By: Steve Bond, BScPhm, RPh, CDE
June is famous for the start of summer, having the longest day of the year and of course Father’s Day. It is also the month for International Men’s Health Week (June 12-18) and Canadians Men’s Health Month. This year, the theme for men’s health month is #Parklikedad. That is, park far away from where we need to go and walk because every step benefits your physical and mental health.
There is strong evidence that physical activity can alleviate some symptoms associated with mild to moderate depression. Studies have shown increases in the chemicals called neurotransmitters that are decreased when we are depressed. Another advantage of exercise is that it may act as a distraction from worry and depressive thoughts. Exercise is shown to improve self-image, social skills and cognitive functions. Even a brisk 10-minute walk increases mental alertness, energy and well being.
Physical exertion can have a positive effect on our attitude. People were asked to rate their mood immediately after periods activity (e.g., going for a walk), and periods of inactivity (e.g., reading a book). They found that the participants felt more content, more awake and calmer after being physically active compared to after periods of inactivity. They also found that the effect of physical activity on mood was greatest when mood was initially low.
Physical activity has been shown as a stress reducer. Research on employed adults found that physically active individuals tend to have lower stress rates compared to individuals who are less active. Stress symptoms such as loss of sleep, excess sweating and appetite problems were shown to be improved with physical activity.
On average, we should aim for around 2.5 hours of moderate intensity activity per week. This may seem daunting at first, but it only works out to 30 minutes on 5 days per week. Its best to choose an activity you enjoy and to which you can commit. For example, biking 40 km each day may be difficult to schedule and if you don’t enjoy cycling can bring a sense of dread. When I think about #Parklikedad, it brings to mind my dogs. You see, I believe they refer to me as ‘dad’- in truth, they probably refer to me as “Bringer of kibble” or “Poop Picker Upper”. But I digress. One of favourite activities is to walk to One Password Park. After a brisk walk, we all feel better mentally and physically.
Moving for mental health helps men, but it also impacts families, friends, workplaces and our community. Fathers, sons, brothers, papas and uncles that are active, tend to be more engaged in their community and that benefits everyon