Mental Wellness & Exercise For Men
We all know that exercise is beneficial for our bodies, but do we actually take the time to ponder on how physical exercise can make us feel stronger mentally? While most men are familiar with the importance of physical health and exercise, not all are aware of the significant link between physical and mental health. Exercise is not just about endurance and muscle size. Of course, exercise can improve your physical health, build stronger muscles, help with weight loss and even add years to your life, but it also provides you with a profound sense of wellbeing whilst giving you more energy. It also helps you sleep better at night, have a sharper memory, minimise stress levels and make you feel more uplifted.
No matter your age or fitness level, you can learn how to use exercise as a powerful tool to lessen the symptoms of mental health problems (such as anxiety or depression) whilst improving your outlook and experiencing more out of life.
According to Intermountain Healthcare (2018), exercise benefits for men include:
- Lowers risk of diabetes
- Lowers cholesterol
- Reduces depression and anxiety
- Lowers risk of high blood pressure
- Healthier blood vessels
- Weight loss
- Improves testosterone levels as you age
- Lowers risk of colon cancer
- Stronger bones
- Reduced risk of erectile dysfunction
- Longer life span
As current statistics suggest, one in eight men will experience depression, one in five will experience anxiety and six men a day will die from suicide in Australia. Despite the various health benefits associated with exercise, only 17% of males aged 18 – 64 meet the national Physical Activity Guidelines. Additionally, 7 in 10 Australian males are overweight or obese, increasing their risk of chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and some cancers (Exercise Right, 2022). When taking these staggering figures into account, it’s quite clear it is more important than ever for men to up their physical activity levels in order to prioritise their overall wellbeing.
If you’re not sure where to start, try turning to friends, family, local or online community groups. You could even seek out support from organisations or charities designed to specifically support men on their individual journeys. Engaging an accredited exercise professional or a wellness coach to help empower you to become the best version of yourself is another idea. Whatever resonates with you is an internal nudge in the right direction and even though the first step can sometimes be the hardest, you're not alone and support is available to you if you need it. Every man has the ability to live a healthier and happier life, regardless of his age, history, fitness level or health status.
Managing Your Mental Fitness
As defined by Better Up (2021), Mental fitness is having and maintaining a state of wellbeing and cultivating awareness of how we think, behave and feel. This plays a huge role in providing us with a greater capacity to respond to life’s many situations from a place of self-acceptance, high self-esteem, resilience with the ability to manage strong emotions.
It’s not so much about training your brain or solving puzzles, rather, it is the cumulative effect on your emotional health. It’s about taking a bit of time out to mentally check-in. Working on your mental fitness builds your inner strength and resilience, preparing you to deal with life’s stresses and difficulties. Similar to the way our physical fitness positively influences our mental health, our mental fitness ultimately affects our physical health and wellness too.
So, what is a good way to become mentally fit? Two words: mindful meditation. Decide today to set aside five to ten minutes per day to sit and observe your thoughts. You can do that with your eyes open or closed, although in the beginning, it is far easier to keep your eyes closed to avoid distractions. It might feel strange at first, but as you train your attention to remain focused, you become an observer of your thoughts. You discover that you can detach from thoughts that are simply momentary and you open yourself up to a world of inner peace and possibilities.
To practise mindfulness while you’re exercising, you could try to notice the sensation of your feet hitting the ground while you run, for example, or the rhythm of your breathing, or the feeling of the wind blowing on your skin as you walk through nature. By harnessing mindfulness while you train — really focusing on your body and how it feels in the present moment — you’ll not only improve your physical condition, but you will likely also be able to disconnect from negative emotions or the flow of concerns running through your mind, should any arise.
Many men believe in the ‘no pain, no gain’ misconception but it doesn’t have to be that way. Physical activity is not just structured exercise and by no means does it have to be gruelling. Any activity that works the major muscle groups, such as walking or riding your bike, washing the car or mowing the lawn can be challenging enough to result in health benefits. Remember, anything is better than nothing but to maintain good health and reduce your risk of health problems, health professionals and researchers recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity each day (Better Health Channel Victoria, 2018).
If exercising feels more like a chore, and you’re lacking motivation to tie up your shoelaces and hit the pavement, try exercising with a friend or join a sports group. That way, it’s more enjoyable and you’re less inclined to skip a session as that would mean you’re letting someone down (or wasting money).
For the men in suits who sit at a desk most of the day, take advantage of your lunch breaks. It’s tempting to sit and relax on your lunch break. But, by lunch, your body would certainly benefit from a short walk. You don’t even need to go far for it to be effective. If that’s not an option, do what you can to keep moving. Get up at least once an hour to walk around or stretch. Where appropriate, rather than sending an email, walk to your colleague’s office to chat with a co-worker about a work task or question. You could even park your car a few blocks from work to get your steps up. It might not sound like a lot, but a conscious effort to stay active will make a difference to your wellbeing long term.
Play Together, Stay Together
Relationships are all about connection, or the state of being connected to one another - and believe it or not, exercise plays a role in strengthening important aspects such as attraction levels. Feeling happier is a natural by product of exercise due to the feel-good chemicals (endorphins) that it helps you release. So, not only will working out together make you happier, but it will up your desire, common interests, and the quality time you share with one another. Psychology Today (2021) also highlights research that suggests exercising with one’s romantic partner may contribute to improved mood and an increased level of relationship satisfaction. Maintaining a healthy relationship with your better half through exercise is another way you can improve your wellness and step into your masculinity.
As the saying goes, “happiness begins with good health”, and this undoubtedly pertains to both mental and physical health. If you’re looking for a place to begin your wellness journey, or a platform to source support, you’ve come to the right place.
If you’re ready to truly step into your power and live your best life, we invite you to embrace our Empowerment Series. Comprised of over 60+ empowerment practices using meditation, mindfulness, positive psychology, subliminal strategies, you can begin your wellness journey now. Get started today or try our mini series for free.
Men and Exercise: Why You Need to Work Out Even When You Don’t Have Time (https://intermountainhealthcare.org/blogs/topics/live-well/2018/06/men-and-exercise/#:~:text=Lower%20cholesterol,Healthier%20blood%20vessels)
Exercise is medicine for men’s mental health (https://exerciseright.com.au/exercise-is-medicine-for-mens-mental-health/)
What is mental fitness? A how-to for exercising your brain(https://www.betterup.com/blog/what-does-it-mean-to-be-mentally-fit#:~:text=Mental%20fitness%20can%20be%20defined,helps%20in%20the%20same%20way.
Why Couples Should Work Out Together (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/finding-new-home/202111/why-couples-should-work-out-together)
Physical Activity, It’s Important (https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/physical-activity-its-important?