Fit families need healthy, happy fathers

By Danielle Wright

Danielle Wright looks for ways to keep dads in top shape this Father's Day.

Dads are advised to set a good example for their kids by practising the healthy lifestyle they preach about. Photo / Thinkstock
Dads are advised to set a good example for their kids by practising the healthy lifestyle they preach about. Photo / Thinkstock

Dads are often so busy looking after everyone else in the family, they forget about themselves. This Father's day, start an annual tradition of a health maintenance check-up, as recommended by Dr Graeme Washer, medical director of Men's Health Trust New Zealand.

"Young men don't get sick that much. Unless they do something crazy at sport and injure themselves, they're not used to visiting the doctor," explains Washer. "By the time they're 35 or 40, they don't have a relationship with healthcare at all."

"But men aren't bulletproof. By the time they're 40, they need to see a GP regularly and run through a checklist. Quite a lot is detected early on."

Washer encourages dads to take their children to the doctor as a way to feel more comfortable around healthcare before they need it for themselves.

Preventative measures such as diet and exercise are also important. Dads are advised to teach their children good health through example.

"Exercise is the best way to reduce emotional and mental stress, especially when taken outside in daylight. If I see a patient who is stressed or in emotional difficulties, the first thing I talk to them about is exercise," says Washer.

Young people are also encouraged to coach their fathers on how to be healthy. "We want the message [to be] that Dad's health belongs to the whole family, not just to him," says Washer.

Dads also need to exercise their minds. Encourage them to donate their help to community projects, such as the Men's Shed organisation or local school, or to learn new skills by taking a community course.

If you notice your husband or father's diet is lacking, don't nag, or worse, sit there and do nothing. If they won't get help, see a nutritionist on their behalf and get advice. Simple things such as swapping white bread for bread infused with the superfood chia, or adding fibre to their cereal, are ways you can help.

Nutritionist Olivia Green (www.nznutritionist.co.nz) suggests tomatoes as the perfect food for dads. She says: "Tomatoes are a fantastic food for men who want to decrease their risk of prostate and other cancers, and improve their cardiovascular health. They contain a range of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients (nutrients found in plant foods), and are specifically very high in lycopene, an antioxidant that gives them their red colour and may have a role in cancer prevention, particularly prostate cancer."

Happy relationships are also credited with helping to keep dads healthy, but, says Washer, it's an area men find hard to maintain.

"Men are not very good at doing the work of relationships and friendships. It's often the partner's job to maintain the contact and foster the friendships, but men need to as well, especially with children," says Washer.

"A lot of men see the other stuff they do as important. They think that if they work hard, then it's a substitute for maintaining the emotional relationship of a partner. But it's not."

Dads can keep in touch with older children and become involved in their lives, rather than relying on children to keep in touch. Washer says the secret of highly successful grandfathers is to do stuff for their children and to keep actively involved in their lives.

One of the easiest things you can do to keep dads healthy is to simply give them some space. By leaving them alone for at least 30 minutes a day, they will have time to re-charge for work and home life.

And if you want a quick-fix for stress, don't forget to make Dad laugh, every day of the year.

- Herald on Sunday

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