Men’s Health Week happens every year in June. Most men probably don’t know that there’s a week dedicated to their health — let alone when it is. But if the numbers tell us anything, awareness on the subject is overdue.
According to the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation, 72 per cent of fellas live an unhealthy lifestyle — and that includes their work life.
When the CMHF recently asked men across the country about work, almost 70 per cent find their day-to-day stressful — and another 10 per cent defined it as “very stressful.”
Work also makes its presence felt at night with 60 per cent of men reporting that sometimes, or more often, work affects their ability to get seven to eight hours of sleep.
Almost 50 per cent go in early or stay late to get work done and 30 per cent of men are working while on vacation.
And even if they’re feeling unwell or sick, 60 per cent of guys go to work anyway.
“I was really surprised to see two out of three working when they feel sick,” says CMHF president Wayne Hartrick. “Not only are you maybe getting other people sick but you’re not letting yourself get well.”
Hartick believes zero sick days shouldn’t be viewed as a “badge of honour,” although he admits that before helping start CMHF in 2013, he was proud to say he hadn’t seen his GP in four or five years. “I thought of it as, ‘Yeah, good guy!’ But in fact, I should have been seeing him each year.”
Promoting self care, like going to your doctor as part of a healthy lifestyle, is one of the foundation’s aims. Education is another.
In working with CMHF founder Dr. Larry Goldenberg, Hartick himself learned about the importance of good sleep. Getting seven continuous hours of sleep, for example, is crucial for the natural, nightly repairs your body performs. “If you only get five hours, you don’t get the benefit,” he points out.
Even worse, lack of sleep and stress — both of which were reported by the majority of men surveyed — are factors that increase risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, depression and low testosterone.
“We think a lot of guys just aren’t aware of the fairly sizeable impact stress, lack of sleep, long hours and other habits have,” Hartick says. “We’re not asking people to quit their jobs but we are asking them to be aware.”
And make changes, of course, but it doesn’t have to be a lot.
“We did a bunch of research across Canada with men who weren’t being proactive about their health and one of the things we learned was most of the time they were being asked to do too much. It was simply overwhelming,” Hartick explains, offering a baby step suggestion. “How about half fries, half salad at lunch.”
Other tips include:
- Take one flight of stairs before getting on the elevator
- Try a stress break, go for a walk without your cell phone
- Don’t drink coffee after 3 p.m.
- Have healthy snacks at your desk (moving unhealthy snacks 6 ft away reduces consumption by 50 per cent)
- Have a glass of water between every after-work drink
The foundation has a site, Dontchangemuch.ca, dedicated to encouraging such healthy “bite-size” habits.
Hartick also wants men to know that “moderation” is a viable health strategy.
“You don’t have to go all or nothing,” he says. “Moderating is more likely to stick – and if it sticks it will have benefits. And later on, if they want to become a 10 K runner, good for them.”