Think men’s fitness and you probably think of pumping iron at the gym, or tackling someone on the footy field – but that stereotype may not be doing you (or the men in your life) any favours.
If you only read one thing, make it this:
“As men hit middle age, testosterone and muscle mass start to decline; resistance training is essential – twice a week – to slow down this decline.” – personal trainer Kristy Curtis.
You probably already know that exercise is one of the fundamentals of living a long and healthy life, but a lot of Aussie men don’t seem to be getting the memo. More than a quarter of Aussie men over the age of 15 have low levels of physical activity, and many aren’t motivated to start exercising until after they have a health scare.
One misconception commonly held by men is the idea that exercise has to be gruelling and uncomfortable in order to be worthwhile – but personal trainer Kristy Curtis says we’re shifting away from the ‘pumping iron’ stereotype.
“Men are participating more in group-style offerings such as outdoor boot camps, cycling classes, boutique strength and HIIT classes,” she says. “With an ageing population we have also seen an increase in low-impact exercise such as body weight training, aqua classes, yoga and Pilates.”
The sticky bit: Sticking with it
Naturopathic nutritionist Reece Carter says the mental-health benefits are what keeps him devoted to regular exercise sessions.
“I’ve struggled with anxiety in the past and this is how I manage it,” he told health journalist Casey Beros in this month’s episode of the Well-thy podcast. “I’ve tried meditation, I’ve tried yoga and it doesn’t work for me. But exercise allows my brain time to reset. Because you’re focusing on one task, you can’t get distracted by all of the noise around you. And so I always leave feeling really clear and energised.”
Carter says men often give up on exercise too quickly.
“You need to prioritise it the way you prioritise any other part of your life,” he advises. “You just need to kind of do it, carve out that 30 minutes, an hour, whatever is it in your day and you treat it with the same importance as you do, say, your work.”
Choosing your activity
According to the government’s exercise regulations, we should all aim for moderate-intensity exercise 30 minutes a day, most days of the week – which can even be broken up into three 10-minute sessions. This could include anything from swimming to walking, or gardening to throwing a frisbee in the park with the kids.
“With any exercise program, the measure of its effectiveness is whether it’s sustainable and, more importantly, it’s something that you enjoy doing,” Curtis says.
It’s important to include some form of resistance training a couple of times a week, such as free weights or bodyweight training, she adds.
“A male’s physical strength peaks at age 30 and many males around this age focus on lifting weights with little regard to improving mobility, stretching and flexibility,” she says. “As men hit middle age, testosterone and muscle mass start to decline; so resistance training is essential – twice a week – to slow down this decline.”