August 19, 2019
Getting healthy seems to be one of those things we always have the intention of doing but never get around to actually doing. But taking proactive measures to improve yourself little by little can help. We’re looking at four little things you can do today to improve your health tomorrow.
1. Stay Active
One tip you hear all the time is to exercise regularly. And it’s good advice. Now more than ever, we’re living sedentary lifestyles—sitting all day at the office, taking the elevator and skipping the stairs, driving instead of walking. All of these small lifestyle choices add up to some pretty big problems. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 36.9 percent of American men ages 20 and over are overweight, and 38.1 percent are obese.1 While you’re not going to magically lose weight overnight by going up a flight of stairs (wouldn't that be nice!), starting an exercise regimen that’s realistic, yet challenging, is a step in the right direction.
As men age, they run into some common problems: weakening muscles, accumulating stomach fat, and gaining weight. Here are some exercises that can help combat these common concerns:
- Use free weights to sculpt and tone your muscles. The saying goes, “if you don’t use it, you lose it,” and this is certainly true of muscle. Exercises such as curls, presses, and calf raises are great to do with free weights, both to maintain and build muscle mass.
- Use traditional barbells for deadlifts, bench press, and rows to really max out your effort.
- Cardio is great for toning up that dad bod. Go for a jog, hit the elliptical at the gym, or jump rope five times a week for 30 minutes. While it may seem like a lot, you can break it down into 3, 10-minute sessions if you’re in a time crunch or can’t commit to 30 consecutive minutes. Going for a walk on your lunch break is one way to do it and hitting the home gym is another.
- You might think yoga is for hippies. Think again. Doing yoga improves flexibility, strengthens your core, and is a great low-impact exercise. Incorporate it into your warm-up or cool-down routine, or try a full routine. We guarantee you’ll be sweating when you’re done.
2. Ditch Your Bad Habits
While we all know nicotine is bad, as of 2016, 29.3 percent of men still use tobacco products, according to the CDC.2 Nicotine usage increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, can cause several types of cancer, and shortens life expectancy. Quitting today creates a better outcome tomorrow.
And we’re not just picking on tobacco users. Of men from ages 18 to 24, 7.1 percent use electronic cigarettes.3 Many electronic cigarettes still contain a whole lot of nicotine, which is a proven addictive substance, as well as many other potentially harmful additives. In other words, e-cigarettes aren’t a safe alternative to regular cigarettes.
Laying off the alcohol wouldn't hurt either, especially when you consider that almost one-third of men are binge drinkers.4 That means you're consuming a lot of carbs and empty calories that really aren’t working for your body. Swap your favorite brew for a lighter version, or better yet, a glass of red wine, which, when enjoyed in moderation, may be better for your heart.
3. Make Smart Swaps
One of the easiest ways to improve your health is by monitoring what we eat. While most of us enjoy a nice, juicy steak, we shouldn’t have one every day. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among American men, 5 but with proper diet and exercise, you may be able to prevent it. Here are some easy swaps you can do to improve your heart health:
Swap this: Chips and Guac
For that: Chips and Salsa
While we might love guacamole, our body doesn’t. Avocados contain healthy fats, which we need, but when combined with added salt and oils to make that delicious green goop, they lose many of their health benefits. A half cup serving of guac packs 155 calories and 17.5 grams of fat. A salsa such as pico de gallo, on the other hand, has only 10 calories, 0 grams of fat, and sneaks in tomatoes, which are essential to good health. They contain fiber, but more importantly lycopene—a known cancer combatant.
Swap this: Fruit Juice
For that: Fruit Smoothie
Nothing beats a fresh glass of orange juice for breakfast – except for a smoothie. Unlike juices, smoothies retain the fibrous part of the fruit, making them a better alternative than juice. This fiber promotes regular bowel movements, getting rid of your body’s waste in an efficient manner. Try adding chia seeds, non-fat yogurt, and adding a dash of honey for some healthy boosts. And don’t forget to eat raw fruits, too.
Swap this: Banana split
For that: Banana
Maybe they’re not quite equivalent, but adding bananas to your diet is a great way to promote heart health. High blood pressure is a common problem among men, and bananas are a great way to consume potassium in a tasty way. Potassium decreases the amount of sodium stored in the body and reduces tension in blood vessel walls.6
Swap this: Sugary Cereal
For that: Bran Cereal
You might think that we’re going to tell you to drink prune juice next. We’re not (though it is good for you!) But swapping a cereal with little nutritional value for a heart-healthy alternative is a little step with a big impact. If you’re not a bran cereal type of guy, opt for oatmeal instead, but watch out for added sugar in pre-made varieties.
Before you give your diet a 180, be sure to consult your doctor.
4. Make Your Checkups a Priority
Of course, no one really wants to go the doctor. But it’s one of the most important preventative steps to take for your health. Medical exams can range from testicular cancer screenings to checking for high cholesterol and everything in between. Here’s a helpful guide for what appointments you should be making:
- If you’re in your 20s or 30s, you should talk with your doctor about the following:
- Testicular cancer checkup
- Blood tests for diabetes and thyroid disease
- Skin cancer, STD, and HIV screenings
- Cholesterol testing (repeat this one every five years, or as recommended by your physician)
- Electrocardiogram (tests for heart disease)
- If you’re in your 40s and up, you’ll want to talk with your doctor about these additional screenings:
- Prostate cancer screening
- Annual diabetes screening
- Colon cancer screening
Many of the health concerns for men are preventable — and early detection is the key. Don’t wait until something is wrong to seek help — take preventative action now.
Though it won’t always be easy, making the effort to improve your health today will lead to a better tomorrow, which means many more tailgates, baseball games, and cookouts to come.
1 CDC: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Last updated 2017. Accessed June 3, 2019.
2 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Last updated 2017. Accessed June 3, 2019.
3 QuickStats: Percentage of Adults Aged ≥18 Years Who Currently Use E-Cigarettes, by Sex and Age Group—National Health Interview Survey, 2016. Last updated January 5, 2018. Accessed June 3, 2019.
5. World Health Organization: International statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision (ICD-10). Accessed June 7, 2019.
6. American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure. Last updated October 31, 2016. Accessed June 7, 2019.