5 Healthy New Year's Resolutions for Men
Experts share their thoughts on the top 5 things men can do to get healthy in the new year
By Dulce Zamora
Reviewed By Michael Smith, MD
The new year is a time many men rethink their lives and make resolutions to get their health back on track. Viven Valdez is no exception.
Medical school has been a big challenge for Valdez. He has spent day and night poring over textbooks, preparing for the day when he can practice as an osteopathic doctor. In the meantime, he has neglected his own health, gaining 30 pounds since he entered the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Erie, Penn.
"I'm usually studying, sitting on my butt for two-thirds of the day," says Valdez, a California native. "Plus, I don't get out as much since the weather in the Northeast gets so cold."
To lose weight, the 30-year-old has started jogging for 15 minutes three days a week. His New Year's resolution is to work up to a 1-mile run per day at least four times a week.
Valdez is certainly not alone in his goal of shedding pounds. About 34% of men and 26% of men make weight loss their New Year's resolution, according to a small study conducted by John C. Norcross, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.
In his research, Norcross has found that at least 40% of adults make one or more resolutions each year, and at least two-thirds of them vow to change something unhealthy about themselves. The popular resolutions concern weight gain, inactivity, and smoking.
WebMD examined these common objectives, and added a couple more that men might want to consider in their pursuit of good health. We then asked health experts to offer advice on how best to approach the resolutions for maximum success. Consider their suggestions, and see what works for you. Good luck!
New Year's Resolution No. 1: Get Fit
When men want to get fit, they tend to aim for weight loss in the stomach area and muscular definition in the biceps, chest, and abdominals, says Cedric Bryant, PhD, chief exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise.
To achieve these goals, men do little cardiovascular exercise, and a lot of resistance training -- a strategy that Bryant says is not ideal.
"Men need to participate in a balanced exercise program where they are involved in strength training that is for all the major muscle groups. They need to participate in some aerobic exercise, because that's going to help them to expend energy and burn calories," says Bryant, who also notes that good nutrition is crucial to fitness success. "You need the whole package if you want to get optimal results."
For instance, a man who performs many abdominal exercises may become frustrated because he is not able to obtain the "washboard abs" he desires. He may well have beautiful, washboard abs, but a layer of fat may be hiding them.
"Until you lose body weight and body fat overall, people aren't going to see the fruits of your labor," says Bryant. He says there's no such thing as spot reducing -- targeting certain areas of the body for fat and weight loss. When people lose weight, it usually comes off all over the body.
To get rid of the flab and pounds, Jean Bonhomme, MD, MPH, a member of the board of directors for the Men's Health Network, suggests choosing an enjoyable physical activity, even if it is not a traditional workout.
The idea is to move the body, doing anything from running, hiking, walking, or martial arts.
With any new or renewed activity, it is important to start slowly, gradually raising intensity. Starting out at a level that is too aggressive could cause pain, injury, and a sense of dejection.
New Year's Resolution No. 2: Watch What You Eat
Meat and potatoes have somehow been associated with manly men. "For some men, it's a macho thing to eat a lot of red meat," says Bonhomme. "We're supposed to be the hunters, and we bring home the deer and the elk."
There is certainly nothing wrong with a juicy piece of steak, but overindulgence can be a problem, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "Diets that promote large amounts of protein and fat, like the low-carb diets, are really not the way to go. Men have a tendency to do that more," she says.
Low-carbohydrate and high-protein diets limit intake of particular grains, rice, potatoes, pastas, fruits, and starchy vegetables. They sometimes encourage meat and fat consumption to promote weight loss.
Studies show low-carb diets do help people lose weight in the short term. After a year, however, researchers found no difference in weight loss between the low-carb diet and the standard low-calorie diet.
Experts are still waiting for long-term data on low-carb diets. Critics fear the diets will have negative effects on the heart, particularly since fatty foods have been shown to raise risk of heart disease. Many of the restricted foods on the low-carb diet, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, have also been shown to prevent cancer, and lower risk of heart disease.
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