builds core strength, builds stamina, flexibility and stretches your whole body. An added bonus is that it teaches you to breathe correctly and more deeply, helping to relax body and mind, and get rid of stress.
To regain your strength, do interval training: 10 minutes jogging, 45 seconds sprinting and 90 seconds walking; repeat 8 – 12 times. If you don’t like jogging, brisk walking or cycling can also be done. Swimming is another great way to regain overall strength and stamina.
There is an analogy that states: “if your body were a car, it would require less fuel as it got older.” Doctor Sanua (medical doctor and functional medicine practitioner) says that your body consumes 12 fewer calories per day for each year after the age of 30. Reducing your portion sizes can help, but nutrient quality is vital. Doctor Sanua says a Mediterranean diet is a good example of eating well-balanced meals. As always, remember to drink plenty of water, eat lots of fruit and vegetables, and add fibre to your diet (so that your digestive system stays on tract).
In my next article we will look at tips for men 40 years and older. Regardless of your age; it is important that you look after your body; physically, mentally and emotionally. It is never too early to start and it is never too late to make changes!
By: Ezette Viljoen (Health & Fitness Editor)