October 07, 2022
Late in the summer, back-to-back studies documented how poorly the health of American men compares to those in other affluent countries, and that women now out-live men by nearly six years.
Last month, I offered a compelling list of 25 benefits from living healthy. By referencing science-based outcomes like a longer life, improved sleep and some social incentives – like better sex – my hope was that a consolidated presentation would supply the power to grab men's attention and prompt them to take action. Motivation strong enough to counter the decades-long saga of men neglecting their health reflected in the studies.
Creating my own one-two counterpunch, I committed to follow-up this inventory with a rundown of best practices, specifically those that would prove a healthy lifestyle to be more than just sweat and starvation. While diet and exercise are at the core of one's physical regimen, healthy habits include behaviors that improve mental health and well-being, and also can be a source of fun!
So, as promised, here’s a look at a broader set of ideas to be active.
As always, I like to anchor my case in science, so before I offer the new ideas, let me offer touch on the importance of your frame of mind. A 2021 paper from Frontiers in Psychology suggests that there is an ever-expanding number of behaviors included under the umbrella of healthy behavior. This prompted the authors to characterize being healthy as a process in which traditional views of physical activity and healthy eating as boring and depriving are replaced by a mindset in which they are appealing and valued, and can ultimately produce a culture in which they are enjoyed!
In short, they argue that mindset matters when it comes to overcoming this barrier to behavior change. Leveraging this expanded menu of behavior will enable you to ditch the notion that fitness is drudgery, find the attraction and sustain your engagement over the long haul.
With the right perspective in place, here are some additional tips on the widening portfolio of healthy tactics. The Mayo Clinic reminds us that movement outside of normal structured exercise can generate similar benefits. Activities like house cleaning, making the bed, shopping, mowing and gardening are all forms of physical activity that can help, particularly if you log the number of minutes per week recommended for standard exercise – 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity. In a reference to diet, the Mayo Clinic recommends keeping a journal to track your reaction to meals and snacks so you can modify your diet to maximize achievement.
Another thought on changing your lifestyle comes from the Harvard Medical School, which recognizes that “every individual has his or her own lifestyle and needs an individualized approach to changing it.” For those looking to adopt healthy behaviors, the experts at Harvard encourage their patients to connect their desired behaviors with what matters in their lives, and help them build the confidence so important to behavior change. With an extended and diversified bundle of healthy activities, you can tailor a regimen that works for you and supports the more conventional dimensions of diet and exercise.
Michigan State University presents a number of alternative activities for individuals and families – with fun in mind. They include dancing, walking, swimming and hiking. And the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs adds bicycling with family or friends, or a beginner’s exercise class.
For my closing argument, I pulled from my PhillyVoice archives to assemble my top 25 healthy behaviors outside the realm of standard diet and exercise. All are grounded in science with the link to the original article so you can easily get the details.
Consistent with my previous column, the shear number of alternative strategies makes the point that there’s a lot you can do for yourself that produces both health and happiness. Yes, healthy behavior may be anchored by diet and exercise, but there is a wide range of activities that can supplement the more common regimens.
2. Be optimistic
3. Maintain loving relationships
5. Get enough sleep
7. Enjoy nature
8. Take cold rinse showers
9. Leverage the power of anticipation
11. Simplify your life
12. Communicate more
13. Build intergenerational relationships
14. Maintain friendships
15. Get an annual physical
16. Consider an encore career
17. Listen to music
18. Set goals
19. Establish rituals
20. Keep an active social life
21. Drink in moderation
22. Rethink masculinity
23. Practice proper grooming
24. Recognize the power of women
25. Leverage financial incentives
There you have it. Make the most of these alternative tactics. Reflect on the laundry list of benefits I presented last time, and connect the dots. As the experts have said, your attitude makes a big difference. If you can get to the point where you see and feel the value of living healthy, it will make a world of difference and enhance your chances of sustaining the behaviors.
Trust me, I’ve been to the top of this mountain and it’s a great place. Time to start your own journey. With each of us moving forward in a new direction, collectively, we can change the fate of American men once and for all. Good luck!
Louis Bezich, senior vice president and chief administrative officer at Cooper University Health Care, is author of "Crack The Code: 10 Proven Secrets that Motivate Healthy Behavior and Inspire Fulfillment in Men Over 50." Read more from Louis on his website.