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Health-boosting fitness regimes for men

Man lifting weights

In honour of Men’s Health Week – but just as appropriate at any time of the year – why not take a minute to give your wellbeing levels a spot-check? Thomas Hood, our Bupa health advisor, offers a few tips to help you improve your exercise habits.

Deadlines, work travel, social events, life admin – the pressures of a busy life are manifold, and when leisure time runs low exercise is often squeezed out. Ditching your workout might save you some time in the short term, but it’s a false economy. As Bupa health advisor Thomas Hood explains, building a varied exercise routine into your daily life is critical to maintaining your health in the long term.

The next time you consider skipping the gym, or you decide you’re too busy to commit to a new class, take a few minutes to think about the benefits of using one hour out of your day for yourself.

Here are a few health-boosting fitness options that you can easily incorporate into your busy life.

How do I improve my posture? Focus on your core strength

How many hours a day do you spend sitting in a car, at a desk or squeezed onto public transport? If you’re struggling with neck or back stiffness and pain, it may be due to bad posture.

Thomas says the best way to tackle poor posture is by focusing on the two main contributing factors: carrying too much weight, and a lack of core strength. “The beauty of core exercise routines is that they quite often require very little specialised equipment, so can be completed from home, during the lunch break in the office or in any area with sufficient floor space, for that matter,” he says.

  • Core-strengthening tips: For guidance in getting started, check out classes available at your local gym. Circuit training, Pilates, yoga and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) all include core-strengthening routines. Once you’re confident, you can easily practice alone.
  • Benefits: The upsides to working on your core range from reducing lower back pain and stiffness to preventing more serious spinal-alignment issues.
  • Additional benefits: Good posture can also improve your confidence and self-image, help your digestion and improve your breathing efficiency.

How do I reduce my blood pressure? Increase your aerobic exercises

If keeping your heart as healthy as possible is important to you, or you’ve been diagnosed with hypertension, it’s time to give aerobics a go.

Thomas explains that high blood pressure is often symptomless, but the most common lifestyle-related causes include too much stress, alcohol, salt or saturated fat, and of course smoking.

Aerobic exercise offers the perfect way to alleviate three of the main causes of high blood pressure by helping with stress management, weight loss and improvements in vascular control with circulation.

  • Aerobic exercises to try: Running, swimming and cardio fitness classes are ideal. If you’re struggling for time, even a 45-minute spin session on your bike or a 20-minute walk over your lunch break can help.
  • Benefits: Thomas explains that “a reduction of just 10mm/hg pressure has been linked with 13% and 27% reductions in all-cause mortality and stroke risk respectively”, and aerobic exercises help to lower blood pressure.

Alongside the obvious weight management benefits of a regular routine with aerobic exercise, it can also act as a great form of stress management.

“Lead by example and show your little ones exercise is good by getting in on the action. If you already exercise regularly, be sure to invite the kids along to pick you up after class or sit and watch the fun.”


People skipping rope in a gym

How do I lose excess weight? Try high-intensity interval training (HIIT)

Excess weight can contribute to many health problems. If you’re overweight, shedding a few pounds can offer a great boost for your overall wellness levels, as well as your self-confidence.

Thomas says that while traditionally, prolonged aerobic training is used to encourage weight loss, “more recent research has shown that shorter-duration, higher-intensity exercise may also be an effective way of going about this – great news for those with less time in the week!”

HIIT involves alternating short periods of near-maximal efforts – lasting between 30 seconds and three minutes – with lower-intensity training and recovery periods. Sessions typically last between 20 and 50 minutes.

  • HIIT tips: Spinning, circuit training, boot camp sessions and boxercise are all excellent classes for a HIIT workout, but you can also adapt most forms of exercise to fit the concept.
  • Benefits: During high-intensity sprints, the body burns largely carbohydrates from muscle stores, but during the recovery phases it switches to fat burning and can continue to elevate metabolism (calorie burning) after the exercise session is over.

How do I build muscle? Up your resistance training

Whether you want to build muscle to improve your self-image, you want a boost to sports performance or you’ve simply noticed a natural change in your muscle mass as you grow older, resistance training is important.

“From the age of 30 onwards, we typically lose between 3–5% of our muscle mass each decade [if no muscular strength training is completed], making it increasingly difficult to shift body fat,” Thomas says.

During a resistance workout, small amounts of localised damage are inflicted on muscle tissue. The repair from this damage leads to improvements in muscle size and strength over time. It’s important that you have help to train effectively without injury, and that you increase protein levels in your diet to help your body perform at its best.

  • Resistance training options: Classes like body pump, sculpt and circuit training are ideal, and most trainers will be happy to create a personalised resistance plan with you.
  • Benefits: People who train to increase muscle mass alongside fat-loss exercise programmes greatly improve their ability to maintain a healthy body weight for the long term – eliminating the dreaded ‘yo-yo diet’. Increasing your resistance training can also minimise injury risk, boost self-esteem and make everyday tasks just that little bit easier to accomplish.

If you find that pressure at work is affecting your ability and motivation to exercise, check out our feature on how to harness better mental health.

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