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Along with eating a nutritious diet, exercising is one of the most crucial steps to take for better health. Every human needs regular exercise, yet many men don’t exercise at all. In fact, just 23% of Americans get the recommended amount of exercise each week. It’s no wonder that the country is host to an obesity epidemic and that many adults suffer from chronic, often preventable diseases. The failure to stay active has serious consequences. On a societal scale, obesity has resulted in a jaw-dropping $344 billion price tag in healthcare costs. On the individual level, leading an inactive lifestyle can cause everything from life-threatening diseases to poor sleep patterns. It’s time to reverse the cycle.
Exploring the Health Benefits of an Active Lifestyle
There are so many health benefits of leading an active lifestyle that some doctors have actually written prescriptions for exercise. Here’s a look at a few of these benefits.
- Sleep: Sleep is important and exercise can help you fight insomnia—as long as you don’t work out too close to bedtime.
- Sexual health: Men who exercise regularly tend to report having better sex lives (and are less likely to develop erectile dysfunction).
- Energy: Exercise strengthens your cardiovascular system, pumps more oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and, in the process, boosts your energy levels.
- Mood: Exercise stimulates brain chemicals in a way that makes you feel better. Exercising regularly can help stabilize your mood and boost your self-image and self-confidence.
- Weight: People who work out regularly are less likely to be overweight or obese. Exercising may also help you practice better self-control with your diet, since you’ll have a better understanding of what it really takes to burn off those calories.
Of course, regular exercise can also lower the risk of many chronic and life-threatening health conditions, including the following:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Some cancers
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Metabolic syndrome
In short, leading an active lifestyle will allow you to live longer, live better and live happier.
Understanding the Recommended Guidelines
Periodically, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), along with other health organizations, issues new exercise guidelines. While these guidelines are generally applicable to most individuals (the full guidelines are adjusted by age, gender and health conditions), it’s important to remember that not every general guideline is necessarily right for you. If you are an older adult, have any sort of chronic health condition or have recently been hospitalized or operated upon, you should always defer to your primary care physician’s personalized guidance.
The latest HHS guidelines recommend that for maximum health benefits, adults should get the following:
- At least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
- Or at least 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week.
- And two or more workouts per week of moderate or greater intensity strength training exercises that engage all major muscle groups.
Those guidelines are similar to those that have been issued in the past. However, there is at least one notable exception. In the latest guidelines, the HHS acknowledges that all activity counts toward one’s weekly quota—not just exercise done in 10-minute bursts, as was previously recommended.
This is significant because the focus has shifted slightly toward emphasizing the importance of an overall active lifestyle. The HHS’ guidelines states, “Adults should move more and sit less throughout the day.” So what’s the difference between exercise and an active lifestyle? Simply put, an active lifestyle includes regular periods of exercise, but it also encompasses more movement throughout the day. In other words, if you have a desk job and you sit all day, it’s not enough to get in your 30-minute workout on most days of the week. You should also be actively striving to move more, such as inviting a small group of co-workers for a “walking meeting” instead of the usual sit-down meeting, biking to work, getting up every 30 minutes to walk around the office or investing in a standing desk.
Considering the Main Types of Exercise
You’ll notice that the HHS exercise guidelines specify different types of recommended exercise. The first is aerobic exercise, which is any type of cardiovascular exercise. Some common examples include swimming, running and cycling.
Anaerobic, or strength training exercises, are also important for men. This type of exercise breaks down glucose to provide immediate energy for the short bursts of activity. Examples include lifting weights and doing plyometrics.
Exercise can also be categorized according to whether it’s low-or high-impact. Low-impact exercises are easy on the joints. This is why doctors often recommend swimming, walking and yoga to men who have joint problems like arthritis. In contrast, high-impact exercises do place stress on the joints. Examples include running and skiing. Since more stress is exerted on the joints, it’s particularly important to make sure your form is correct. Otherwise, there is a greater risk of injury. However, the benefit of high-impact exercise is stronger bones.
For optimal health, it’s generally best to follow a balanced workout program that includes aerobic, anaerobic, low-impact and high-impact exercises. However, you should always defer to your doctor’s recommendations. You may be told to stay away from certain exercises if you’ve had a knee or hip injury, for instance.
Embracing Physical Activity: How Every Man Can Accomplish It
Although plenty of men enjoy watching sports games, far fewer of them actually participate in a sport. Men often avoid exercising for the following reasons:
- Lack of time
- Too fatigued
- Lack of financial resources for a gym membership or workout equipment
- Kids require too much attention
- Exercising is boring
But for every excuse, there are plenty of counter-arguments.
- How much time do you spend watching TV? Can you lift weights while watching TV?
- Exercise boosts your energy levels, which will fight your fatigue.
- Some gym memberships are actually pretty cheap, but you don’t need a fancy gym or equipment to get started. Just take a jog around the neighborhood.
- Kids need exercise too. How about a family walk after dinner or a game of catch in the yard?
- If you find one particular exercise boring, try something else. Join a softball team or a bowling league if you’d rather have a social aspect to your workout program.
Every time you catch yourself making excuses to not work out, think of a counter-argument to convince yourself to put on those running shoes.
You can also try these easy tips for leading a more active lifestyle:
- Use the buddy system. Working out with a buddy will hold you both accountable to the program.
- Contribute more to household chores. Your partner will thank you, and you’ll burn calories while pushing the mower and scrubbing the floor.
- Adopt a rescue dog. Puppy parents tend to be more active, owing to the necessity of frequent walks.
- Set an hourly alarm during your office hours. It will remind you to get up, stretch and move around.
Side note: If you do have an injury or feel fatigued, don’t push yourself. A part of being active is recognizing when it is okay to take a break and rest.
When you’re ready to regain control of your health and longevity, take the next step. Pre-order your copy of Dr. John Shufeldt’s latest book, The Real Man Plan. It establishes a blueprint for achieving better health, based on up-to-date scientific research on supplements, diet, and exercise. With The Real Man Plan, you can learn to make the choices that will positively influence your future.