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Getting on Track:

Physical Activity and Healthy Eating for Men


Introduction

Take a minute to think about your weight, health, and lifestyle. Are you as fit and healthy as you would like to be? Do you think you might be carrying a little too much weight or body fat?

You can get on track with regular physical activity and healthy eating habits. By making small changes to your lifestyle, you may become leaner and energetic.

Keep reading for tips on how to get on track with healthy habits—chances are, you will find that it is not as hard as you thought.

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What is a healthy weight?

A downside of using BMI is that it does not take into account whether body weight is due to muscle or fat. Therefore, someone who is very muscular may be thought to have excess fat, even if he has low or normal body fat. For the vast majority of Americans, though, BMI is a good way to tell if you have increased health risks due to your weight.

Body mass index (BMI) is a tool that is often used to determine if a person is a healthy weight, overweight, or obese, and whether a person’s health is at risk due to his or her weight. BMI is a ratio of your weight to your height. You can refer to the chart below to find your BMI and see what a healthy weight range is for your height.

A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered healthy. A person with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and a person with a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese.

Table 1: Body Mass Index

To use the table, find the appropriate height in the left-hand column labeled Height. Move across to a given weight (in pounds).
The number at the top of the column is the BMI at that height and weight. Pounds have been rounded off.

  Normal Overweight Obese Extreme Obesity
         
BMI 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54
Height
(inches)
    Body Weight
(pounds)
 
58 91 96 100 105 110 115 119 124 129 134 138 143 148 153 158 162 167 172 177 181 186 191 196 201 205 210 215 220 224 229 234 239 244 248 253 258
59 94 99 104 109 114 119 124 128 133 138 143 148 153 158 163 168 173 178 183 188 193 198 203 208 212 217 222 227 232 237 242 247 252 257 262 267
60 97 102 107 112 118 123 128 133 138 143 148 153 158 163 168 174 179 184 189 194 199 204 209 215 220 225 230 235 240 245 250 255 261 266 271 276
61 100 106 111 116 122 127 132 137 143 148 153 158 164 169 174 180 185 190 195 201 206 211 217 222 227 232 238 243 248 254 259 264 269 275 280 285
62 104 109 115 120 126 131 136 142 147 153 158 164 169 175 180 186 191 196 202 207 213 218 224 229 235 240 246 251 256 262 267 273 278 284 289 295
63 107 113 118 124 130 135 141 146 152 158 163 169 175 180 186 191 197 203 208 214 220 225 231 237 242 248 254 259 265 270 278 282 287 293 299 304
64 110 116 122 128 134 140 145 151 157 163 169 174 180 186 192 197 204 209 215 221 227 232 238 244 250 256 262 267 273 279 285 291 296 302 308 314
65 114 120 126 132 138 144 150 156 162 168 174 180 186 192 198 204 210 216 222 228 234 240 246 252 258 264 270 276 282 288 294 300 306 312 318 324
66 118 124 130 136 142 148 155 161 167 173 179 186 192 198 204 210 216 223 229 235 241 247 253 260 266 272 278 284 291 297 303 309 315 322 328 334
67 121 127 134 140 146 153 159 166 172 178 185 191 198 204 211 217 223 230 236 242 249 255 261 268 274 280 287 293 299 306 312 319 325 331 338 344
68 125 131 138 144 151 158 164 171 177 184 190 197 203 210 216 223 230 236 243 249 256 262 269 276 282 289 295 302 308 315 322 328 335 341 348 354
69 128 135 142 149 155 162 169 176 182 189 196 203 209 216 223 230 236 243 250 257 263 270 277 284 291 297 304 311 318 324 331 338 345 351 358 365
70 132 139 146 153 160 167 174 181 188 195 202 209 216 222 229 236 243 250 257 264 271 278 285 292 299 306 313 320 327 334 341 348 355 362 369 376
71 136 143 150 157 165 172 179 186 193 200 208 215 222 229 236 243 250 257 265 272 279 286 293 301 308 315 322 329 338 343 351 358 365 372 379 386
72 140 147 154 162 169 177 184 191 199 206 213 221 228 235 242 250 258 265 272 279 287 294 302 309 316 324 331 338 346 353 361 368 375 383 390 397
73 144 151 159 166 174 182 189 197 204 212 219 227 235 242 250 257 265 272 280 288 295 302 310 318 325 333 340 348 355 363 371 378 386 393 401 408
74 148 155 163 171 179 186 194 202 210 218 225 233 241 249 256 264 272 280 287 295 303 311 319 326 334 342 350 358 365 373 381 389 396 404 412 420
75 152 160 168 176 184 192 200 208 216 224 232 240 248 256 264 272 279 287 295 303 311 319 327 335 343 351 359 367 375 383 391 399 407 415 423 431
76 156 164 172 180 189 197 205 213 221 230 238 246 254 263 271 279 287 295 304 312 320 328 336 344 353 361 369 377 385 394 402 410 418 426 435 443

Source: Adapted from Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults. The Evidence Report. NIH Publication No. 98–4083: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; 1998.

Another way to determine if your health is at risk because of your weight is to measure your waist. Waist measurement does not tell if you are overweight, but it does show if you have excess fat in your stomach. You should know that extra fat around your waist may raise your health risks even more than fat elsewhere on your body. Also, men are more likely than women to carry their extra weight around their stomach.

Men whose waists measure more than 40 inches may be at an increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and other problems.

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Why do weight and lifestyle matter?

Being overweight, obese, or physically inactive may increase your risk for:

  • coronary heart disease
  • type 2 diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • stroke
  • some types of cancer, including colorectal and kidney cancer

On the other hand, being active, eating healthier, and achieving and staying at a healthy weight may help:

  • Improve mood and energy levels.
  • Increase fitness and strength.
  • Improve muscles.

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Getting Fit

Pick an activity that you enjoy and will do. This activity should get your heart and breathing rates up, but is not so tiring that you cannot talk while doing it.

Types of Physical Activity
Moderate Intensity
  • brisk walking
  • weight training
  • recreational swimming
Vigorous Intensity
  • jogging
  • fast-paced sports, like football

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Tips for Getting Fit

Visit the "ChooseMyPlate" website from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for information on healthy eating and physical activity at http://www.choosemyplate.gov.

  • Start with a level of activity that feels doable and gradually increase the frequency, time, and intensity of your exercise. You might begin with 10 minutes of daily activity for the first week, for example, and then increase your time to 15 minutes a day the next week.
  • Work up to an amount of activity that allows you to reach your goal. It may be 45 minutes a day or it may be 90 minutes a day.
  • Activities like chores, walking up stairs, and playing outside with the kids count too.
  • Remember, you do not have to do 30 minutes of exercise all at once to be healthy. Instead, you can take three 10-minute walks throughout the day.

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Exercise Your Options

To get on track and stay on track, you should try different types of exercises and activities. The chart below lists several types of physical activity, provides examples of each, and describes how each activity is good for you.

Activity

Examples

Potential Benefits

Aerobic Exercise

Walking, jogging, swimming, biking

Improves fitness, burns calories, aids in weight loss, improves mental well-being

Strength Training

Weight machines, free weights, crunches, push-ups

Improves strength, increases muscle size, burns calories, aids in weight loss

Flexibility/Stretching

Traditional stretching, yoga, Tai Chi

Reduces injury risk, improves blood flow, helps recovery from muscle soreness

Sports

Basketball, racquetball, tennis, golf (if you walk the course)

Improves fitness, strength, and coordination; burns calories; adds variety

Lifestyle Activities

Washing the car, taking the stairs, mowing the lawn

Burns some calories and reduces health risks

Most men can safely increase their physical activity without consulting a health care professional, but men over age 40 and those with a history of coronary heart disease or diabetes, should speak with a health care professional before starting a vigorous exercise program.

A Healthy Eating Plan = A Variety of Foods

  • whole grains
  • vegetables
  • fruits
  • lean meats and seafood
  • low-fat or fat-free milk products

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Eating Smart

  • Eating smart may improve your health and your waistline.
  • You can also improve your eating habits by adjusting portion sizes and still enjoy delicious foods and an occasional treat.

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Easy Tips for Eating Smart

  • Sneak in fruits and vegetables. Add berries to your cereal or crunchy vegetables to your sandwich.
  • Be aware of what you drink as well as what you eat. Sodas, sports drinks, and juices may be high in caffeine or calories, especially from sugar. Choosing water and other low-calorie drinks may help you reduce extra calories and control your weight.
  • Do not overdo it with alcohol. Alcohol can be a major source of hidden calories. A single shot of liquor, about 2 ounces, has about 125 calories. A 5-ounce glass of wine or a 12-ounce glass of beer has 160 calories.

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Keeping Portions Under Control

Pay attention to the serving sizes listed on Nutrition Facts labels. For example, the label on a loaf of bread may list nutritional information for one slice. But if you eat two slices in a sandwich, you have eaten double the calories, fat, and other nutrients.

In addition to what you eat, how much you eat also affects your weight. The pictures below give you an idea of what portion sizes look like for some foods. Try to “eyeball” your portion sizes using everyday objects—it may help you control how many calories you consume.

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Serving Sizes = Everyday Objects

1 cup of cereal = a fist

picture of a fist

1/2 cup of cooked rice, pasta, or potato = 1/2 baseball

picture of half of a baseball

1 baked potato = a fist

picture of a fist

1 medium fruit = a baseball

picture of a whole baseball

1/2 cup of fresh fruit = 1/2 baseball

picture of half of a baseball

1 1/2 ounces of low-fat or fat-free cheese = 4 stacked dice

picture of four six-sided dice

1/2 cup of ice cream = 1/2 baseball

picture of half of a baseball

2 tablespoons of peanut butter = a ping-pong ball

picture of a ping-pong paddle and ball

Eating slowly or eating from a smaller plate may help you control how much you eat. Before you reach for a second helping, stop and ask yourself if you are still truly hungry. When you eat out, try splitting a meal or dessert with a friend or significant other, or taking half of your meal home in a take-out container. You may save big on calories, and it is tough to beat two meals for the price of one.

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Achieving Your Goals

Goals should be realistic and specific, so set yours carefully. Running a marathon is likely not the best goal for someone just starting to get in shape. Similarly, a goal such as “eating healthier” may not be helpful because it is too vague.

Set the Course

Focus on what you want to achieve in the short-term and over the long run. An example of a short-term goal might be to replace soda with water for a week. A good long-term goal might be to walk or run at least three times a week in preparation for an upcoming charity walk or fun run.

Expect Roadblocks

Everyone runs into roadblocks sometimes, so expect them, think of ways to overcome them, and get back on your feet if they set you back. Common roadblocks include:

  • loss of motivation
  • lack of time
  • an upcoming vacation

To manage or overcome a setback:

  • Find a workout partner to boost your motivation.
  • Try exercising at lunch if you are short on time in the evening.

Chart Your Progress

To track your efforts, simply jot down your physical activity or healthy eating choices for the day in a small notebook. Several websites also offer online physical activity and nutrition trackers for this purpose. See the “Additional Resources” section at the end of the brochure for more information about these websites.

Stay Motivated

Setting goals may boost your motivation to eat smart and stay active. But you may need more sources of inspiration—so set rewards along with your goals. Examples might be new workout clothing after you complete a week of regular workouts, or buying a new CD when you lose 5 pounds.

Finally, try asking friends or family members to join you in eating healthier and being more active. Healthy choices become easier when everyone is working toward similar goals.

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The Big Picture

Being more active and eating better are two of the best ways you can take care of yourself. Other ways to improve your physical and mental health include:

  • Getting adequate sleep.
  • Quitting smoking.
  • Reducing alcohol intake.

By rewarding yourself with a fit and healthy lifestyle, you are taking control of your future and setting an example that your family and friends can follow. That is really something to take pride in.

*Clinical trials are research studies involving people. Clinical trials look at safe and effective new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease. Researchers also use clinical trials to look at other aspects of care, such as improving the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses. To learn more about clinical trials, why they matter, and how to participate, visit the NIH Clinical Research Trials and You website at http://www.nih.gov/health/clinicaltrials. For information about current studies, visit http://www.ClinicalTrials.gov.

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Additional Reading From the Weight-control Information Network

Just Enough for You: About Food Portions. August 2006

Tips to Help You Get Active. April 2006

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Additional Resources

American Heart Association
Just Move
This website features a free online physical activity tracker.
Internet: http://www.justmove.org/ Exit Disclaimer

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Health Information for Men
These web pages offer information on a variety of men’s health topics.
Internet: http://www.cdc.gov/men
Phone: 1–800–311–3435

National Diabetes Education Program
Diabetes and Obesity Information
The National Diabetes Education Program provides information and offers a recipe and meal planner guide.
Internet: http://www.yourdiabetesinfo.org Exit Disclaimer
Phone: 1–888–693–NDEP (1–888–693–6337)

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Aim for a Healthy Weight
This website includes a “Portion Distortion” quiz and BMI assessment tool.
Internet: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/obesity/lose_wt/
Phone: 301–592–8573

U.S. Department of Agriculture
ChooseMyPlate
This interactive website provides dietary and physical activity guidelines and interactive tools.
Internet: http://www.choosemyplate.gov
Toll-free: 1–888–779–7264

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
This website provides helpful information and recommendations for fitting physical activity into your life.
Internet: http://www.health.gov/PAGuidelines

Inclusion of resources is for information only and does not imply endorsement by NIDDK or WIN.

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Weight-control Information Network

1 WIN Way
Bethesda, MD 20892–3665
Phone: 202–828–1025
Toll-free number: 1–877–946–4627
Fax: 202–828–1028
E-mail: win@info.niddk.nih.gov
Internet: http://www.win.niddk.nih.gov/

The Weight-control Information Network (WIN) is a national information service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). WIN provides the general public, health professionals, and the media with science-based, up-to-date, culturally relevant materials and tips. Topics include healthy eating, barriers to physical activity, portion control, and eating and physical activity myths.

Publications produced by WIN are reviewed by both NIDDK scientists and outside experts. This publication was also reviewed by John M. Jakicic, Ph.D., Chair, Department of Health and Physical Activity, and Director, Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center, University of Pittsburgh.

This publication is not copyrighted. WIN encourages users of this brochure to duplicate and distribute as many copies as desired.

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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
National Institutes of Health

NIH Publication No. 09–6272
December 2008


To contact WIN, call toll free 1–877–946–4627; fax: 202–828–1028; email: win@info.niddk.nih.gov;
or write Weight-control Information Network, 1 WIN Way, Bethesda, MD 20892–3665.

Last Modified: January 15, 2014

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