Like grizzly bears, Canadian guys are known to hibernate in caves (man caves, that is). Unlike grizzlies, this downtime doesn’t last all winter long.
But human hibernation can last longer than it should. Just ask Nathan Grundy. A couple of years back, the thirtysomething office worker holed himself up in his Toronto apartment for three days when his winter blues took a turn for the worse. He was feeling so down that he didn’t want to see anyone — not even his friends and family — and hadn’t been able to work for a month. Thankfully, Nathan was able to bounce back — read his full story here — with these easy mental health tips that any guy can use. Here’s what to do to beat the winter blues:
Be active in the morning
Like many guys, “the first thing I have to do every morning is take the dog out,” Nathan says. “That fresh air and movement, as well as Winnie’s excitement, gets the day started in a positive way. It’s infectious. You meet other people along the way, and you get to enjoy the canine enthusiasm together.”
Whether walking Winnie or hitting the gym early, Nathan uses morning exercise to get his day started on the right foot. “Getting the blood flowing feels good, which leads to feeling good when you go into work, and then the positive vibe snowballs from there.”
It’s true: Rover can help with much more than adorable YouTube videos. Research suggests that compared to people who don’t have dogs, the heart rate and blood pressure of dog owners are steadier, and moderates more quickly, during times of stress. This reduces the negative effects of stress on your mind and body.
A British study also suggests that owning dogs can strongly affect how much people exercise. The dog owners who took part were about four times more likely than other people to walk for at least 150 minutes each week. In fact, dog owners spent nearly 300 minutes each week walking with their dogs, which was about 200 more minutes of walking per week than people without dogs.
Man’s best friend indeed!
Shorten your to-do list
Every morning, Nathan writes down three “little wins” he wants to accomplish that day, be it at work or in his spare time. “Before, my to-do lists were daunting because there was too much on them. I’d get a few things done but end up feeling like a failure. Now, I keep my daily list to a max of three. Earning those little wins means my day was successful. Anything I get done beyond that is a bonus, or I can use the leftover time to do something I enjoy.”
And if that means retiring to his man cave, so be it!
Other little wins can also add up to big accomplishments. Swapping fries for a salad at lunch, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work, can help you lose weight and get fit. Practising deep breathing, and drinking more water, can help you quit smoking. Cutting out coffee afternoon can help you sleep better. Start with one win, and by making it a habit, some big-time benefits are bound to follow.
Look for positives
Look for positives
“Why waste energy on negative things?” Nathan asks. Instead, he suggests focusing on the positives in your life: friends, family, movies, music, sports, activities you enjoy, and yes, your four-legged friends.
What do you like best about winter? Share your snow-day ritual in the comments below!
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The first online tool of its kind is free, confidential, and will help you dodge 8 of the most common men’s health conditions from erectile dysfunction to type 2 diabetes.
Canadian comedian shares his journey from a worried dad to a man with a plan, who made simple lifestyle changes to be healthier.
For many Canadian guys, this bit from Toby Hargrave’s stand-up comedy routine is funny because it’s true: “I’m at that age where sometimes things hurt, and I have no idea why. If you’re 20 and you show up to work with a limp, there’s always some kind of epic adventure behind it. Today I show up with a limp, and people are like, “What happened?” And I’m like, “I don’t know!”
Toby, 46, describes himself as “spectacularly average.” The actor and comedian, who lives with his young family on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, carries about 265 pounds on his six-foot-tall frame. He has spent most of his adult life drinking alcohol almost every day and does most of the cooking in his household. With “comfort foods like ribs, roasts and pierogies” among his favourite dishes, counting calories has been a foreign concept. With a family to support and a career to pursue, exercise tends to end up on the back burner.
Following the birth of his second child, Toby began to worry about his health (or lack thereof). Then he was informed about a partnership between Telus Corp. and the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation — the organization behind the blog you’re reading — to produce a men’s health documentary. Toby’s goal of learning simple ways to be healthier and lose weight turned out to be a perfect fit for the video at the top of this page, while his hilarious credentials speak for themselves.
Step 1: Men’s Health Check Tool
Before his concerns arose, Toby jokes that “an undiagnosed case of lazy” prevented him from learning more about the state of his health and how to improve it. His first move, then, was to assess his health using the free Men’s Health Check Tool. The online survey asks 18 questions about health history and lifestyle and then assesses your risk of developing eight of the most common diseases and conditions among Canadian men.
“That first step wasn’t so hard,” Toby says after using YouCheck. With a couple of flags raised but no imminent dangers detected, he moves on to Step 2…
Step 2: See your doctor
Next, Toby meets with Dr. Robert Menzies, a Vancouver-based family doctor. As part of the appointment, Toby had already undergone a battery of standard medical tests and is clearly relieved when Dr. Menzies gives him the all-clear. “It’s freeing when you have all this information that you need to know,” Toby says. “I’m not saying I don’t have to worry about my health, but I’m now not worried that my liver is about to fail. I’m not worried I’m about to develop Type 2 Diabetes by next week.”
However, Dr. Menzies does have some important suggestions. “We try to encourage people to drink no more than two drinks a day as an adult male,” he says. Toby chuckles in response, but the message is clear: Less alcohol, even a little bit less each day, can have big health benefits.
Losing a few pounds would also improve Toby’s health, the GP says, adding that “the main thing is that you stay fit and active and watch what you eat. If you do that, usually, you’ll find that the pounds do come off. It’s not about making a huge change; it’s about making a bunch of little changes here and there.”
What kind of simple changes? Keep reading Toby’s health story…
Step 3: Re-think the supermarket
Toby heads to a local supermarket with Ned Bell, the Vancouver Aquarium’s executive chef. Ned nudges Toby away from his favourite section of the store — the red meat section — and into the seafood section. “We have this idea that (meals) need to be big, but I’d prefer you to eat quality,” Ned says, encouraging Toby to try healthier fish instead of massive steaks. If he wants to eat more of something, Ned adds, he can always enjoy as many fruits and vegetables as he wants!
Toby is skeptical at first, but when his four-year-old daughter asks for a second helping of asparagus, “I realized that I might be doing something right,” he says. Since then, Toby has “rediscovered salads” and makes meals that incorporate ingredients like pita bread, roasted veggies, small amounts of feta cheese, tomatoes, olives and chicken. “After you’re done eating,” he quips, “you don’t feel like you ate a bowling ball.” He has also reduced his alcohol intake, as Dr. Menzies suggested, and swapped sugary soda pop for water.
Step 4: Exercise
The cameras follow Toby to a barbecue restaurant, where he meets with two buddies. They discuss their efforts to live healthier, with Toby saying that the biggest bombshell from his recent medical checkup “was that there were no bombshells.”
When the topic of exercise comes up, Toby admits that he doesn’t do much. That’s when the offer is made: Would Toby like to join one of his friends for a run in the park?
“I have fond memories of growing up on the skating rink that my Dad made for us in our backyard.”
NHL All-Star P.K. Subban
P.K.’s father, Karl Subban, was born and raised in Jamaica. How many backyard rinks are there in Jamaica? You guessed it: Zero! Not only did Karl immigrate to Canada to start a new life, he also dedicated himself to learning skills that would help send THREE of his sons to the National Hockey League. Wow!
“Family is so important. If I can’t be part of their lives because of my health condition, that was one of the things I had to work through.”
Like so many dads across Canada, Karl inspires us all with his dedication to others. This Father’s Day, however, Karl’s own healthy efforts to control his type 2 diabetes are inspiring other guys to take care of themselves, as well as the people they love, one easy step at a time. What kind of small healthy steps can you take? You’ve come to the right place to get started!
As Karl says in this awesome new video, “family is so important. If I can’t be part of their lives because of my health condition, that was one of the things I had to work through.”
So as well as looking after yourself this Father’s Day, encourage your own Dad to look after himself, too! It’s as easy as doing something healthy together. For instance:
Take a stroll
One of the best things about Father’s Day is that it takes place in June, when the snow has melted, the sun is (hopefully) shining, and spring is in full swing. What better time, then, to take a walk with pops in a nearby park or nature preserve? Plus, there’s more to walking than enjoying time together: Doing it briskly for 30 minutes burns around 250 calories, with guys who do it regularly lowering their risk of heart attack by 25 percent. Nothing says “I love you Dad” quite like that…
Tidy up the yard
If Dad is a “getting things done” kind of guy, helping him whip the yard into shape can help improve the shape both of you are in. Climbing ladders to clean eavestroughs, for instance, burns around 320 calories an hour, and moving the ladder more often than usual will boost that number significantly. Shovelling soil burns more than 400 calories an hour, and if you lift the load to chest height and hold it for 10 seconds it works all your major muscle groups: legs, core, back, shoulders and arms. Then there’s the lawn: Pushing a gas-powered mower burns 300-plus calories per hour, with a manual mower adding nearly 200 calories to that figure. You do the back yard, and Dad can do the front. Just don’t miss a spot, because he’s sure to notice!
Make Father’s Day lunch together
Does Dad know that guys are deemed sexiest by their significant others when they’re whipping up meals? If he does, he may go on to tell you that’s how you were conceived! If he doesn’t know this very fun fact, what better way to get him into the kitchen? Seriously though, there are plenty of satisfying, easy-to-prepare lunch dishes that are bound to impress friends and family joining in the Father’s Day festivities.
“Just Show Up” is Sukhminder Virk’s motto when it comes to getting some easy exercise in and around his home in Langley.
“I’m not running marathons,” says the B.C. dad — read his full story here — who recently rediscovered the joy of running he felt in his youth. “I’m just doing a little bit every day. I put on my shorts and t-shirt, lace up my sneakers, and just go. It’s easy to do, I get outside, and I always feel better afterwards. There are so many benefits of running.”
Check out Sukhminder’s easy tips for adding some light running to your daily routine:
Hit the trails
Sukhminder prefers paved roads to sidewalks because running on asphalt provides more cushioning than concrete. His favourite places to run, however, are the wooded trails winding through his neighbourhood — and not just because the soil is extra-cushiony. “It’s just so nice to be out in nature, breathing in the fresh air,” he says. “Watching the seasons change, watching the sun rise and set, it just makes you feel like you’re part of something bigger.”
Mix it up
The expression “walk before you run” is a great tip for easing into running. When Sukhminder first started getting back into his groove, he walked for 10 minutes, jogged for five, and walked for 10 more to wrap up his workout. That way he warmed up and cooled down at the beginning and at the end.
From there, he gradually increased the amount of running. Alternating five-minute walks and runs, after all, will burn more than 250 calories over 30 minutes. Not too shabby!
Sukhminder doesn’t skimp on food. He knows what to eat to stay healthy, as well as the importance of enjoying his food. “We all deserve a treat sometimes. So when I treat myself, I make sure it’s really good. If I’m going to eat a cookie, it had better be a damn good cookie!”
Likewise, make sure there’s some fuel in your tank before you walk (or run) out the door. If you’re a morning person, knock back a tall glass of water and chow down on a hearty bowl of oatmeal (or any of these awesome breakfast ideas) about 30 minutes beforehand. If you’d rather shake a leg right after work, be sure to refuel beforehand on snacks like nuts, fruit, or these other after-work snacks. Or do it after dinner when you’re fully refuelled, and reward yourself by playing catchup with your PVR.
Stretch it out
At first, the free Nike Training Club smartphone app helped Sukhminder warm up for his runs. Now he’s memorized the five-minute routine, which gets his hips, thighs, quads, hamstrings and upper body moving. “I just try to get limber, which is important first thing in the morning,” Sukhminder says. Speaking of apps, check out our Top 5 fitness apps for beginners.
Warming up before you head out will help keep you loose and prevent mid-run cramping. Doing it afterwards will help reduce stiffness the next morning. Here’s how to stretch like a semi-pro.
Sport the right shoes
Running for more than five minutes calls for a decent pair of running shoes and a good pair of socks. Goodbye shin splints and blisters, hello head-turning fitness and cool-looking kicks!
You don’t need the latest and greatest runners. Instead, head to a discount shoe shop, where they can usually be had for around $50. As Sukhminder says, “my goal isn’t to become ‘The Rock.’ I’m just doing what I can to be physically, spiritually, and mentally healthy for myself and my family.”
What’s your favourite place to get active outdoors? Share your go-to spot in the comments below!
If you’re thinking about fitting easy exercise into your day, we’ve got your back.
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The phrase “two steps forward, one step back” is used to describe someone who is having trouble making progress. But is that really fair? After all, if you keep doing this, you’ll get where you want to go sooner or later.
That’s how David MacNeil, 49, quit smoking. With the help of nicotine cessation patches and gum, the Torontonian gradually extended the length of time he could go without cigarettes. After a couple of days he would start smoking again, but then two days turned into four, and four into a week, and a week into a month, and so on. Eventually, “I wasn’t a smoker anymore,” David says proudly. “I was no longer a slave to cigarettes.”
“You can’t change an addiction just like that,” he adds. “It’s the little steps that work, and you need to be patient.”
Which little steps did David take to kick the habit? Here’s what worked:
“I started avoiding situations where people were smoking around me.”
Smoking in bars and at social events, or always lighting up at break time or after a meal, are just a few examples of “triggers” that may cause tobacco cravings. These triggers can be people, places, situations, feelings or moods. Knowing your triggers will help you avoid them or find ways to handle them. On that note…
“I started replacing smoking with something else.”
When cravings kicked in, David would go for a walk, down a glass of refreshing water, or head to the gym. “These are all things that can occupy your mind and body when you have the urge to smoke,” he says.
“When I told people I was quitting smoking, it was crucial.”
“My friends and family were very supportive and empathetic,” David recalls. “Telling people you’re doing it makes it real.”
Another great option for how to quit smoking involves enlisting a “Quit Buddy.” Whether it’s a friend, family member or co-worker, this is someone you can count on to support you in your journey to kick the habit. If they’ve quit smoking themselves, all the better, but what really matters is that they’ve got your back.
For David, another motivator was the slow realization that “the longer I smoked, the more likely it seemed that it would be the end of me. I’m optimistic, so when I saw other people getting sick, I thought, ‘It won’t be me.’ As I got older, and I saw more people getting sick around me, I started to think, ‘That could be me.’”
“I’m glad I got more serious about pulling myself out, and proud that I made it out.”
Like David, do any of you guys have quit smoking tips to share? Sane or crazy, all tips are appreciated.
If you’re wondering how to quit smoking, we’ve got your back!
Download “The Kick-Butt Guide to Quit Smoking” right now.