At what point in your life did you ever strive to be second best? When has any successful man, for that matter?
Coming in second can suck: the trophy is less grand, the medal is less precious and the attention is golf-applause polite, if that.
But we’re here to tell you that in the competition against disease, the smart guys go for silver. Because when men try and fail to bring home the gold in health, they risk settling for dead last.
Let's say you don’t floss every day and never will. Instead of simply accepting your periodontal peril, you can do something for your gums that’s almost as good. Or maybe you can’t be bothered to tally up the number of footsteps you take in a typical day. No problem: you can still enjoy the benefits in a way that doesn’t require counting to 10,000.
It isn’t just that the second-best strategies that follow are better than doing nothing (even though they are). They’re so damn good for you that no matter what Usain Bolt is up to, you’ll still be enjoying your place on the podium for years to come.
1. If you can’t take at least 10,000 steps every day . . .
Put down the pedometer and start the stopwatch. You can reap the same health benefits by counting minutes instead, says Dr Catrine Tudor-Locke, chair of kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Can you manage three 10-minute brisk walks a day? In a study at the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, older men who did precisely that six days a week cut their risk of dying of any cause during the study period by 40 per cent.
2. If you won’t apply sunscreen on your entire face . . .
At least cover the cancer magnets: your nose, eyelids and lips. Your schnoz is the most common place on your face for basal cell carcinoma, while 5-10 per cent of all skin cancers occur on eyelids. And men are more likely than women to develop tumours on their smackers. Swipe the Cancer Council’s Daywear Face Sunscreen*, SPF 30 ($14.95; cancercouncilshop.org.au) onto all three hot spots. Then slip on some UV-blocking shades.
3. If you forget to floss daily . . .
You can either pick the detritus from your teeth or pick up a set of dentures. A dental pick removes food particles that swishing and spitting can’t budge, says dentist Brian Gray. Try PIKSTERS ($7.99; priceline.com.au): the bristles stimulate your gums and hunt out gunk, Gray says. Research shows that these interdental excavators are just as good as flossing at reducing plaque and preventing gum disease.
4. If you can’t have sex at least three times a week . . .
You’re not alone, and here’s what you’re missing (besides the obvious): a reduced risk of erectile dysfunction, says Dr Darius Paduch, director of sexual health and medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. His recommendation: thrice-weekly orgasms. Hit the gym, too. Men who log at least two hours of strenuous exercise each week have harder erections than less active blokes, report Duke University researchers.
5. If you don’t sit up straight at your desk . . .
Compensate by bending over backward. Slouching can decondition your back muscles, deplete energy and cause a bad mood. Can’t walk it off? Then stand up and place your hands on your hips. Now slowly bend back. Do this a few times every hour to undo the havoc from your hunching, says back-health expert Evan Johnson.
6. If you can’t rally yourself to cook your own meals . . .
Stop inviting extra kilojoules to dinner. People who eat fast food three or more times weekly are 81 per cent more likely to be obese than those who eat it less than once a week, reports a study published in Preventing Chronic Disease. Plan ahead: in a 2014 study in the journal Appetite, people who checked a menu online before ordering chose meals containing fewer kilojoules than the grub others grabbed without as much thought.