Grown men are reluctant to go to a doctor, because they are scared of seeing the results. In other words, they think there may be something dreadfully wrong, but they believe they are better off not knowing about it.
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Men’s top three excuses for not consulting a GP are that they are “too busy”, are afraid of the results, or are put off by uncomfortable body exams, according to a survey by the Orlando Health hospital system.
Men are funny about health. They may not cross the threshold into a medical waiting room, but they will go through agonies to keep fit.
It can be quite alarming to witness 50+ men pounding the pavement for hours, cycling at Olympic speeds to and from the office, or muscling their sons out of the way at a sweat-drenched Tough Mudder event.
Being afraid to get bad news is the main reason men avoid going to the doctor
But even though it seems so extreme to those of us who think of exercise as a brisk walk for coffee, they are not entirely on the wrong track, according to human performance researcher, Dr Adam Fraser.
Fraser is reluctant to dissuade the MAMILs (middle aged men in lycra) because he says there is a “fine line” between a healthy interest in fitness, and overdoing it.
Having just returned from Kuwait, where he was engaged in a project to “make Kuwait happy”, he notes that the sedentary, pampered nature of life in the oil-rich nation is not great for mental health.
“Literally, their problem is that they don’t have enough struggle and challenge. It is too easy. They are so supported, they have so much money, they don’t have struggle,” he says.
“Their lack of struggle is actually dysfunctional and reducing their level of meaning and happiness.”
Fraser says the emergence of extreme exercise in the Western world is a response to the lack of meaning, challenge and strife in people’s lives.
“Life is so safe and predictable and they are wanting a bit of thrill and something that really pushes their buttons,” he says.
So people, in general, benefit from the mental and physical challenge of exercise — and it can also hold back the deteriorating effects of time.
The lush Kuwaiti lifestyle has been shown to lead to a lack of “meaning and happiness”
A study by University of Texas Southwestern Medical School put a group of 50-year-old men on six months of slow, but steady, endurance training and then measured the impact on their health.
Although they did not lose much weight, their resting heart rates, blood pressure, and their heart’s maximum pumping abilities were back to their baseline level from age 20. This training reversed the entire 30 years of decline in aerobic power.
Crucially, they were not back at the peak performance they had at age 20, because that would take a miracle but, according to researchers, they had “slowed the march of time”.
The benefits of physical challenge aside, Fraser does have concerns about the “Type A” personalities, who push themselves too far. These (mostly) men are typified by the executives who commit to extreme exercise regimes, shower, and then go in to do 11 hours or more in a stressful job.
They are committing to the kind of exercise regimes used by Olympic athletes, but they are not allowing themselves the “down time” they need to allow their bodies to recover, he says.
For retirees, exercise is healthy and it can also be a social interaction for people who miss the face-to-face conversations of work.
A survey of almost 8,000 Australians aged over 50 in March by MevCorp on behalf of WYZA®, finds that health is their number one concern. However, there is a major disconnect between the health concerns of men 50+ and their desire to do anything about it, particularly when it comes to weight management.
Men may be just as concerned as women about health (49 per cent versus 51 per cent), but they are generally less likely to seek information on topics that affect them — particularly when it comes to information on weight management, tiredness and vitamins, minerals and supplements.
In the coming year, 34 per cent of survey respondents (male and female) say they intend to start a new exercise regime.
Is this an issue you or your parents are dealing with? We want to hear from you. Email us at email@example.com.
Look out for this series of six articles Fiona Smith is writing for us based on the latest information discovered about the 50+ in March 2016 by MevCorp on behalf of WYZA®.
What topic would you like Fiona to cover next on WYZA®?