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The Pivotal Role of Exercise in Men’s Health

The Men’s Health Network states that men die at higher rates than women from the top 10 causes of death:

  • heart disease
  • cancer
  • stroke
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • accidents
  • pneumonia and influenza
  • diabetes
  • suicide
  • kidney disease
  • chronic liver disease and cirrhosis

senior man with trainerAccording to the Men’s Health Network, there is a steady deterioration of the health of American men attributable to:

  • a lack of awareness
  • weak health education
  • unhealthy work and personal lifestyles

According to the CDC, women are 33% more likely than men to seek medical help, although the gap narrows over 50 years of age.

And then there is my favorite line of all that I say with the utmost love and affection.

Men are more likely to ask for directions than they are to ask for medical help.

Men’s Health Network study: Men take mediocre care of their health. Almost 70% of men surveyed considered it easier to keep their cars in good condition than care for their personal health. More than 40% of men indicated thatthey would rather resolve issues with their car than address issues associated with their health

Men care more about their cars than their bodies.”

There is always good news.

Every one of these health issues can be prevented or minimized with regular exercise & physical activity. I specify exercise AND physical activity. Unfortunately, many men tend to be weekend warriors – good exercise on the weekend, or playing a sport once or twice a week, but then are sedentary for the remainder of the week.

Exercise and regular daily physical activity are both necessary for the prevention of disease.

Being a weekend warrior carries a higher risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT is a type of blood clot that occurs deep within a vein and if it breaks loose it can travel to the lungs or brain, causing a potentially fatal pulmonary embolism or stroke. Here is a shocking example: Professional athletes, including tennis super star Serena Williams and Miami Heat Chris Bosh, suffer with DVT. We all think – athletes get incredible exercise! The issue is professional athletes spend a great deal of time being sedentary, on airplanes traveling between gigs. It has been referred to as “Economy Class Syndrome.”

There will be a series of articles forthcoming – each one going far more in depth on each of these top ten causes of death. In this article, I would like to just briefly discuss the pivotal role of exercise in prevention and recovery plus mention one other men’s crisis that is largely attributable to the deconditioned state.

Lower Back Pain

Back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide and missing work

Exercise helps to correct posture, stretch tight muscles and strengthens the core, and is a great way to get rid of a beer belly!

Lack of exercise can cause or worsen back pain because of increased stiffness and weakened muscles. Exercise also nourishes the spinal discs, soft tissues and ligaments of the back.

Muscle tone and core strength support the back and prevent or dramatically reduce pain. If back pain already exists, consult with a health care professional for guidance.

According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the most common reasons for back pain are:

  • sedentary lifestyle
  • poor posture
  • overweight
  • lifting (greater risk of injury in the deconditioned)
  • smoking
  • stress
  • stress related muscle tightness

Even a 15 minute walk can relieve stress related muscle tightness while also encouraging restorative breathing.

Back pain must be checked out as it can be a symptom of more serious diseases including certain ca

Heart Disease

The American Heart Association states that more than one in three adult men have some form of cardiovascular disease.

Blood pressure: Maintaining blood pressure in a healthy range is key to the prevention of 7 of these top ten causes of death.

And, if you had high blood pressure and you are on medication for high blood pressure and it has successfully lowered your blood pressure… you do not get a get out of jail for free card. Hypertension is still a concern.

High blood pressure affects the arteries, heart, kidneys, brain eyes, sexual function, bone loss, sleep apnea – and succinctly put – it is a menace to all aspects of health.

mid age man exercising at the beach

Regular exercise and physical activity are the very best way to prevent high blood pressure, or keep it in a healthy range. This means regularly de-sedentizing every day. Even with a desk job – this is critical to controlling blood pressure.

Those with high blood pressure need to abide by certain guidelines for strength training. Again, always better to work with a medical fitness professional. All aspects of exercise are necessary for controlling blood pressure – cardio respiratory, strength, stretching, and more meditative forms of exercise, far too often forgotten, are very beneficial.

And gentlemen, next article I promise as it is just that important, erectile dysfunction.

ED is a beacon of attention for heart disease.

Exercise is vital for keeping strong erections, strong heart health.


A recent MedLine survey revealed that solid evidence points to the possibility that hypertension is actually a significant risk factor for cancer. At least seven prospective studies have demonstrated clearly that hypertension is a risk factor. We rarely see high blood pressure listed as a risk factor for cancer. Here on the Medical Fitness Network I already have articles on cancer prevention and cancer recovery with exercise…please refer.

Exercise is associated with lowering the risk of most cancers by as much as 40%. The power of exercise in cancer prevention and cancer recovery is multi faceted. But again, where cancer already exists, I strongly advise people work with a fitness professional specifically trained in cancer exercise training. Here on MFN you can find a reputable Cancer Exercise Specialist. There are definite guidelines for cancer exercise that must be respected.


American Heart Association:

  • Exercise should be prescribed for stroke survivors.
  • Exercise prescriptions could significantly reduce disability and the risk of recurrent stroke in survivors who also may face other barriers such as fatigue and depression.

Causes of stroke are deeply related to many of the other issues discussed here such as heart disease and diabetes.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

According to the COPD Foundation exercise, especially aerobic exercise, can Improve circulation and help the body better use oxygen, minimize COPD symptoms and build energy levels to do more activities without exhaustion or a shortness of breath.

Pneumonia and Influenza

Influenza and pneumococcal infection are two leading health risks for men. Men are 25 percent more likely to die from these diseases than women, according to the American Lung Association.

The American Lung Association also states that exercise is vital to a healthy lifestyle in the prevention of respiratory illnesses.

Exercise is key in strengthening immune function and circulation, both very important in the prevention of colds, flu and respiratory illnesses.


“The American Diabetes Association (ADA) celebrates today’s “modern man” as someone who is more aware of his blood sugar health. The ADA recommends that men “get out, get active, and get informed.” The best way to control your diabetes is to eat healthy and exercise.”

Both cardio respiratory and strength training are very important in diabetes prevention and management. It’s our beautiful muscles that transport glucose from our bloodstream to the muscles needing less insulin. Muscles are like a pump, pushing glucose into muscle where it can be used as fuel instead of circulating in high levels in the blood. MUSCLE… “not just cause they are so pretty!


The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimate that at least 6 million men suffer from depressive disorders, including suicidal thoughts, annually.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men have higher rates of alcohol-related deaths and hospitalizations than women do. Men binge drink twice as much as women.

According to the American Psychological Association men are far less likely than women to seek help not only for all mental-health problems, but depression in particular.

According to a number of our respected health organizations, exercise is greatly beneficial to those suffering from mood disturbances, anxiety, stress, depression for a number of reasons including feel-good brain chemicals – neurotransmitters, endorphins and endocannabinoids.

Kidney Disease

According to the National kidney Foundation:

  • High blood pressure and diabetes are the 2 leading causes of kidney disease, so we can refer back to the stellar respect that exercise earns in control and prevention of diabetes and blood pressure.
  • Men with kidney disease are more likely than women to go into kidney failure
  • Every year, kidney disease kills more people than breast or prostate cancer.

Liver Disease

A February 2016 study out of the University of Missouri Medical School found that cardio respiratory exercise may protect the liver against alcohol-related inflammation and injury. The CDC states alcohol use is responsible for more than 80,000 deaths in the United States each year. Exercise protects the liver by management/prevention of obesity, diabesity, cirrhosis of the liver from fat and alcohol. For those with liver disease, depression can be an added burden, and exercise is recommended here as well. A study out of the University of Haifa, Israel showed resistance training to be very successful for liver health. Results showed that resistance training led to a decrease in liver fat as detected by ultrasound testing.

Oxidative stress

My point of passion in all areas of health education… oxidative stress. Suffice it to say here that oxidative stress is thought to be at the root cause of most of our chronic illnesses, physiological and psychological. The right exercise is vital for reduction of inflammation and oxidative stress.

Smoking & Alcohol

We all know smoking and alcohol are hazardous to our health. Here, let’s acknowledge that exercise and regular physical activity are fabulous partners in stop smoking programs and those to reduce alcohol consumption.

As extensive as this article seems, it’s really not even a warm up as we call it in the fitness world.

man doing yoga at home with eye closed

Never try and exclusively treat yourself with exercise – but always consider how exercise is a cherished partner in wellness – prevention, recovery and management.

There is much we know about exercise for prevention and recovery from disease, and even more we don’t know yet. And I will always add this proviso: if ever there is presence of disease from metabolic syndrome, cancer, liver disease, I urge people to seek the guidance of a medical fitness specialist. There are specific guidelines that must be respected, certain forms of exercise are more successful with specific issues, and of course exercise programs must be approved by the patient’s health care professionals.

So men, even if you think you don’t have the time for exercise, or having a “6 pack” is not important to you, it’s not about that. Yes, the beautiful outer facade of our bodies is a brilliant reward for exercise. But exercise is healing and repairing the damage we do to our bodies every day. The real magic of exercise is in the cell.

Shira Litwack is the Director of International Relations and Master Trainer at, Cancer Exercise Training Institute and creator of Best in Health Radio.

MFN Industry Expert