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Olympic champion Duncan Armstrong urges men to unlock their potential through daily exercise

It wouldn’t be surprising for a man who once swam 400 laps a day in his elite training years to champion the importance of exercise.

Yet Duncan Armstrong, OAM, Olympic champion and former world record holder, slipped through the swimming ropes when his 10-year swimming career representing the green and gold ended after the 1992 Barcelona Games.

“I had a problem with the drink and a problem with the drugs for a while, transitioning out of swimming,” he told an online gathering at the first Men’s Health Check-In to mark the start of Men’s Health Week 2024.

“I had a hard time working out who I was.”

Armstrong eventually pivoted to a corporate career as a motivational speaker and coach, working with major brands like Qantas, Telstra, Westpac and Cisco. He is now a Stakeholder Manager with Exercise and Sport Science Australia, reminding people to move daily for at least 35-45 minutes.

“Exercise works for the body in profound ways,” said Armstrong. “It helps with longevity, with any disease, and with mental health more than anything else.

“Exercise is a major part of my life every single day. It’s about getting out there and moving your body; it doesn’t matter what it is, you’ve just got to exercise.”

GET THE KNOW YOUR MAN FACTS EXERCISE + MEN'S HEALTH TOOLKIT

Four years ago, Armstrong survived a severe heart attack that resulted in a triple by-pass. He was 52, the same age Aussie cricket great Shane Warne died from a suspected heart attack. Tennis Grand Slam champion Todd Woodbridge also suffered a mild heart attack two years ago at the age of 51.

“52 is the mark for heart disease to show up in a dangerous light,” said Armstrong, who will appear on a new Channel 9 program called Do You Want To Live Forever? which premieres on 17 June.

Armstrong said men should focus on four pillars of health: exercise, diet, stress and sleep.

While he had rejected exercise after his swimming career finished - and gained 50 kilos – exercise was again a major part of his life every day.

Finding something enjoyable was key to maintaining an exercise habit. Armstrong advised that guys should ask themselves every day, “What can I do today to improve my health outcomes?”

“What can I do to focus on my health for 30 minutes? Is it standing up or sitting down five times an hour? Where do I want to invest in myself today? Just have the goal to exercise today.”

Armstrong is now off cholesterol-lowering and blood pressure medication but keeps a close eye on his numbers. He has reduced his meal portions, cut out sugar and fasts for between 36 and 48 hours once a week.

GET THE KNOW YOUR MAN FACTS MEN'S HEART HEALTH TOOLKIT

Exercise and Sports Science Australia has 11,000 accredited exercise professionals who can tailor exercise programs to suit individual needs. The ESSA website also provides easy tips on moving.

“Work with an exercise professional who can work with you, unlocking your potential through exercise,” advised Armstrong.

The Men’s Check-In series continues daily at 12pm AEST throughout Men’s Health Week.

Tuesday, 11 June, how to Check-In on a mate who’s doing it tough.

Wednesday, 12 June, Check-In on better sleep.

Thursday, 13 June, Check-In on 7 Health Checks to get (before you die).

Friday, 14 June, Check-In on substance use and mental health.

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