by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner
As we celebrate the men in our lives on Father’s Day, June dedicates a week to men’s health awareness. The lesson: Real power lies in knowledge …
Most of us have the best intentions for living a healthy lifestyle. But, with the stress and rush of everyday life, it is easy to get detoured. Once detoured, well, it’s hard to ignore the cliché about men and directions.
Sometimes, you must put yourself out there. Be vulnerable and ask for guidance. Although health is a personal issue, there is a lot riding on your shoulders. Your significant other, children, friends, colleagues, and teammates. You need more than a strong back to carry life’s load. Make a true effort to take care of yourself. That includes finding out exactly what counts as nutritious eating, an effective workout, and preventative healthcare. Consider this a quick guide to get you started.
Preventative Health Checks
According to some, nurture tends to affect the male mentality on physician visits. Deep-rooted, archaic ideas about masculinity sometimes prevent men from checking in with their docs. Raised to believe you must be stoic, fearless, and strong, it takes a truly brave man to admit he needs a tune-up of his own formidable system. If he actually has no concerns (denial?), then why “fix what isn’t broken.” One word: prevention.
A long, successful life requires us to make health a priority. You may feel great, and have a well-toned athletic build to prove it. However, blood levels, cancer screenings, and prevention/early detection measures need to be considered. There are plenty of surprises in life. Don’t make what is transpiring within your physical structure contain any of them. Just because you can’t see something does not mean it is nonexistent. Think: high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and other metabolic risk factors.
Healthcare experts recommend annual physical examinations with age-appropriate screenings. Be informed of male-specific diseases and your personal risk factors. Learn which questions to ask and of whom. Talk with relatives about more than sports scores, home repairs, and landscaping projects. Discover your genetic background and proceed accordingly.
Screenings offer peace-of-mind that all is well within. If numbers are off, or an issue appears, early detection improves the prognosis. Conditions can be rectified before they lead to complications and diseases.
Well visits with your physician help determine which screenings you need and when. Some are as simple as a blood test or urine sample. The only thing you have to fear is fear itself! And so true, because fear can be an obstacle to preventative healthcare.
Standard screenings prescribed for men:
- Prostate cancer
- Testicular cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Skin cancer
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Cholesterol levels
- Type 2 diabetes
- HIV and sexually transmitted diseases
- Dental health
Take your findings with you to the Center. Share them at your nurse assessment, training evaluation, and with workout buddies. Build a support group to help keep you in peak health. For those who need to improve their BMI, triglyceride level, or stress level, partnering with Center members and staff makes goals more attainable. Create a plan, forge ahead, and be cheered on by a thriving community focused on your health.
Take locker room talk beyond job venting and bench press comparisons. Share your health concerns with a trustworthy friend. Accountability is a motivating force. It helps us meet deadlines, keep appointments, and commit to exercise. It also can help keep health on track. Let others know your goals, including more walks, less donuts, and routine follow-up with health concerns.
Tip: Get the basics done on-the-go. The Center and other community venues offer health fairs where standard screenings can be performed in a nonthreatening, convenient manner– and without an appointment. Just casually approach the display tables, stick out an arm, and get started in a noncommittal approach. This may be the trick needed to make health your priority.
Commitment to an Exercise Program
By default, men often get involved in manual labor. Lifting heavy furniture, hauling mounds of mulch, and climbing around in the attic are all common in a weekend’s work. Although this physical exertion may leave you exhausted, it does not deliver the health benefits of a consistent workout. Having your heart rate elevated while installing a satellite dish on the roof produces a different sweat than obtained on the Exercise Floor.
Do not confuse physical activity with fitness. Physical activity may require an adjustment to your workout routine, but it should not replace it. If you spent the day helping a friend move, consider postponing your workout to the next day. Or, skip strength training for that day and focus on a cardio workout. Honor your workout schedule, regardless.
This commitment helps maintain a balanced fitness program with all of its physical and mental benefits. Dedication to your workout relieves stress and reinforces self-worth. Those who commit to fitness tend to experience feelings of increased competence, which extend to their careers and home life.
A workout offers a therapeutic opportunity to clear your mind and solve problems. It lends time for objective examination where solutions become clear. Try to schedule workouts at transition points during your day. Take a Group Fitness class before work or hit the Exercise Floor on your way home.
Taking authority of your day in this way confirms you are in ultimate control. You are responsible for your accomplishments, thoughts, what you eat, how you react. This provides reassurance during the most hectic day. It helps avoid being overwhelmed. It also clears your mind as you switch from one role to another, for example, colleague to kids’ coach, husband to businessman.
Your week should include 150 minutes of moderate to intense aerobic activity, with full-body strength training at least twice weekly. If intensity is increased, such as with a quickened pace from walking to running, time spent can decrease to 75 minutes of aerobic activity, with strengthening still at least two times a week.
If you’re having a difficult time swallowing the health-touted Mediterranean diet, you are among guy friends. Legumes, cereals, veggies, and fruit are not often stocked in the Man Cave– and for an explicable reason. As history’s hunters-and-gatherers, people recognize a metaphoric link between men and meat.
A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research indicated, “Red meat is (commonly considered) a strong, traditional, macho, bicep-flexing All-American food.” The adverse effects of heavy-meat consumption involve everything from health issues (personal) to environmental issues (global). Yet, the mentality still resonates: Meat has muscle. Grains do not. Rooted in past notions of masculinity, this is the suspected reason healthy-eating campaigns fail to influence many men.
Flex your willpower muscle. You do not need to forgo grilling steak and carving carcasses. Instead, season your diet with more variety. Moderation is a necessary life skill. Enjoy a filet, skip the side of beef. Have a spoon of potatoes, not a bowl of carbs. Your side servings should not require dishes of their own.
The world recognizes you as capable and strong, even if you don’t overload your plate, have meat with every meal, and wash it all down with a strong drink. This may be the engrained stereotype, which still circulates our society. Prove it wrong. Live healthier by choosing more nutritious, leaner foods.
You work hard on the Exercise Floor, in the office, and around your yard and home. At any given time, the weight of the world is on your back, sometimes in the form of a little person enjoying life’s ride. Of course you deserve a sweet treat, or some chips and soda while watching the game. Remain realistic though when calculating the calories you burned from the aforementioned activities. Exercising one hour every Saturday does not compensate for an ice cream sundae fest with the kids. You may be a kid at heart, but not in metabolism.
The Ripple Effect
You give so much each and every day. Give more. Give back to yourself. Your health matters. It affects you as well as your family. It impacts your workplace and the economy. Life is your game. Play to win. Your fans are cheering you on.
“Guys Think Meat Is Macho, Veggie Food ‘Wimpy,’ Study Shows,” by Bill Briggs at www.nbcnews.com
“Why Real Men Eat Meat: It Makes Them Feel Manly,” by Maggie Fox at www.nbcnews.com.
Healthy man with family: www.flickr.com/x/t/0096009/photos/armymedicine/13584554804/
Smart meat: www.flickr.com/photos/rexipe/826991105
Girl and dad with pool noodle: www.flickr.com/photos/72005145@N00/4759010326/