Today, humans live in an environment where food is abundant—but not always high quality,— stressors are constant, and it’s possible to be almost entirely sedentary if individuals do not seek out opportunities to exercise.
It’s possible for the average office worker to sit at their desk all day and to walk only the distance between their car and their house, then their car and their office, and back again. This kind of lifestyle is not healthy. One look at the common health risks that men face—diabetes, occupational stresses, obesity, etc—should be enough to show how out of touch individuals are getting with the way that their bodies were designed to function.1
Living a More Natural Life
Taking a more natural approach to life, health, and wellness could be a way of preventing many modern “lifestyle diseases.” However, the definition of natural health varies depending on who you speak to. Some people swear off microwaves, plastics, and packaged goods. Others go “all organic.” Some simply try to cook more, exercise more, and avoid artificial sweeteners and processed foods. Instead of alcohol, they try meditation. Instead of cigarettes, they use aromatherapy. There are many options, and if you work on the assumption that you don’t have to be perfect to see improvements and that even small habit changes can add up to provide positive results, it becomes clear how beneficial the natural lifestyle can be.
Diet, Lifestyle, and Health
Studies show that there is a clear link between diet, lifestyle, and fertility.2 Those who maintain a healthy weight, get moderate exercise and manage their stress levels tend to enjoy better fertility than those who lead less healthy lifestyles.
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There is evidence to suggest that the Mediterranean diet, for example, is good for staving off the effects of aging and promoting good metabolic health.3 This diet is rich in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and fish and avoids excess quantities of simple carbohydrates, meat, and dairy.
The Value of Sleep
Modern lifestyles put a lot of emphasis on trying to do as much as possible in a day. Labor saving devices have not helped individuals have more free time but simply left people struggling to fit more in. People drive places instead of walking, sit in front of a computer, and rush to complete work. With all of this, many find themselves getting up earlier and staying up later to fit more into the day.
This is not sustainable, however, and the impact of sleep deprivation on cognitive function and metabolic health is clear.4 One simple change that people could make to improve their health is to ensure that they get a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night. In an ideal world, individuals would perfectly follow the day/night cycle. This is usually not possible, but studies show that shift workers (disproportionately male) are at increased risk of sleep disorders and related health issues.5 Therefore, getting the recommended amount of sleep, even if it does not completely adhere to the day/night cycle is especially important for men.
Stress and Activity
Historically, humans spent a lot of time outdoors, performed manual labor just to survive, and foraged or hunted for food. Therefore, the human body is meant to be active, but modern jobs and the built-environment have changed that element of health for the worse.
Furthermore, workplace stress places more negative health consequences on top of an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Because of this, having positive outlets for stress, be that through meditation, yoga, exercise, or aromatherapy, is essential for long-term health.
Yoga is both a form of exercise and a form of meditation. As such, it can be helpful for improving both physical and mental well-being. Studies show that yoga can help men with their mood and stress levels and that it can also help promote weight reduction.6 The calorie burn from yoga is minimal, so it is likely that the weight control benefits come from improved focus, willpower, and better cognitive function, which supports better day-to-day dietary decisions. Similar benefits in terms of both physical and mental well-being can be enjoyed from other forms of exercise. Day-to-day activity can help promote a better quality of life, functional capability, mood, and even sexual health.7
While exercise is essential for overall health, there are other options that can also be helpful for stress management. One area of natural health that often gets overlooked is that of exposure to the outdoors. The Japanese are fans of a practice called forest bathing, where people make an effort to spend time in forests, surrounded by sights and sounds of the forest while being exposed to the beneficial terpenes from the plants. There are proven physical and mental well-being benefits to this practice.8
Of course, not everyone has access to a forest in their local area. The good news is that many of the benefits of forest bathing come from the terpenes that are produced by the plants. This means that essential oils can be used to replicate a lot of the same positive effects.
Studies show that essential oils can be useful for improving cognitive function and reducing stress in men.9 There is also evidence to suggest that some oils, such as ylang-ylang, can help maintain a healthy heart rate and blood pressure.10
It is a good idea to seek advice before experimenting with essential oils, however, because these oils are highly concentrated substances which must be used with care. There is evidence to suggest that tea tree and lavender can be endocrine disruptors, so they should be avoided by young men, especially those going through puberty.11 When used appropriately, though, essential oils can offer a lot of benefits.
The definition of “natural health” can vary greatly depending on who you ask. Do not be put off by the amount of conflicting advice out there or the long lists of requirements some people have to consider something “natural.” Even small changes are better than nothing. Step by step changes to your diet, exercise, sleep schedule, and leisure patterns will all add up. Sometimes, it takes changing one thing for a while to get enough energy to make the next good change. Every positive change is a step toward better health.
Photo credits: usmee/shutterstock.com, OlenaYakobchuk/shutterstock.com, Mivolchan19/shutterstock.com