June is Men’s Health Month, a time to raise awareness and educate men about health issues that are unique to them. While women’s health gets a lot of attention, men also face their own health challenges that they will often ignore or disregard. Men are also less likely to seek health care than women, especially preventative care. But with education and awareness, men can take the necessary steps to improve their health as they age through diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes.
No matter whether you’re 25 or 55, it’s important to make exercise a priority. For many men, working out was a regular part of their day when they were younger, but as they’ve gotten older, a demanding job, children, marriage, and other responsibilities seem to take up all of their time and energy, and finding the time to exercise becomes a lower priority. But it shouldn’t be.
For men, regular exercise will improve your quality of life and your health. And staying active, especially as you age, is the best way to ensure that you live as long and as healthy a life as possible.
Health benefits for men
Men who exercise regularly at moderate intensity several times per week reap all kinds of health benefits, including the following:
• Lower cholesterol
• Lower triglycerides
• Healthier blood vessels
• Lower risk of high blood pressure
• Lower risk of type 2 diabetes
• Lower risk of colon cancer
• Stronger bones
• Weight loss or an easier time maintaining a healthy weight
• Reduced depression and anxiety
• Longer life
How much is enough?
While there’s no magical number for how much exercise men need to get the health benefits, there are guidelines for how much activity adults should get for cardiovascular health and a lower mortality risk.
The World Health Organization recommends that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week, or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week. This cardio exercise can be complemented with strength-building exercise on two or more days per week, as this type of muscle-strengthening activity also provides health benefits, such as stronger bones and higher metabolism.
The five best exercises for men
Maybe you are just beginning an exercise program after a long period of being sedentary, or maybe you already hit the gym regularly. Either way, there are five exercises all men should add to their exercise routine to help achieve maximum fitness and gain the most benefits for long-term health.
1. Cardio – Do some sort of aerobic activity, such as running, walking, or cycling several times per week, for at least 20 to 40 minutes. Up the intensity by adding in anaerobic exercise (like jumping or sprinting) after your finish your workout to challenge yourself and really give your metabolism a boost.
2. Squats – Squats are a versatile exercise that you can do without any equipment. It’s most important that you perform squats using the proper form. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, with your shoulders relaxed. Make sure your back is straight and your neck is aligned with your spine, and place your arms either on your hips or hold them out straight in front of you. Slowly squat, like you’re about to sit on a seat behind you, making sure your heels stay firmly on the ground. Do eight to 12 repetitions.
3. Lunges – Lunges are great for keeping your legs and core toned. To perform them properly, keep your upper body straight and head up, then step forward with one leg, and lower your hips, bending both knees at a 90-degree angle. Always make sure your knees don’t extend beyond the ankle, and your other knee should not touch the ground. Then push back into a standing position and repeat on the other leg, alternating legs by doing eight to 12 reps on each side.
4. Planks – Planks promote core and arm strength and can help alleviate back pain. Lie on your stomach on the ground as if you were going to do a pushup, but bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle with both forearms resting on the floor. Raise your body off the floor while keeping it in a completely straight line from your head to your heels. Try holding the plank as long as you can, then try to beat that time every day, increasing time as you get stronger.
5. Body-weight resistance – Doing some sort of muscle-strengthening exercise weekly is important to keeping your bones strong. You can use free weights or weight machines at the gym, but these types of exercises can also be done at home or on the road with inexpensive resistance straps that use your body weight for resistance.