Men’s Health Month
Men’s Health Month
Posted on June 16, 2022
By Reg Kmet, Safety Trainer
Did you know June is Men’s Health Month? According to the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation, 70 per cent of men’s health problems are preventable by making minimal changes to live healthier. We know how to build strategies for success in the workplace – but what about when it comes to your own personal wellbeing?
When it comes to occupational health and safety, we often build strategies for success based on three main pillars: moral, legal, and financial. To mark this year’s Men’s Health Month, we thought we’d explore how these three “pillars” can lead to success in men’s health outside of the workplace too.
- A MORAL APPROACH TO MENTAL HEALTH
How do we work towards a healthier way of living? Think of your emotional wellbeing as something you can (and should!) do for yourself to become healthier. Make it a moral obligation to create healthier habits not only for yourself, but also to model the importance of prioritizing your own mental health.
Mental health and wellbeing have become arguably one of the most important topics when we look holistically at our health. For years, men in Canada have reported feeling like they can’t talk openly about their emotions or feelings. As a result, many may mask their stress and deal with mental or emotional pain through harmful behaviors and actions. When you make small changes to prioritize your mental health, you can create a lasting impact that allows you to keep from burning out in your work life as well as your personal life.
What if you notice this behavior in a friend? Pay attention to behavior – has there been a notable change? Use that to start a conversation. Don’t try to solve the problem and instead acknowledge their feelings. Remember: you are a friend, not a councillor. Websites like headsupguys.org or buddyup.ca can be a great resource or starting point for someone dealing with a mental health issue.
- LEGAL – NO, WE WON’T SUE YOU IF YOU DON’T EXERCISE
But we do think the legal pillar of the H&S strategy still applies! Think of how legal requirements affect your workplace: you must demonstrate certain responsibilities to meet legislation. Rather than literally, think of the legal pillar of success in men’s health to represent a contract of sorts. Fulfil subject A and receive subject B.
Identify the outcome you’d like to meet. Is it climbing the stairs without getting winded? Running a 5K? Keeping up with your buddies at your rec hockey league? Then determine the responsibilities you must meet to achieve your goal.
It can be a surprise to find out many “healthy” foods you eat regularly are actually high in trans fats or sodium. The same goes for portion size. What you “think” is a portion might be more like two or three. Fitness apps such as MyFitnessPal are great as they allow you to scan the UPC codes on food items or search their database for literally every food or ingredient you could imagine. As you enter your eating habits throughout the day, the app will track things like total calories, sodium, fat, carbs, etc. Once you can actually “see” this data, it helps to be able to set measurable goals for yourself and make incremental changes.
Alternatively, if increasing exercise is your goal, there are several apps that can help here too. My favourite is MyFitnessPal once again, but there are many (like Joggo for beginner runners, Map My Run, and so many more) all designed to help you start or maintain a routine.
Regardless of your current fitness level, any exercise is better than none to maintain your health as you age. For some, this is hitting the gym, but for others it might simply be getting outside for a walk instead of relaxing the couch after work. Again, improving your overall health and fitness needs to start with a goal. Once you’ve determined your goal, you can choose from a wide range of habits or plans to help you fulfil that “contract”.
- FINANCIAL – MAINTENANCE PAYS
Mentally and physically, we are now better equipped. But just like any system, proper maintenance is key to longevity. In this case, annual screening tests and physicals are important. As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
According to a study by the Cleveland Clinic, 72 per cent of men aged 35-54 agree that they prefer to “tough it out” as long as possible before going to the doctor. Even then, one in five admit they’re not completely honest with their doctor when they do go. Does that sound like a good way to keep your workplace machinery in order? What kind of occupational risks arise when you avoid regular maintenance?
Monitoring things like blood pressure and cholesterol, along with screenings for things like diabetes, and various cancers (testicular & colorectal, specifically) are critical towards maintaining your health. Think of this like your workplace preventative maintenance program, but for your body. It’s not a coincidence that machinery with regular maintenance costs less and lasts longer that those that go without.
Like any good system, we should constantly be revisiting all three of these pillars of our health and wellbeing and making improvements wherever possible. We need to take the time to make these things a priority or else we risk not having any time left at all. We are all human and will falter from time to time. However, if we stay focused on the end-goal of leading an overall healthier lifestyle, we will always be on the right track.
Remember, you don’t have to win every day, but focus on being better than yesterday. With small changes to prioritize personal health, we can all live longer, healthier lives outside of work.