“Sit up straight!”
The frequently-heard demands from my father during my childhood will likely resonate with you as you recall your own dinner table dialogues from former years.
Recently however, I’m struck by the irony that our roles have been reversed. I may now be an experienced Pilates instructor; with an inherent belief that good sound posture is something everyone should aspire to, but it seems strange he has neglected his own advice. When did Dad stop caring for his body and his physical fitness? Is his situation indicative of male attitudes towards physical health as they reach a certain age?
The answer possibly lies in the comparative mortality statistics of men and women. These trends are mirrored throughout the world with the average of 5.3 years separating the death rate between genders. Whilst it would be trivial to suggest that opposing gender attitudes toward health and fitness in later years are solely responsible for this alarming imbalance, it would be fair to consider it as a plausible contributing factor.
Statistics New Zealand claims one causative effect to us ladies outliving our male counterparts is that we are more focused on preventative health. Women visit their doctor 33% more than men do on average and 28% of men in NZ do not have a regular GP. This of course leads to cases of men neglecting minor health problems for too long which complicates treatment and provides fewer options for recovery down the track.
Whether the reasons behind women taking a more active pursuit of health and fitness goals stem from specific training aspirations, social outreach, vanity or pure boredom, it undeniably results in the preservation of health into later years. Yet with even clear statistics to illustrate this and the abundant information and support offered to men nationwide, mortality rates remain in women’s favour and men still refuse to prioritize their wellbeing.
Could fear also play a part in this? The group element of fitness training can often deter males from attending due to their fear of appearing weak in front of others, fear of failing, or their perception that men should be strong and therefore don’t need to address that nagging knee, protruding beer belly or hunched posture. Pilates has often (and to my immense frustration) been perceived as a ‘feminine’ activity; yet ironically its main benefits – Improved posture, increased core strength, injury prevention, stability and flexibility – are outcomes that would significantly, and positively, impact male health in later years.
In ten years of working in the fitness industry and holistic health I have witnessed this trend first hand. Upon recently moving to Devonport, I knew in my heart I wanted to directly influence and encourage my surrounding community to embrace exercise and healthy holistic living. Through joining local family-owned studio SoulSprite, whose mission statement is ‘we have a romantic and achievable notion of making every ‘body’ feel spritely’, I knew I had found a shared philosophy with owners Ben and Kate. With their fast-growing 300+ members, they focus on creating healthier family units and this of course includes the sometimes reluctant, frequently overworked and always time-poor males.
So my personal mission, which contributes to SoulSprite’s wider ambition, is to to break down the preconceived idea that group fitness for men is something to be feared. Indeed, the opposite is true – SoulSprite’s inclusive classes provide both males and females the opportunity to improve their physical health in a relaxed, uncompetitive and social environment.
SoulSprite offers small group classes in TRX, Boxing, Pilates and Dance. Plus we have an amazing new kitchen where we have begun to hold cooking and nutritional lessons. To book your free trial class, log on to www.soulsprite.co.nz and experience how your body and mind can feel ‘spritely’ too.
Article by Emily Gibson