When a man decides that he needs to make health and wellness changes and begins to investigate the “how to’s,” he is inundated with a plethora of information. I picked changing my “dad bod” to be “the one thing” I started working on. For me dad bod meant weight and blood pressure. Becoming overwhelmed with information to the point of inaction or failure is a reality for a lot of guys. This is one of the best reasons I had for doing this blog. It’s geared towards you, the everyman- the man who isn’t an expert at these things, to let you know that health and wellness doesn’t have to be complicated if you don’t want it to be. Before you begin to make changes to your health and wellness, consult with your personal physician about your plans and any precautions the doctor may have for you and your history.
Throughout my career as a physical therapist, my recommendations about exercise and health have always been geared towards keeping it as simple as possible to improve the start and promote permanent habit changes. Pick two to three things to focus on that will effect change to your one main objective. As you gain knowledge, experience, and results, you can add complexity if you want to.
I’ve noticed another barrier for men starting or maintaining better health and wellness habits and that is perspective. We are continually fed the marketing campaign that health and wellness is about: quick immediate results, a number on a scale, having a certain type of body look, having huge muscles, being ripped, being able to run a marathon, following a certain diet, or about proving something.
For The Aging Man it’s about health trajectory. The perspective I encourage is that health and wellness is working on the factors or variables that are preventable to the best of our ability to allow us to live our best life after 45. What this means is having the focus on eliminating risk factors, eliminating co-morbidities, as measured by studied variables. It’s about connecting a measurement variable to a health benefit. These studied variables are what the focus is on because they mean something. They indicate whether you are in or out of a risk category as identified by research. Some of these studied measurement variables make up The Aging Man’s physical KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators). The Aging Man doesn’t accept being in an at-risk category, he does everything possible to get out of that category including measuring and improving his physical KPI’s.
The Aging Man doesn’t accept being in an at-risk category, he does everything possible to get out of that category theagingman.net
My first 30 days of health and wellness
For the first 30 days, I focused only on changing food intake, namely a) increasing fiber content, b) decreasing portions, and c) decreasing salt. I discuss this in more detail in a previous post. For my journey it was imperative that I make changes in food intake first. After a month I added an exercise plan. Of note, I was taking the dog for a daily 20-40 min walk.
There is a lot of information out there about exercise, a ton of programs, some really good, and some a bit crazy. A common mistake I see often is that a man starts out really motivated and starts out too advanced without knowing it. He is enamored by the promise of becoming a warrior alpha. Nothing wrong with becoming a warrior alpha. However, most guys won’t maintain such a high level of work over decades due to: burn out, fading motivation, never obtaining an unrealistic objective, or injury.
My objective is not to dis hard charging workouts. For some this is the only way to go. For some this is a needed variation from their routine, for some it isn’t realistic for their lives or health status. Some men will eventually love to work at that level but every man needs to start somewhere and every man needs to keep going.
Start health and wellness at home
I like working out at home. Some men love getting to the gym. I’ve done both. This is a personal decision. Walking 20 feet to my work out area improves my long term consistency and saves me time. For those who haven’t ever worked out or haven’t worked out in years, I recommend that you start at home with very little money invested. If you decide to do the gym at some point, keep your inexpensive home equipment because there will be times that you will not go to the gym but because you can work out at home, you will elect not to skip. Or you can always sell your stuff to pay for your gym membership.
First off, you don’t need to buy anything to get started. Matter of fact, get started, then think about buying something. In other words, go for your first walk now. Don’t let having to buy something first be the reason you don’t start!
Your first purchase should be new shoes and if you wear them, new arch supports. (unless you will be doing swimming for your workout) that you only will wear for your workout and will replace after 12 months or so depending on your intensity. Take care of your feet and you give the rest of your body the best chance of tolerating your workouts.
If you live in a climate that allows you to get outside year-round, you don’t need any further purchases! I live in the Midwest and for long stretches it’s not that great getting outside for regular exercise and so making your next purchase becomes necessary.
Your second purchase should be a piece of cardio. I chose a home elliptical for a couple of reasons. It didn’t make financial sense to purchase a treadmill to do what I could do outside if I chose walking. Second, I wanted something I could do with very little impact. Third, it fit into a small space. Lastly, a treadmill is extremely heavy to move and a home elliptical is not. I have used almost every kind of cardio machine, rowing machine, exercise bike, ski machine, stepper. Besides the rower, I like the feel of elliptical machines better than the others.
(As a participant in the Amazon affiliate program I receive a portion of sales made through the attached links) I’ve used this machine regularly, it’s basic, and affordable.
My starting program
This is how I re-started nine months ago. After 30 days of food intake correction, I had dropped 8 pounds. I was off to an excellent start. I added a cardiovascular activity.
The purpose of the first 30 days of an exercise activity is to gradually build your tissue’s tolerance to the new stress imparted to it and to build the discipline. Therefore for men over 45, I encourage workouts that seem excessively short and excessively light for an initial period of time.
I started out with 5 min on the elliptical. It wasn’t that I couldn’t physically do it longer than five minutes, it’s that I hate cardio, I was so bored, I just wanted to get off it, and my legs were tired… but it was primarily a mindset battle. To win this battle I had to remember my “why.” I had to build the habit, re-awaken my drive and determination, my competitive spirit. So, five minutes every day for a week. Effective for losing weight- not really. Effective for establishing the discipline of climbing onto that elliptical- absolutely.
For the next 3 weeks I rode every day and increased my time as I felt like it. I didn’t pay attention to speed, distance, etc. because I was still building the discipline of riding that thing consistently. By the end of that time frame, I was able to consistently ride 20 min. Habit re-instituted. Now for the fun stuff.
Keep it simple when you are starting or restarting. This is very exciting and is also a point where men get tripped up. Too much too soon leads to feeling worse, not better especially if you have chronic injuries. Why add resistance training? Fun way to burn calories, increasing resting metabolism, you’ll probably like the way you look, can help with bone density, to name a few. You don’t have to purchase any equipment at this stage and if you have certain chronic injuries. There are plenty of effective body weight only exercises.
At this point pushups are every workout. If you haven’t done these in a long time start with no more than 10, but stop if you can’t keep the rhythm moving. The reason is delayed onset muscle soreness with this one is a pain and will hamper your consistency. Start with one if need be, no one cares. Your mission is to work up to 10, then 25, then 40.
Twice a week you will do additional strength training. Select 4 exercises for a rotation and if you don’t have any thoughts on what exercises you might like to try, just do the ones I list below. You’ll be doing 2 of them one day and 2 of them the second day. The exercises you pick aren’t as important as doing them. You can get creative down the road. For now, complete each exercise 10 times- that’s it, not 2 sets, 3 sets, but one set of ten reps. Remember, we are building tissue tolerance and a discipline. You will add a couple and or switch out some exercises after a couple months. My four exercise rotation for the first two months was this: kettle bell arm curls, kettle bell shoulder press ups, kettle bell single arm row, kettle bell squats.
The Health and Wellness Framework- first 6 months
First 30 days. Correcting food intake: decrease portion size, decrease salt intake, increase fiber intake.
Continue improved food intake
Add daily cardio
Add daily stretching
Continue improved food intake
Continue daily cardio and stretching
Add resistance work: push ups every workout, 2 strength training exercises twice a week
Day 90 to 6 months.
Every workout: cardio, pushups, stretching.
Twice a week: additional 2 strength exercises (four total)
My health and wellness results
This 6-month framework is simple in content with the intention to build tissue tolerance and develop the habit of exercise. At six months, I was down 13 pounds and my blood pressure was consistently below 120/80. By month 9, I was 17 pounds down, thus continuing to lower my BMI and belly circumference, and my blood pressure was consistently around 117/70. Being consistent with food intake correction and exercise will produce results. By the time you reach six months you and your body should be well prepared to either explore additional exercise and food intake concepts to step it up or simply continue with what you are already doing but change up the variables- exercise type, reps, weight, sets, time, etc- a post for another day…
Connect with me on Instagram @theagingman and don’t hesitate to DM. Leave a comment below about your biggest hang-up when it comes to getting started with food and exercise changes.