Research shows that extra kilos mean a shorter life for men. It’s time to start turning back the clock.
1. First measure your waist. It should be no bigger than half your height, according to research by City University London. If it’s within this healthy limit you should live to the average life expectancy. If not, for every extra few centimetres, you face losing months or even years of life.
2. Cut down on alcohol. It is calorie-loaded and contributes to the development of “moobs” or man boobs, says fitness expert Matt Roberts. “If you don’t want to cut it out, at least cut right down.”
3.Use pedal-power. Try sprinting flat-out for 60 seconds twice a week on an indoor bike. Findings by Abertay University in Dundee suggest that older men lost 1kg of fat in two months by doing this.
4. Motivate yourself with this fact. McMaster University in Ontario found men who did an average of three 45-minute workouts a week looked younger. Exercisers in their 40s had skin biopsies and the results were those expected in men half their age. The effects persisted; men aged 65 had thicker dermis layers of the skin — that is, they were less haggard.
5. Take the stairs. Climbing 55 flights a week can cut the risk of dying early by 15 per cent and lower your cholesterol within weeks. Just taking two flights a day can help shift nearly 3kg in a year.
6. Resistance isn’t futile. Muscle mass peaks at about the age of 25. After that an average of a tenth of a kilo of muscle a year is lost in a process called sarcopenia. Beyond the age of 50 the losses adopt an almost parasitic speediness, bleeding the body of up to half a kilo of muscle a year. Resistance training is by far the most effective means of arresting this fall.
7. Make the weights heavy. “The trend for a lot of repetitions with ultralight weights is not effective for building lean muscle tissue or getting a toned look,” says Joe Wicks, a trainer known as the Body Coach. “Progressively heavier weight training acts as a catalyst for muscle growth. Aim for a weight that allows you to perform 10 repetitions, then gradually increase that as you get stronger.”
8. Warm up. The dry heat of a sauna can be beneficial for the middle-aged male’s heart, according to the University of Eastern Finland. The study showed that a weekly sauna could cut the risk of a heart attack for middle-aged men by up to 63 per cent.
9. Time yourself over a mile. Provided your knees are up to it, how fast you can run a mile (1.6km) can help to predict the risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke decades later. According to the University of Texas, a 55-year-old man who needs 15 minutes to run a mile has a 30 per cent risk of developing heart disease. But a 55-year-old who runs a mile in eight has a lifetime risk of less than 10 per cent.
10. Do push-ups. It is considered the ultimate barometer of fitness, especially in middle age. “It works the whole body, engaging muscle groups in the arms, chest, abdomen, hips and legs,” says John Brewer, professor of applied sport science at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. Push-ups can provide the strength to reach out and break a fall, preventing fracture.
11. Don’t be scared to push yourself. “Provided you have had a medical check, you have a green light to work as hard as ever,” says Wicks. “Your own body is the best barometer of effort and if you are sweating and breathless, then it’s a good sign. It is very hard to overdo it.” In April, an Australian study revealed that middle-aged people who did vigorous running, aerobics or competitive tennis had a 9 per cent to 13 per cent lower risk of dying early than those who only undertook lighter activity.
12. Eat more protein. Researchers in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested consuming between 0.8g and 1g of low-fat protein (skimmed milk, yoghurts, low-fat cheese) per 453g of body weight in conjunction with resistance training helped to promote muscle health in middle-aged men.
13. Become a swinger. Ambling around the golf course may not be the fastest route to fitness, but do it often enough and it may extend your life. Researchers from the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet showed that the death rate for golfers was 40 per cent lower than for other people of the same sex, age and socioeconomic status — that equates to a five-year increase in life expectancy. Golfers with a low handicap live the longest.
14. Follow a 4x25 fitness plan. “In middle age, the frequency of exercise should be four days a week, minimum, and for at least 25 minutes,” says Roberts.
15. Stretch in front of the TV. “Deep stretching helps to boost blood flow and nutrients to your muscles and skin,” says Dalton Wong of Twenty Two training. “It does this by releasing connective tissue around the body.” You can even do this during the ad breaks.
16. Add 60-second bursts of effort to a stroll. If you haven’t exercised in a while, short bursts that leave you breathless — a sprint for the bus, a fast walk — can make all the difference, Every daily minute of exercise effort is linked to a 2 per cent decrease in obesity odds among men, a US study found.
17. Try brick sessions. Switching from one form of exercise to another within a workout can reap “tremendous gains for little additional effort”, says trainer Greg Whyte. “All you need are three to five-minute bursts on first the treadmill, then either a rowing machine or cross-trainer.” This redirects blood to different muscle groups, boosting fat-burning.
18. Don’t worry about running giving you bad knees. More often than not, it is activities that entail turning and twisting, such as football, tennis and rugby, that cause degeneration of the knee joint. In fact, research from Baylor College of Medicine concludes: “Running may even help protect a person from developing the painful knee osteoarthritis.” But it is wise to mix high-impact exercise with activities that are kinder to the joints.
19. Eat more manly superfoods. An Aston University study found that eating 50g a day of almonds for a month reduces blood pressure. Broccoli contains sulforaphane, which reduces cartilage depletion in the joints according to researchers at the UEA. Male volunteers with high cholesterol saw levels drop by 10 per cent if they ate 3 tablespoons of flaxseed every day for three months. Lycopene, found in tomatoes, is linked to the prevention of prostate cancer. Finnish researchers found that high levels of it in the blood of middle-aged men related to a lower risk of stroke. One study found half a bar a week of dark chocolate reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes. Middle-aged men who drank two glasses of unsweetened orange juice a day for a month saw a significant decline in their blood pressure.
20. Recover well. You will not be able to hammer out workouts quite as you did when you were younger, so space out your harder sessions well. Don’t feel guilty about taking time out to recover. “As you get older you lose water content from all the body’s structures, including cartilage, which protects the joints,” says Claire Small, from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. “Tissues become weaker and less compliant, all of which means that injuries happen more easily. Rest after exercise is essential.”