A chance meeting at the Northland Arboretum in January led me to write this column.
Kara Schaefer, a community health educator for Crow Wing Energized, encountered my daughter and I on the cross-country ski trails and mentioned she was looking for someone to write about men’s health for this Father’s Day edition. I view this as an opportunity to share my commitment to regular physical activity for its corresponding health benefits. Yes, there are other things that are important considerations for men’s health such as age-related screening for disease, immunizations, tobacco cessation, dietary restraint, and alcohol in moderation — but today, I want to focus on exercise.
On November 26, 2020, the World Health Organization released the following statistics:
More than a quarter of the world’s adult population (1.4 billion adults) are insufficiently active.
Worldwide, around 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men do not do enough physical activity to stay healthy.
Levels of inactivity are twice as high in high-income countries compared to low-income countries.
There has been no improvement in global levels of physical activity since 2001.
Insufficient activity increased by 5% (from 31.6% to 36.8%) in high-income countries between 2001 and 2016.
While I was asked to write about men’s health, clearly this topic is gender neutral. The health benefits are significant for all. Again, from the World Health Organization:
In adults and older adults, higher levels of physical activity improve:
risk of all-cause mortality.
risk of cardiovascular disease mortality.
incident site-specific cancers (bladder, breast, colon, endometrial, esophageal adenocarcinoma, gastric and renal cancers).
incident type-2 diabetes.
risk of falling.
mental health (reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression).
measures of adiposity (body fat) may also improve.
If you could buy a medication that would do all of these things, would you? Fortunately, there need not be any financial cost to achieving these outcomes. However, there is the cost of time, commitment, and perseverance. Moderately vigorous physical activity for 150 to 300 minutes a week (1/2 that for vigorous activity) coupled with strength training of all muscle groups twice a week can deliver these outcomes.
For me, this translates into walking, biking, swimming, and cross-country skiing, frequently with family members and friends, combining physical fitness with another important health benefit: social interaction. Having said that, all physical activity is beneficial. Get up from your desk at work and walk around five minutes of every hour and at home, pull yourself away from the television. This is all it takes to improve your health!
Do you have children who are attached at the hip to their electronic devices? Be a role model by demonstrating regular physical activity and include them. My three daughters, who are now adults, invest regularly in physical fitness. I would like to think that I was a role model for their ongoing commitment to exercise. They even invite me to join them once in a while.
We are blessed to live in an area that offers many opportunities to be physically active. There are paved trails, wooded trails, mountain bike trails and excellent opportunities for cross-country and Alpine skiing, and I can’t leave out water sports. There are fitness centers that provide easy access. I have heard that there is no such thing as bad weather in Minnesota, only bad clothing. Don’t let winter be your fitness enemy. Find a friend or family member who wants to get out and exercise and make a commitment with each other to make it happen.
This Father’s Day do something together as a family that will increase the likelihood that you can celebrate many Father’s Day’s to come. Plan an outing and exercise together!