• Photo for Study Sums Up Exercise's (Many, Many) Benefits For Men's Health
    Photo Credit: iStockPhoto

Study Sums Up Exercise's (Many, Many) Benefits For Men's Health

By L.K. Regan

A review of research conducted between 2006 and 2010 has found that regular exercise has a beneficial effect on literally dozens of health conditions, in addition to slowing the aging process. While these effects are familiar in the case of particular illnesses, the sense of an overwhelming benefit to exercise is made palpable in a broad literature review of this kind. And in this case, the research specifically focused on men.

The paper, called "What men should know about the impact of physical activity on their health, and published in the December issue of IJCP, the International Journal of Clinical Practice, finds that, aside from refraining from smoking, exercise is the single most important choice a man can take toward health improvement. As author Leslie Alford of the University of East Anglia wrote in his review of some 40 previously published studies, "The literature reviewed shows that how long people live and how healthy they are depends on a complex mix of factors, including their lifestyle, where they live and even luck." But, Alford went on, "Individuals have an element of control over some of these factors, including obesity, diet, smoking and physical activity."

The review found that research has shown benefits for exercise on men's rates of cancer, heart disease, dementia, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression, obesity and high blood pressure. More specifically, here are a few of the findings: a) moderate to intense exercise is associated with decreased coronary heart disease as well as stroke; b) higher levels of physical activity is associated with lower overall cancer death rates, and while, when it comes to the effect on specific cancers, the story is more mixed, the positive effect on colon cancer rates is well demonstrated; c) physically active men are less likely to experience erectile disfunction; d) increasingly, evidence suggests exercise reduces risk of dementia.

As a result of this review, Alford suggests some guidelines: that adults aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, or 60 minutes of high-intensity exercise. Also, that strength, balance and flexibility training a regular part of this program (at least two strength-training sessions per week). And also, he suggests that middle or old-age should not deter people from exercise. "Physical inactivity results in widespread pathophysiological changes to our bodies," he says. "It appears that our bodies have evolved to function optimally on a certain level of physically activity that many of us simply do not achieve in our modern, sedentary lifestyles."

Of course, most of this will be little surprise to our readers—but nice to have concrete proof that all that hard work isn't wasted!