Jennifer Sacheck, an expert in youth physical activity, encourages men to take small steps to be more active every day.
June is men’s health month, which makes summer the perfect time take stock of your physical fitness and overall wellness.
Jennifer Sacheck, the Sanofi Professor of Prevention and Wellness and chair of the department of exercise and nutrition sciences at the Milken Institute School of Public Health, spoke with GW Today about the actions men can take to improve their health.
Q: What kinds of fitness-related things should men talk about with their physicians in their annual visits?
A: Men can speak with their physician to understand their current weight status, or BMI (Body Mass Index). If they’re not at a healthy weight, they can work with their physician to determine a reasonable body weight target and receive referrals for resources that could assist with diet and physical activity. For men with a healthy body weight, they can discuss steps to continue to eat well and be physically active, which has benefits beyond what might be reflected in the waistline.
Q: Your research focuses on youth physical activity and health outcomes. How do the habits we form as children impact our health as adults?
A: It’s important for kids to become physically literate, which is having the ability, confidence and motivation for engagement in physical activity. It’s critical to establish great physical activity habits at a young age that can stay with you for a lifetime. Children who maintain a healthy weight throughout childhood and adolescence can dramatically reduce the chance of becoming overweight or obese as adults. However, it is important to be aware that after age 20, Americans put on an average of one to two pounds per year. We all—not just men—need to be on top of healthy habits even in those young adult years when many of us think we might not be vulnerable to weight gain.
Q: For men who didn't get much physical activity in as a child or teen, is it too late to start? What do you recommend for men who want to build more physical activity into their life?
A: It’s never too late. Studies have demonstrated enormous benefits of engagement in physical activity later in life in terms of reaping health benefits. Similarly, even if you were active as a child or teen and then became inactive, you really need to get moving again. Benefits found as a child could also be reversed with inactivity.
To build more physical activity into your life, be strategic and prioritize. Walk or bike to your destination if you can. Even taking public transportation will result in more steps. Incorporate movement into your day so that you can log more than 10,000 steps per day, which is the recommended amount to stay healthy. Plan for and train for a crazy hike or adventure race. Try a new sport or athletic endeavor. Think outside of the box— yes, even classes like yoga, boxing or tai chi. Be active with your family. On rainy days, plan to do activity indoors like weight training or a pick-up basketball game at the local gym. Use the stairs, work in the yard and go to a park. Be creative and make physical activity enjoyable.
Q: What are some other steps men can take toward leading healthy lifestyles?
A: Diet and physical activity go hand-in-hand. You need to do both to reap the most benefits and feel great. Shop, cook and eat well to fuel your activity.