Adrian Betts is a Personal Trainer and gym owner, and newly graduated Exercise Physiologist. We spoke to him about the importance of fitness and exercise in men’s health, and the impact it can have on all different areas of life. He has also given us a few tips on moving towards a healthier lifestyle.
Hey Adrian. Tell us a little about your relationship with the Coffs Coast.
My relationship with the CC is very new. I grew up in Goulburn and used to pass through Coffs when my family and I drove up to QLD for a holiday. About three years ago, my wife, daughter, and I simply decided to get out of Sydney. We wanted a better lifestyle. We wanted some land to move around on, chooks and a veggie garden, and less traffic. We flew to QLD and rented a car, drove out to Nimbin and Lismore, down to Ballina and back up through Byron. I love the hills and hinterland, while my wife loves the sea. Back in Sydney someone mentioned Bellingen; we looked online, drove up, and fell in love. We made the decision to move very quickly after that.
As a personal trainer, you would have seen many levels of fitness and health. What are some of the more common men’s health issues you come across?
Excess weight is easily the most common, followed by simple deconditioning, which may be described as a lack of muscle tone and cardio fitness. As a newly graduated Exercise Physiologist, I can safely say that it’s these two conditions that lead to so many more sinister health conditions. Being a little overweight and out of fitness can seem so innocent, yet this can be a prelude to many life-threatening health conditions such as high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and heart attack – all of which are leading causes of death for men aged over 45 years.
Besides these chronic health conditions, issues such as work and family commitments, social peer pressure, sedentary behaviour, and the Aussie drinking culture are all common health issues I come across. We may feel the need to be a provider for our family, partners, and children. This may influence our commitments and priorities, leading to problems finding time to exercise and look after our own health. Finding a balance between these issues and our commitment to health is at the core of the problem.
In your opinion, what are some of the most important aspects of staying healthy?
The term “healthy” can encompass muscle strength, cardio fitness, mental health and resilience, being disease free or even less frequency of general sickness such as the flu. Being healthy provides us with the ability to live our life to the fullest, for as long as possible. Having great health from as early on as possible gives us the best chance at life and being able to do all that we can in this one short lifetime. I really believe that being healthy opens many opportunities in life. Exercise is just a vehicle to develop our health and fitness and mental strength, which allows us to fully engage with life. As humans we like being fit and strong, moving, and at our best to do the things we want to do … to be happy.
What would you recommend as some daily activities or exercises for men to do if they can’t access a gym?
The best activities or exercises are the ones you enjoy and can do consistently. All we need to do is move regularly and often, and this can be done in any way that you enjoy. Gardening, riding motorbikes, playing with the kids, walking, swimming, taking care of jobs around the house …all help to build up that physical activity time. The gym or any sport helps by being a dedicated place and time in which to exercise.
How do you find physical activity and training helps with mental health?
Most of us know or have heard that exercise has an impact on our “feel good” hormones such as serotonin and endorphins. Exercise is also great for our brain, specifically our executive function, a set of cognitive processes that control our emotions, thoughts, behaviours, and actions.
The body takes physical activity as a good stress and adapts accordingly. Imagine being a man in Palaeolithic times. Our brains learned to adapt to physical stress like starvation, hunting and gathering, and travelling by foot. For example, when hungry or hunting for dinner, the brain becomes heightened, so you can remember where you saw that apple tree from last week or to work out how to trap that delicious rabbit.
Training also gives us social connection and a place to switch off from any worries of the day. We can vent frustrations in a boxing session, forget about the boss during strength training, learn to forget issues at home while going for a run.
What’s the best advice you could give someone wanting to work towards a healthier lifestyle?
Set a plan and seek support from family, friends, sporting team, or a professional. Take your time and enjoy the journey. It takes time to develop, and the idea is for it to be a long-term plan, not a 12-week transformation. Setting small achievable goals sounds cliché, but it really works. Just pick one small aspect of your life to develop and change and focus on that until you have it.
It may be as simple as scheduling a weekly shop, taking 10 minutes to make breakfast, walking to the shops just one day of the week, or doing an adventure activity with mates. Pick one small goal and master it before moving to another.