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10 Health Benefits of Regular Exercise for Men

Why bother working out? Whose got time to walk? Find out what regular exercise can do for you.

Exercise Health Benefit 7: A hedge against colon cancer

Colon cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer death in men. Approximately 80% of cases of this grim disease could be prevented, experts say. A healthier diet (with more fiber and whole grains) is part of the prescription. But exercise turns out to be just as important as diet. Studies have shown that physical activity may reduce colon cancer risk by as much as 30 to 40%.

Exercise Health Benefit 8: Strong bones

Another unwelcome effect of aging is thinning bones, which can lead to a greater risk of fractures. In a study that followed 3,262 men from their 40s to their 60s, strenuous physical activity dramatically lowered the risk of hip fractures.

Exercise Health Benefit 9: Weight loss

If vanity is enough to nudge you to the gym, consider this: A lifetime of regular physical activity — even activities as simple as walking half an hour most days — can help keep that belly from bulging over your belt. In findings from the National Weight Control Registry, experts looked at the habits of 3,000 people who lost more than 10% of their body weight and managed to keep it off for at least a year. Eight out of 10 of them, it turned out, reported increasing their physical exercise regimen. The men in the group cranked up their activities — walking, cycling, weight lifting, aerobics, running, and stair climbing — enough to burn an additional 3298 calories a week.

Several recent studies have shown that men who report doing more physical activity also have slimmer waistlines. In a 2006 study at Ball State University, a group of 58 volunteers started a program of walking 10,000 steps a day. After 36 weeks, the volunteers had trimmed almost an inch from their waists and a similar amount from their hips.

Exercise Health Benefit 10: A longer life

Add it all up and an active life also means a longer and healthier life. In a 2004 study at Finland’s University of Kuopio, researchers followed 15,853 men aged 30 to 59. Over a 20 year period, men who engaged in physically active leisure activities — jogging, skiing, swimming, playing ball, or doing serious gardening — were up to 21% less likely to develop cardiovascular disease or to die of any cause during the study period.

How much exercise do you need to reap these health benefits?

The answer to how much exercise you need depends partly on what you’re after. Burning about 1,000 extra calories a week in activities is likely to extend your life. Walking half an hour most days of the week is all you need to significantly lower your risk of colon cancer and diabetes. But the more physical activities you can weave into your daily life, the healthier you’ll be. “Most studies of physical activity show a strong dose-response rate,” says exercise expert Steven Blair. “The more you do, the more you benefit.”

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Reviewed on June 01, 2007

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