Exercise is for more than just six-packs and showing off; it should leave you healthier, protect you from diseases and generally make you happier. It should, in short, get you fit for life. And we mean for your life today, as well as investing in your physical state for the future. Research from the Harvard School of Public Health discovered that increasing your energy expenditure by just 1,000 calories per week could lower your risk of death from major illnesses by 20 per cent. Which is a lot. But there’s more. “By tailoring the style, structure, intensity and duration of your workouts, you can specifically strengthen your body’s resistance to the biggest threats to your health, and improve your overall well-being,” says Dr Benedict Tan, head and senior consultant at Changi Sports Medicine Centre, and chairman of Exercise is Medicine Singapore, a national initiative that aims to make physical activity and exercise a standard part of preventing and treating diseases. The following descriptions will show you how to tweak your workouts to ward off the biggest man killers.
1 LIFT BIG TO AVOID… ALZHEIMER’S
Smart men go heavy. The Alzheimer’s Society reports a six-fold rise in developing the disease if you have high-blood pressure and high cholesterol. But recent studies suggest regular exercise helps move LDL (bad cholesterol) from the blood to the liver, where it’s expelled from the body. Brandeis University in the US found that weightlifting circuits performed with a heavy load (60 per cent of your 1-rep max and above) were the most effective exercise for boosting memory function.
2 RUN OFF YOUR RISK OF… PROSTATE CANCER
Regular vigorous aerobic activity cuts your chance of developing this cancer by 61 per cent, says a Harvard University study. The research found that activities that multiply your resting metabolic rate – such as running, swimming, cycling, racquet sports, rowing or high-intensity circuits – create an inhospitable environment for tumour growth. What’s more, they’ll help shrink your waistline, too.
3 PUSH YOURSELF TO DODGE… DIABETES
Research from the American Diabetes Association found a 46.3 per cent increase in insulin efficiency when men lifted weights to the point of muscular exhaustion. That’s because more fibres are recruited than during basic aerobic activity, allowing your body to better access and release glycogen stores. Go for 50 to 80 per cent of your 1-rep-max weight and perform until failure.
4 START SLOW TO OUTSMART… ARTHRITIS
Warming up before working out is an investment in the future of your joints. A Nottingham University study in the UK found that you are 4.2 times more likely to develop osteoarthritis if you’ve had even a moderate injury to one of your joints. Warm-ups that include joint awareness, coordination and high intensity upper- and lower-body moves result in greatest reduction in injury risk, says Dr Tan.
5 WORK MORE MUSCLES TO BEAT… HEART DISEASE
Exercising multiple muscle groups in one session maximises the oxygenated blood your heart needs. “The rhythmic contraction and expansion of arteries allow better dilation and more oxygen to get to the heart,” says cardiologist Dr Johnathan Meyers. Full-body exertion results in a 30 per cent dip in Creactive protein levels – an indicator of your risk of heart disease.