By Manisha Tailor
New research findings from the University of Glasgow’s Institute for Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences have suggested that men of South Asian origin may need to exercise for approximately 250 minutes a week, in comparison to their European counterparts who are recommended to do 150 minutes, to obtain equivalent benefits. With the research based on findings using Asian male participants aged between 40 – 70 years old, I am not that surprised that they have found South Asian men to be less active and engaged in aerobic activity.
On average, a suggested amount of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity 5 times a week should suffice. But it seems not, in fact I worked out that to meet the recommendation of 250 minutes per week from the research, each day Asian men would have to undertake approximately 35 minutes of physical activity each day across a 7 day week. I spoke to Karamjit Uppal (PE teacher and Football Coach at West Bromwich Albion) who feels that it is the result of the experiences within that generation.
“The 40-70 year age bracket I would class as my father’s generation and I feel most of them are not too clued up on the benefits of regular exercise. They are the second generation of Asians coming to the west and all most of them know about is the fatty diets they were subjected to when growing up. Joining a gym for them is mainly to use the sauna or steam room!”
Uppal is positive that his generation, and the next, will certainly be flying the flag for Asian men in leading a healthy active lifestyle. “I think my generation and the next generation of Asian men are more aware on how to live healthily. I don’t think 35 minutes a day is a lot because most people when using gyms will go for 1-1.5 hours at a time. If you are doing that 4 times a week, you’re hitting the recommended target the research is suggesting”.
Many factors can be the root cause of these findings including lifestyle, work and family commitments. Adding to that, not having a genuine interest in ‘exercise’, at times, there can be a feeling of ‘letting yourself go’ once you hit a certain point in your life which I have heard many times! A long day’s work can be quite tiring and stressful, especially if there is long commute involved. Given a choice between sitting and relaxing in front of the TV or allocating the time to exercise, what would you choose?
Apinder Sahni (Co-founder – British Asian Sporting Talent Foundation) says, “Historically, Asian men of that age group were not often associated with partaking in regular exercise and this was mostly down to various factors. The most significant reason was lack of time due to extended hours of work and varying shift patterns. There was also an issue of culture, which was a combination of a diet of rich foods and a busy social calendar, thus pushing the need for exercise further down the priority list”.
There are however many ways in which South Asian men can keep themselves fit and active, as the gym may not suit everybody and at times, if your are on your own, it can be quite boring. Asian people take pride in spending time with their family and children, so why not get everyone involved says Apinder, “There has been a push from the younger generation, such as kids who are now encouraging their parents to take better care of their health, join clubs, encourage other friends and exercise together”.
He also feels that although the findings may well strike a chord within the Asian Community, the trend is actually changing.
“I regularly see Asian men taking morning walks and spending at least a day a week in the gym. While having a busy working and family life, I take my health very seriously and ensure I partake in regular exercise, and this doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. When I am not playing badminton with friends each week or training with my group of football players, I can be seen running up and down the stairs at home to get that heart rate pumping. A very easy, effective and enjoyable exercise you can do at home, no matter what the weather!”
Karamjit explained how his father played Hockey in the English National League, “my dad used to play hockey in the English National League and is now an avid golfer so he has always been a very active person. But sport has always run throughout our family so it’s been easy for us”. Changing mindsets is extremely difficult, however he goes on to make a crucial point, “I think research and case studies need to be highlighted a lot more in the Asian communities, almost shocking people into waking up and taking responsibility for their own health and well being.
With that, given that Asian men are more likely to suffer from health problems – food intake is important. Making slight changes in diet can have a long lasting impact on how one feels overall. Munaf Abrham (Club Manager at FC Leytonstone) states, “Exercise is not about being better than someone else. It is about being better than you used to be. Be inspired to exercise, eat the right foods and take care of your body as moments are to live”. Make healthy choices and reap the rewards of a longer lasting future.
By Manisha Tailor (@ManishaTailor1)