‘Pedaling’ the good news about active living

Editor’s note: This week is National Men’s Health Week. We encourage all of our readers to try a new activity that gets you up and moving. Also, set an appointment for an annual exam if you haven’t had one yet this year.

We’ve published some great posts on men’s health topics in the past. (Check out two of my favorites here and here.) Previous bloggers have covered all the hits in better ways than I could:

  • Get your screenings.
  • Stay active in small ways as you age.
  • Maintain a healthy diet.
  • Don’t smoke.

I won’t retread these topics, but rather, I encourage you (this is a collective you and includes all genders) to courageously try a new fitness activity in honor of Men’s Health Week.

As a twenty-something, I might not be the obvious choice to write a blog post for National Men’s Health Week. After all, what could I possibly have to offer on this topic? I won’t be offended if you think, “probably not much.” But stick with me.

When I turned four, I told my mom I could do any number of activities a four-year-old has no business attempting. My reason? “I’m four now.” Staying active is easy when you are full of energy and curiosity. Ignorance of your own nonexistent athleticism also helps.

In college, it’s easy to stay fit, practically mandated simply by attending classes with regularity. Walking and biking around campus is a way of life. For my part, hauling a 45-pound sousaphone up and down a football field as a member of the Kansas State University Marching Band burned the calories necessary to justify my embarrassing college diet.

It turns out there is something they don’t tell you when you graduate. The negative effects of sitting at a desk all day are indiscriminate, quickly chasing after all of us. It’s the “Freshman 15” all over again.

In an attempt to fend off a sedentary lifestyle, I decided to reconnect with my “I’m four now” mentality.

During May, many of Health Forward’s partners celebrated National Bike Month. (Shameless pitch to check out this blog post about National Bike to School Day.) The month was filled with bike events designed to encourage cycling. I decided to join the movement and started biking to work.

This is an easy decision in theory but in practice, I had some concerns. Safety, of course, was number one. What’s the best route to get downtown from my home without getting hit? Concern number two dealt with that human response to exertion and heat. Could I bike to work without looking like a sweaty mess for the rest of day? Concern three: how much time does this add to my commute?

After agonizing over these concerns with little momentum on a solution, I realized that getting hung up on what could go wrong would only hold me back from trying something new.

It took some effort to find a quick route, but also one that felt safe. I initially used the route recommended by Google Maps, but it didn’t follow existing bike lanes. I adjusted my preferred route after a few days of commuting. Biking also required more morning planning. I knew I’d arrive to work sweaty, so I packed a bag with deodorant and a change of clothes. Getting ready in the office bathroom isn’t glamorous, but I got used to it. As for added time to my commute? It wasn’t as bad as I thought. Only an extra 10 minutes.

It’s all been worth it. Arriving to work after a workout has made me feel more energized than coffee ever could.

If cycling isn’t your speed, Kansas City offers tons of ways to get moving outdoors, including many hiking trails. This past weekend, I kayaked the Missouri River from Parkville, Missouri, to Riverfront Park. In addition to the great workout, the route provided some beautiful views of the Kansas City skyline. Afterward, I enjoyed some Kansas City barbecue. Life is about balance.

This Men’s Health Week, I don’t have any sage advice to offer about men’s health care. But I do offer encouragement: Rediscover the fun in leading an active lifestyle. What have you got to lose, besides a few extra pounds?

Health Forward Foundation
2300 Main Street, Suite 304
Kansas City, MO 64108
(816) 241-7006