The 10 Habits of Mentally Healthy Men - #2 Be Active
Exercise comes in many forms … as do the people who regularly prioritise exercise. Daily exercise has astonishing benefits for the body and mind. It stimulates chemicals that improve your mood and enhances your focus and memory. It helps reduce the likelihood of heart disease, breast and colon cancers, and diabetes.
Speaking at the Men’s Health Connected online summit in June, David Burt from Sport and Life Training said lack of physical activity is the second greatest contributor, behind tobacco smoking, to the cancer burden in Australia. And yet 60% of Australian adults did less than the recommended 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per day.
The recommended level of activity is:
- Do something every day (a walk, a cycle, a swim, garden, jog etc). If you currently do no physical activity, start small and build up.
- The often touted 30-minutes-day can be split into smaller bursts of 15 minute blocks.
- 2 ½ to 5 hours of moderate intensity or 1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours of vigorous activities per week.
- Muscle strengthening activities on at least two days a week
Social exercise also ticks several boxes.
A round of golf, group workouts at the gym, a pilates class, cycling in clubs, trekking … any activity that involves more than one person helps people feel more socially connected, one of the greatest building blocks to living a healthier and happier life.
The power of team sports has been leveraged in recent years to help men improve their health and well-being. For example, MAN v FAT Soccer, an initiative of the University of Western Australia, is a soccer league for guys who want to lose weight. Players are rewarded, not just for scoring goals, but also for losing weight.
Sons of the West in Melbourne is a 10-week program that similarly draws in fans of the AFL Bulldogs and men based in Victoria’s west to help them ‘live healthier, eat healthier and get back in the game of life’.
In NSW, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs' Active Breed program encourages men to improve their health and wellbeing through a 12-week series of exercise and information sessions. Aussie-Fit is also kicking goals in WA - designed for men as a lifestyle program over 12 weeks drawing on men's passion for footy to make fitness and health a fun experience.
Accessing community resources
If money is a concern, investigate what your local community centre has on offer by way of group classes, as these can often be more affordable.
Another idea is to join the increasingly popular men’s groups who focus their get-togethers around a physical activity. For example, the award-winning The Man Walk provides an opportunity for men to walk, talk and support each other in a regular and healthy way. There are walking groups now across Australia. Find the closest or start your own walking group.
Beyond the Barbell is a mental health support group for men to meet, work out and chat. Says founder Michael Murphy, working out makes you feel good because it releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin, helps raise confidence and self-esteem and reduces feelings of loneliness and isolation. BTB releases workouts each week that can be done at home with minimal to no equipment, an option that many have taken up during COVID-19 enforced isolation.
On November 28, Beyond the Barbell will be completing 42 workouts one after another to raise awareness for men’s mental health and raise funds for the Movember Foundation. Find out more about 42 for 42.
Learn more about the impact of incremental exercise on Heart Health from the Heart Foundation and check out Health Direct’s advice on how to start exercising.
TIPS FROM THE TOP
The Australian Men's Health Forum surveyed men for World Mental Health Month 2020 on the 10 Habits of Mentally Healthy Men. 93% agreed that being physically fit and getting enough exercise helped them stay mentally healthy. Here's what some of them had to say:
Regular 4km walks around a lake is relaxing and good for my physical health.
Run a few times per week, yoga and playing soccer.
I think exercise or participation in sport could be a factor in helping mental health depending very much on the person
Research evidence strongly supports. There is also a place for meditation and looking within.
I play golf, fish, walk in the bush and garden.