One million men must-get off their sofas to cut early deaths

The Men’s Health Forum is challenging the government, NHS, local authorities, sports organisations and charities to work together to get one million more middle-aged men more active by the 2012 Olympics.

The MHF is issued the challenge as part of National Men’s Health Week (14-20th June) which aimed to improve men’s physical activity levels.

Action is urgently needed because far too many men still die too young – 22% of men in England and Wales die before they reach 64 compared to 13% of women; 42% are dead by 75 compared to 26% of women.

Higher levels of physical activity could make a big impact – physically active men have a 20-30% reduced risk of premature death and up to 50% reduced risk of developing major chronic diseases. Men who walk or cycle for at least 30 minutes a day have a 34 per cent lower risk of dying from cancer than the men who do less exercise or nothing at all.

Physical inactivity is directly linked to a wide range of major health problems, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and several cancers.Currently, just 40% of men say they are active at the levels recommended by the Chief Medical Officer. Significantly, there is a big drop in men’s activity levels after the age of 35. About 50% of men aged 16-34 say they meet the recommendations but the levels fall to 44% for 35-44 year olds, 32% for 55-64 year olds and 9% for men aged 75 or over.

The one million men challenge is not a randomly chosen one. One million is almost exactly the number of men in England and Wales aged 35-64 who will need to change their behaviour if minimum activity levels in this age group are to rise to the level currently achieved by younger men. This would mean that about 50% of men aged 35-64 would be active at minimum levels by 2012.

There is also an opportunity to tackle men’s health problems by using sports venues as places to target men with public health programmes. Men are often poor users of traditional primary care services – including GPs and pharmacy – and many ignore mainstream health awareness campaigns. There is now good evidence that taking health to ’male-friendly’ places like football or rugby stadia results in much higher levels of engagement.

The MHF’s award-winning and straight-talking health information website for men is