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

Embargo: Wednesday 9th June 2010

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 issuing the challenge as part of National Men’s Health Week (14-20th June) which aims to improve men’s physical activity levels, including through playing sport. Men's Health Week 2010 will be the first-ever national campaign specifically to encourage men to become more physically active.

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.

Dr Ian Banks, Men’s Health Forum President, said: “After the age of 35, there's a sharp decline in men’s physical activity. Many men say they do not have the time but they also blame poor health or that they simply feel ‘too old’. Unlike women, men tend not be motivated to be active to improve their health, to lose weight or to improve their appearance.

“It’s tragic that so many men still die so young from conditions that are preventable. We must develop health messages that men are more likely to respond to, for example by emphasising the short-term pleasurable and rewarding benefits of physical activity not just the longer-term health benefits. We need to demonstrate how even the busiest of men can build activity into their normal daily lives.”

World Darts Champion Andy "The Viking" Fordham has been one of the many sportsman supporting National Men’s Health Week, having suffered major health issues himself. He said: 'I didn't realise how unfit or unhealthy I was until it was nearly too late. And like most men I didn't think it was possible to do much about it, but I found you don't have to go mad at the gym you just need a little regular exercise and be more aware of what you eat and how much you are drinking.'

Public Health Minister Anne Milton MP said: "I'm sure a lot of men will recognise they may no longer be in shape. But it's never too late to get fit again. Cycling, gardening or having a kick-about with your children are all ways to get your heart rate up, burn the calories and get match-fit."

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


Editor's notes

1. The Men’s Health Forum, a charity, is the centre of excellence for men’s health policy and practice for England and Wales. For further information about the Men’s Health Forum visit

2. The MHF has published ‘One Million More Men: The Men’s Health Forum physical activity and sport challenge – a policy statement for National Men’s Health Week 2010’. Available at

3. National Men’s Health Week 2010 is backed by the Department of Health, Sport England, the Food Standards Agency, Royal Mail and 30 other national and local organisations.

4. Numbers of men aged 35 to 64 who need to exercise more to meet the Million Men Challenge (rounded to nearest thousand):

  • North West 131,000
  • London 125,000
  • East of England 110,000
  • West Midlands 102,000
  • South West 102,000
  • Yorkshire & Humberside 98,000
  • East Midlands 87,000
  • South East 84,000
  • South Central 77,000
  • Wales 58,000
  • North East 55,000
  • Total: (unrounded) 1,023,718

Media contacts:

The Men's Health Forum press office.

Page created on June 8th, 2010

Page updated on January 9th, 2012


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