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Top 5 health goals for men in 2022

With the new year just around the corner, we outline our top five health goals for men in 2022.

Health and fitness goals are unique to everyone—we are all built differently, and we each have different motives.

For the last couple of years, it has been tough to stick to our health goals. Closing gyms and the new norm of a sedentary work-from-home lifestyle ruffled our routines, and some of us noticed our health begin to slip.

In fact, studies show that the average life expectancy has fallen for the first time in 40 years due to the impact of COVID-19 [1] and rates of depression are also much higher since the beginning of the outbreak [2]. Now more than ever is an important time to look after your health.

We’re introducing you to five health goals that are not just realistic and achievable but holistic too. After all, health is more than just your cardiorespiratory fitness; it encompasses many other parts of you, such as your sleep quality, mental health and mindset, nutrition, and even your genetics.

1. Practise mindfulness, self-care, and you time

You may be surprised to see this at the top of the list—it may feel passive or more of an indulgence than an aspiration. Yet, for most men, this is likely to be one of the hardest goals to sustain. It is also one of the best things you can do for your mental health.

It’s largely become a forgotten art in Western culture, but more men than ever are embracing activities that encourage mindfulness and meditation.

If you’re unfamiliar, mindfulness is the ability to be fully present with an awareness of what is around us. In this state, we are less influenced by our emotions or reactive states and more concerned with accepting the current moment for what it is. It can ground us when the world around us is chaotic.

Without mindfulness, we revert to autopilot. Ever made it to work without remembering the car journey? Your mind was probably somewhere other than the present moment.

Research into mindfulness meditation is still in the early stages, but studies suggest it can reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety, lower stress levels and blood pressure, and improve attention and working memory [3, 4, 5]

Mindfulness can be woven into every part of our lives, but it can very easily be forgotten about. Certain activities encourage this state of mind. 

Try incorporating one of these activities into your daily routine:

  • Yoga or meditation – Set aside time in your day where you’re unlikely to be interrupted. This might involve getting up earlier. Yoga is also an excellent way to improve your balance and flexibility.
  • Walking or running – Leave your phone at home and try focusing on the sights and sounds of your surroundings instead of your to-do list. 
  • Journaling – Men are known for internalising emotion; journaling is a great way to regain perspective and reflect on how you’re reacting to life’s stressors. You don’t need a fancy new notebook either – unless you’d like one. Starting a new note on your mobile can be just as effective, and you can add a password if you’d like to keep your thoughts private. 
  • Massage therapy – When you’re deeply focused on the body, it leaves little room for outside noise. It can reduce muscle tension and alleviate stress.

Our Stress Cortisol Saliva Tests can give you more information about your stress hormone levels. Constant worry, anxiety, and other life stressors cause cortisol levels to rise, which can affect your sleep and mental wellbeing. If you're feeling on edge, see our top ten ways to de-stress

2. Switch your workout routine to a workout challenge

How often do you find yourself going to the gym and repeating the same set of exercises? Or running the same route over and over? Perhaps your weight loss progress has plateaued?

A workout routine does not have to be mundane or unchanging as the name implies. It can be easy to stick to something we’re comfortable with but switching up your routine is important to challenge your body to use different muscles, work harder, and learn something new.

A new workout challenge can make you a more well-rounded athlete and help you to avoid imbalances in your physique. This applies to you regardless of whether you’re training for your mental health, strength, stamina, flexibility, or appearance. 

Mix up your routine with these ideas that can be adapted according to your goals:

  • Exercise with a friend – You may find they’ll challenge you or give a fresh perspective on the workout. 
  • Record your weight train personal bests (PBs) - Set a realistic goal, for example, to increase the weight by 5kg every week, or to increase your reps. Make sure your form is correct before piling on the plates – ideally ask a coach or trainer to watch you.
  • Ask someone to spot you - As you near the end of a set, the last few reps should feel challenging—these are where we make the most progress. Without the support of a spotter, you might be reluctant to push yourself to the next level. A spotter can help you meet the challenge safely, without the worry of hurting yourself. 
  • Try a new machine or variation of an exercise - If you find yourself gravitating towards the barbell bench press, try a dumbbell press or alter the incline. You’ll know when you’ve targeted an underused muscle group because it will likely ache more than usual for the next few days.
  • Add some sprints - For runners, try incorporating a sprint, varying the distance you run, or experiment with hill training. 

Regardless of your sport or exercise, be imaginative and push yourself.

If you’re ready to take your fitness to the next level, try our Advanced Fitness Blood Test or Ultimate Performance Blood Test. They allow you to establish your baseline and track hormones and nutritional markers that directly affect your performance. 

Struggling to bulk up? Here are four reasons you’re not building muscle.

3. Meal plan, prep, and plants

We’re talking meal planning, prepping meals, and incorporating more plants into your diet. If this sounds like a bit of an ordeal, make your goal to take on just one of the following.

Plan - Cooking dinner after a long day at work isn’t a task most people are dying to do. But one thing that makes it easier is meal planning. 

Set aside 30 minutes to plan your meals and grocery list for the week. Why? 

Meal planning can:

  • Reduce the temptation of reaching for the quicker, less healthy option
  • Save you money
  • Give you control and help you to achieve your nutritional goals
  • Decrease food waste and reduce trips to the supermarket 
  • Prevent decision fatigue, especially when you’re tired in the evenings

Prep - For most people, meal prep means spending hours on a Sunday, boxing up meals into Tupperware containers to last you the entire week. But it doesn’t have to be a big task and it may save you time in the long run. 

You’ll be able to control your portion sizes much more easily. Not having to prepare something fresh will save you time and reduce stress. It’ll also encourage variety, rather than going for the same sandwich every time. 

Plants - The term flexitarian refers to increased intake of plant-based meals with the occasional inclusion of meat. If you’re a meat-eater, this might be a more realistic way for you to reap the benefits of plant-based foods.

The benefits of a plant-based diet:

  • Contains high levels of vitamins and minerals
  • Improves your cardiovascular health
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Improves glycaemic control
  • Reduces risk and protects against some cancers

If you’re worried that plants won’t meet your protein requirements, seek out the higher protein veg. Compared with chicken, which contains about 27g per 100g, the following plant-based foods are almost as protein-rich.
Ready to make the change? Here are our five top tips on transitioning to a plant-based diet.

Food Protein per 100g
Peanuts  26g
Seitan 25g
Almonds 21g
Pinto beans 21g
Chickpeas 19g
Tempeh 19g
Flaxseed 18g
Edamame 11g

4. Learn about your health – inside and out

Physical parameters like weight and blood pressure are helpful to keep an eye on, but they don’t tell us much about what’s going on inside your body.

Don’t just know your family history, act on it. 

Many conditions run in families like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, most cancers, blood clots, autoimmune diseases, and asthma.

Research has found that people who know they have a family history of a certain condition either don’t believe their susceptibility or perceive their inherited risk as unavoidable [6]. In both cases, it can result in reduced efforts to counter their increased risk.

Even if you have a genetic predisposition to a condition, you can still take preventative action either through lifestyle changes, medications, or screening tests. An example of this is diabetes—Lowering your sugar intake, maintaining a healthy weight, and attending eye screening can significantly improve your management of the disease and reduce long-term consequences. 

Get a blood test. 

A blood test can tell you so much about your health:

  • How well your organs are functioning
  • Whether your hormone levels are normal
  • Help you establish your risk of certain conditions
  • Your nutritional status and whether you have a deficiency
  • Inform you whether your lifestyle may be affecting your health

With this knowledge, you can start making informed changes to your lifestyle and optimise your health for the years ahead.

We recommend our Advanced Well Man Blood Test as it gives you a thorough overview of your health. Your results are reported by our team of doctors with advice tailored to you. 

5. Develop quality relationships

In 1938, Harvard carried out a study on 268 male participants, tracking their health for nearly 80 years in the hopes of finding out the basis to a happy and healthy life. 

The secret: relationships.

Close relationships—more than money or fame—are what keep people happy throughout their lives. These bonds are what protect us from the hardships in life; they help to prevent mental and physical decline. Research shows that people who keep strong relationships are more likely to live a longer and healthier life. [7, 8, 9] The effect of this finding depends more on the quality rather than the number of your close relationships [9]

Being in a romantic relationship is not necessarily the key to happiness. An unhappy or poor-quality relationship is more destructive than being single and can directly impact your physical and mental health [9].

So, schedule time with the people that are important in your life. Face-to-face rather than online interaction is best—this is what contributes most to wellbeing [10]

Setting five health goals

Health is multi-faceted, and your health goals should reflect this. Set objectives that will support both your physical and mental wellbeing. 

It’s much better to set a small, realistic goal, rather than one you know you’ll never achieve or maintain. Focus on establishing healthy habits and enjoying the process rather than the results. The results will come later.

In a nutshell, be present, exercise, eat well, know your body, and hold onto good-quality relationships.


 References

  1. Office for National Statistics. 2021. Life expectancy for local areas of the UK - Office for National Statistics. [online] Available at: <https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthandlifeexpectancies/bulletins/lifeexpectancyforlocalareasoftheuk/between2001to2003and2018to2020> [Accessed 28 October 2021].
  2. Office for National Statistics. 2021. Coronavirus and depression in adults, Great Britain - Office for National Statistics. [online] Available at: <https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/wellbeing/articles/coronavirusanddepressioninadultsgreatbritain/julytoaugust2021> [Accessed 28 October 2021].
  3. Schreiner, I., & Malcolm, J. (2008). The Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation: Changes in Emotional States of Depression, Anxiety, and Stress. Behaviour Change,25(3), 156-168. doi:10.1375/bech.25.3.156
  4. Brown, K., Creswell, J. and Ryan, R., 2015. Handbook of mindfulness. 1st ed. Guildford Publications.
  5. Ponte Márquez, P., Feliu-Soler, A., Solé-Villa, M., Matas-Pericas, L., Filella-Agullo, D., Ruiz-Herrerias, M., Soler-Ribaudi, J., Roca-Cusachs Coll, A. and Arroyo-Díaz, J., 2018. Benefits of mindfulness meditation in reducing blood pressure and stress in patients with arterial hypertension. Journal of Human Hypertension, 33(3), pp.237-247.
  6. Acheson LS, Wang C, Zyzanski SJ, Lynn A, Ruffin MT 4th, Gramling R, Rubinstein WS, O'Neill SM, Nease DE Jr; Family Healthware Impact Trial (FHITr) Group. Family history and perceptions about risk and prevention for chronic diseases in primary care: a report from the family healthware impact trial. Genet Med. 2010 Apr;12(4):212-8. doi: 10.1097/GIM.0b013e3181d56ae6. PMID: 20216073; PMCID: PMC4037165.
  7. Harvard Gazette. 2021. Over nearly 80 years, Harvard study has been showing how to live a healthy and happy life. [online] Available at: <https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/04/over-nearly-80-years-harvard-study-has-been-showing-how-to-live-a-healthy-and-happy-life/> [Accessed 28 October 2021].
  8. Yang, Y., Boen, C., Gerken, K., Li, T., Schorpp, K. and Harris, K., 2016. Social relationships and physiological determinants of longevity across the human life span. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(3), pp.578-583.
  9. Saphire-Bernstein, S. and Taylor, S., 2013. Close Relationships and Happiness. Oxford Handbooks Online
  10. Mental Health Foundation. 2021. Relationships in the 21st century: the forgotten foundation of mental health and wellbeing. [online] Available at: <https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/relationships-21st-century-forgotten-foundation-mental-health-and-wellbeing> [Accessed 28 October 2021].