Gill South: Time to man up

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Gill South discovers that the typical Kiwi male's reluctance to admit to ailments or injuries is not good for their health.

Most men are loath to consult a doctor for a niggle or injury. Photo / Thinkstock
Most men are loath to consult a doctor for a niggle or injury. Photo / Thinkstock

I'm in a waiting room at the unearthly hour of 10 past seven in the morning to see Mt Eden physiotherapist, David Woodbridge. This time it's not for me, but my son Fintan, whose back has been protesting when he does too much bowling. It's the beginning of the cricket season, I want to get any niggles sorted out sooner rather than later.

David is at Functional Physio, across the road from the Auckland Boys' Grammar hockey field, and he helps lots of sporty schoolboys and grown-ups. His assessment of Fintan is that he has a couple of muscle imbalances in the way he stands, he holds his pelvis in an unusual way. If he keeps on doing his sport and overbowling, without strengthening his growing muscles, he might end up with a stress fracture. We are given five exercises to help with this.

I'm hoping we've caught things in time.

I think a lot of Kiwi boys throw themselves at all kinds of sport as my boys do, and then end up with long-term injuries later on.

I tell Professor Grant Schofield, the co-author, with Buck Shelford, of Buck Up, The Real Bloke's Guide to Getting Healthy and Living Longer, that I see a lot of ex-sporty types at my gym and sometimes it's not pretty. They tend to look athletic but overweight and push themselves with a personal trainer. They look pretty miserable, poor loves. You can see them thinking, "I'd rather be on a rugby field."

The other problem with men and their approach to health is they are loath to consult a doctor if something is wrong, says Grant. They may not admit something like they are bleeding from their bowel until they are halfway out the door.

Women on the other hand, tend to look after themselves better, exercise more consistently and do all right with food and diet. They are able to get a bit hungry at times and not immediately eat. (Not me, guys). Men, says Grant, who is Professor of Public Health at AUT University, don't seem to be able to deal with hunger and not eating. At the same time, they have quite sedentary lifestyles and their jobs can be highly stressful. These lawyers, accountants, entrepreneurs, their jobs are never finished and they snack on sweet things to keep going.

Grant, unsurprisingly, is pretty anti-sugar - although he says I can keep eating my dark chocolate in small amounts. His challenge to men is to eat more lean protein and fruit and vegetables. Do it for a week, he says, eating nothing but. For the first three days you will feel awful but after that you will have lots of energy. I think (for a minute) about doing it with you all, then I remember Dry July. I think I've suffered enough for my art this year.

But I'll follow Grant's recommendation for exercise. This depends on how much you move as part of your everyday life, he says. Get a pedometer and see how close you get to 10,000 steps. I might just do that. There are big benefits to vigorous exercise, he says, making yourself huff and puff. He suggests doing this most days or at least three times a week. You may need as little as 20 minutes but get into it, he advises. Exercise is medicine and you earn the right to be fit and healthy by what you do each day.

Next week:

I gave the blokes some love this week, so it will be next week that I take on aqua-pilates, a world first in New Zealand.

- NZ Herald

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