Men: Exercise Can Do a Lot More for You than Build Muscle

Men: Exercise Can Do a Lot More for You than Build Muscle

Men: Exercise Can Do a Lot More for You than Build Muscle

Men face some serious health risks. The two most serious ones, heart disease and cancer, account for nearly half of deaths among American men. Unintentional injuries like falls are the third most common cause of death for men. Lung disease and stroke round out the top five.

The good news: Along with other healthy lifestyle choices, the right kinds of physical activity can help prevent these and other health threats.

Ward Off Heart Disease: Get Moving

Aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming, running or biking strengthens your heart and lowers your blood pressure. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity five days per week. You don’t have to do it all at once. Three 10-minute walks can be as effective as one 30-minute walk at lowering blood pressure.

You can even get in activity during the work day. Break up the long hours at a desk by getting up and moving around at least once an hour. Just taking a short two-minute stroll can help to keep blood sugar levels stable. When you can, stand up to take breaks from sitting.

Guard Against Cancer: Exercise as Much as You Can

Exercise may help prevent certain types of cancer, research shows. If you already exercise 30 minutes most days of the week, work your way up to a full hour. Logging 300 minutes of activity per week may provide additional benefits. If that’s too much, just do as much as you can.

Prevent Injuries: Train Your Balance

Unintentional injuries, such as falls, are the third most common cause of death among men. Exercise programs that include balance training could prevent up to 42 percent of falls, studies show. Consider taking a class in Tai Chi, a martial art that helps improve balance and coordination. Or try this balance move:

  • Stand behind a sturdy chair.
  • Holding the back of the chair, raise up onto your toes.
  • Pause for one second.
  • Lower your heels to the floor.
  • Repeat 10 to 15 times about twice a week.

Training your balance and maintaining muscle strength is especially important as you age. Natural aging causes nerves to die off and muscles to weaken. But regular exercise enlarges muscle fibers and can stave off the decline by increasing the strength of the muscle you still have.

Go Beyond Training with Weights

Some men admit to being uncomfortable with being the only man or one of a few men in a group fitness class. But more and more men are reaping the benefits of group yoga, Pilates and aerobic classes. Some gyms and recreation centers even offer male-only boot camps and strength training classes.

Something like yoga or Pilates may seem a little alien to many men, but these types of strength and balance training have considerable health benefits.

Consider joining the millions of Americans practicing yoga. By combining breathing techniques with various poses, yoga has been shown to renew the mind and the body. It also builds flexibility while improving strength and balance.

And research has shown that yoga practice can help reduce stress and anxiety. It may help relieve some symptoms associated with heart disease and cancer. It’s also an effective complementary therapy for asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome, neck and back pain, and arthritis.

Not a Joiner? Not a Problem

If a class setting is not for you, there are plenty of solo activities to choose from. In addition to cardio activities like running, walking and biking, don’t forget the power of good old-fashioned body weight exercises and calisthenics.

Jumping jacks, jumping rope, crunches, squats, lunges and pushups are great building blocks for fitness — no gym or classes required. Look for videos online for more ideas and to make sure you’re doing the exercises correctly.

Putting It All Together

When putting together your plan, keep in mind a complete exercise program should include cardio, strength training and flexibility exercises.

Even if you can’t fit in a set fitness routine every day, keep your body moving most days for better health and to lower your risk of serious illness and injury.

If you’re just starting to be active or increasing your activity level, talk to your doctor first to make sure your plan is safe for you. Plan to slowly add more activity by increasing the days per week and minutes per session.

Having Trouble Fitting Activity In?

Does it seem like you just don’t have time to be more active? Or maybe it’s hard to get and stay motivated. There are simple ways to sit less and move more that don’t take a lot of extra time or effort. And it can even be fun.

Try these tips from the American Cancer Society:

  • Exercise while watching TV.
  • Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Park farther away from stores when out running errands.
  • Keep track of your steps with an app or pedometer. Try to increase your number of daily steps.
  • Walk or bike instead of driving when you can.
  • Use your lunch hour and other breaks at work to get some more activity in. Stretch or take a quick walk.
  • Walk to visit co-workers instead of sending an email message.
  • Include your co-workers, family or friends in your activities.
  • Go dancing with your spouse or friends.
  • Plan active vacations.
  • Join a sports or recreation team.
Sources: Leading Causes of Death - Males - All races and origins - United States, 2017, leaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019; Men’s Health, leaving site icon Harvard Health Publishing; 5 of the Best exercises you can ever do, leaving site icon Harvard Health Publishing; New physical activity guidelines, Even a little activity will help health, leaving site icon Harvard Health Letter, 2019; ACS Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention, leaving site icon American Cancer Society (ACS); Make Exercise Work for You, leaving site icon ACS, 2014; Cancer Facts for Men, leaving site icon ACS, 2019