While much health and fitness advice tends to get generalized for the entire population, no wellness journey is one-size-fits-all. More individualization is always better when it comes to diet and exercise recommendations, and understanding some of the different needs of men versus women can be a good place to start.
From basic biology and physiology to trends in habits and lifestyle, there are a few different reasons why men should consider health and fitness advice that’s specifically tailored to their gender.
For starters, men are more likely than their female counterparts to abuse alcohol, smoke cigarettes, live a sedentary lifestyle, and have hypertension, according to Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) data. Men also tend to believe that they are as healthy as women, despite having more medical problems, one American Journal of Health Behavior study shows. The issue with this? “When people believe they are healthier than they really are, they may not incorporate daily health behaviors into their normal routine,” warns Roger E. Adams, Ph.D., doctor of nutrition and owner of eatrightfitness.
That said, there are a handful of habits that men should prioritize in their daily lives to promote long-term wellbeing. Here, experts break down the health and fitness tips all men should have on their radars.
1. Eat dark, leafy greens daily
Men are more likely than women to have high blood pressure—but, luckily, supporting heart health can be as simple as eating more dark, leafy veggies, such as spinach and kale. In fact, research published in the European Journal of Epidemiology found that one cup of nitrate-rich veggies like spinach per day significantly reduced heart disease risk.
“Nitrate acts as a vasodilator, opening up blood vessels and allowing blood to flow more readily, thus lowering blood pressure,” explains Adams. Here are some easy ways to sneak more greens into your diet.
2. Engage in high-intensity interval training (HIIT)
HIIT workouts have been trending for some time now—and for good reason. Not only do they allow you to burn more calories in shorter periods of time, but they also challenge your cardiovascular system in a healthy way.
Read More: 7 HIIT Workouts That Incinerate Fat
Research shows that HIIT can be especially beneficial for men with prostate cancer. One study published in JAMA Oncology analyzed men with low-risk to favorable intermediate-risk prostate cancer and found that those who participated in HIIT exercises experienced improved cardiovascular function, as well as a significant decrease in PSA (prostate-specific antigen), which suggests an improvement in their condition.
3. Sleep at least seven hours each night
We all know how vital sleep is for our overall health, but an estimated one in three adults in the U.S. don’t get their fair share, per CDC data. While this is important for everyone, men should be especially aware of the link between sleep and heart health, since they’re more likely than women to suffer from heart issues.
“Poor sleep quality is linked to high blood pressure and heart attacks because chronically getting poor sleep leads to surges in cortisol levels,” says Adams. “This rise in stress hormones causes your heart to work harder when it doesn’t need to.”
Another male-specific benefit to sleep is that it can help maintain healthy testosterone levels. In fact, one study published in JAMA found that men’s testosterone levels dropped by as much as 15 percent after just a single week of restricted sleep.
Need more convincing to make seven-plus hours of shut-eye per night a priority? We didn’t think so. Check out these popular sleep-supporting supplements if you have trouble drifting off.
4. Maintain adequate vitamin D levels
Many people are deficient in vitamin D, but research shows that it is more prevalent amongst men than women. “Vitamin D deficiency can impact a man’s mood, testosterone levels, and sex drive,” warns certified nutrition consultant and health and wellness coach Marvin Nixon, M.S., N.B.C.-H.W.C., C.P.T.
Vitamin D is produced by the body when you get an adequate amount of sunlight, so Nixon suggests making a concerted effort to spend more time outside. Another option is to take a vitamin D supplement, which research has shown to support healthy testosterone levels in men.
The National Institutes of Health suggests that both adult men and women aim for 600 IU daily, though some evidence suggests that upwards of 2,000 IU per day is actually necessary for most people.
5. Incorporate meditation into your routine
The benefits of meditation—including anxiety and depression relief, as well as a reduction in blood pressure and insomnia—positively affect everyone.
However, research shows that men tend to be less in touch with their emotions than their female counterparts—so Nixon suggests that mindfulness meditation, which involves being actively focused and aware of our thoughts and body in the present moment, can be especially helpful for men.
Plus, meditation increases the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine and decreases the stress hormone cortisol, a shift that can support sleep and healthy testosterone levels in men, he adds. Here are five easy ways to add meditation to your day.
6. Prioritize resistance training
All people lose muscle mass as we age, which means it’s important to build as much muscle as possible in our younger years and increase our focus on muscle-maintaining resistance training as we get older, according to Adams.
Read More: 7 Pro Tips That’ll Help You Pack On Muscle
For men, in particular, resistance training also supports healthy testosterone levels, which many guys are increasingly concerned about as they get older (T begins to gradually decline after age 30).
To retain as much muscle as possible, Adams recommends strength training at least three times per week—and working each muscle group at least three or four times over a two-week period. Of course, you’ll also need to work hard during your sessions in order to challenge your muscles enough to stimulate change.