So it’s the last day of the year, and we’re all recovering from the silly season with its accompanying drinking, feasting and post-lunch snoozes on the couch. In response to popular request (ok, my husband’s feedback) I’m departing from my usual women-focussed posts and have drawn up a list of New Year’s health resolutions that men should be making. This list also applies to women, of course, but I’m targeting the blokes because of research that consistently demonstrates men to be the less healthy sex. Men don’t live as long as women do, are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviours such as smoking and binge-drinking, and present less often to their doctors. Married men, you can take some comfort in the fact that being married is associated with better health outcomes overall, but you guys appear to be heavier than your non-married counterparts! Time to take a few simple steps to avoid being a statistic, and have a healthier and happier 2014!
1. Do more exercise
This may seem fairly obvious, but it appears that two thirds of men over 25 do not do enough exercise. This increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and all its complications (including cancers), diabetes, depression, bowel cancer… and… (drum roll) impotence. Yep, that’s right, use it or lose it, on several levels. Go train, guys.
2. Stand up at work
No, not to your boss (unless it’s come to that…) but stand, at your desk. While being employed in general has significant mental and physical health benefits, having a sedentary job is increasingly being associated with poor health outcomes including obesity, heart disease and cancers. Preliminary research suggests that standing for three hours a day at your desk may improve these outcomes. (I couldn’t locate the published article for this small study, but have referenced the very scientific website Lifehacker…)
Photo: By Paul Robinson (Own work) [LGPL (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/lgpl.html), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
3. Be mindful
While depression is more common in women, men are less likely to present for treatment and more likely to suffer from serious depression. Preserving your moods starts with attention to the basics, like eating well, maintaining a social network, and exercising regularly. Antidepressants and psychological therapies may also be needed, and one psychological therapy gaining popularity because of its simplicity is mindfulness based therapy. Drawing its roots from Buddhist meditation, mindfulness invites us to bring our attention back into the present moment and observe, without making judgements, what we are doing and feeling at the very time. Ever find yourself going on “autopilot” and not noticing where you are or what you were doing, even forgetting how you got from one place to another? Mindfulness is the antidote to this. Mindfulness based therapy has been shown to be a highly effective treatment for depression. For more information visit the Centre for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health care and Society’s website.
4. Watch your alcohol intake
Who doesn’t love a bevvy – especially at the end of a hard day, or at a celebration? However, more than one third of males aged 20-29yo drink at risky levels… and the cold hard facts about the effects of excess alcohol are sobering, including increased risk of some cancers, injuries, and reduced fertility. More importantly, it can cause impotence, and loss of male sexual charactistics like facial and chest hair. So if you want to keep the hair on your chest, keep your drinking below 4 standard drinks a day, and aim for 2 alcohol free days a week. For a list of standard drink measures, see below.
5. Be an engaged dad
This one isn’t so much for men’s health as for the health and happiness of their offspring. I must say the vast majority of dads I know today are fantastic fathers. They are “hands on” dads, make a great effort to spend quality time with their children, and are overall taking an active part in raising their children. Being involved in your children’s lives has the potential to have enormous benefits for them (and for you!) It has been shown to increase socio-ecoonomic and academic functioning and reduce undesirable outcomes such as teenage pregnancy, deliquency and substance abuse. No need to lock your daughters up in an ivory tower – just be a present dad! Check out the Fatherhood Institute for more information and ideas. (PS. your wife/partner will love you for it too!)
So there you go – that’s my potted guide to a 2014 filled with health, happiness, happy families, happy wives, healthy bedroom shenanigans and enough hair on your chest! Have a good one and Happy New Year 😀