Exercise and Men’s Health in Canada: Latest Research and Studies

Exercise and Men's Health in Canada: Latest Research and Studies
By Erin Phelan

By Erin Phelan

Fitness Industry Council of Canada

This Sunday, Canadian dads will be celebrated on Father’s Day, and the Fitness Industry Council (FIC) celebrates the importance of physical activity to help dads stay strong for their families. For many men in Canada, exercise has also shifted – staying active is not about lean and mean, shedding pounds and bulking up – it is about improving overall well-being, preventing chronic diseases, work-life balance, improved mental health and longevity.


Whether you are a dad, a granddad, or someone’s son, we explore the latest research on how exercise can significantly improve men’s health across the board.

1. Cardiovascular Health

Cardiovascular disease remains a leading cause of death among Canadian men. Recent studies emphasize the profound impact that regular exercise can have on heart health. According to a 2023 report from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, engaging in moderate to vigorous physical activity for at least 150 minutes per week can reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 30%.


The most effective way to strengthen the heart is to work it – research shows that aerobic activities like running, cycling and swimming are highly beneficial for improving cardiovascular health, reducing blood pressure, improving cholesterol and strengthening overall cardiovascular function.


And, a recent study, published in European Heart Journal found that a combination of aerobic activities and strength training showed the greatest improvement in cardiovascular disease risk factors.


2. Weight Management and Diabetes Prevention

Obesity is a growing concern, with approximately 61% of Canadian men being classified as overweight or obese according to Statistics Canada. Research from the University of Toronto, released in 2022, suggests that men who participate in regular physical activity are more successful at maintaining a healthy weight compared to those who rely solely on diet modifications. Exercise not only burns calories but also increases metabolic rate and muscle mass, which are crucial for long-term weight control.


Type 2 Diabetes is another health issue and regular exercise can help regulate blood sugar levels and enhance insulin sensitivity. The Canadian Diabetes Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity, along with strength training, to mitigate the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. One study found that people with diabetes who walked at least two hours weekly were less likely to die of heart disease than those who were sedentary, and those who exercised for 3-4 hours a week cut their mortality risk further.  A 2021 study from McMaster University found that men who engage in strength training exercises three times a week can reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 34 percent.

3. Mental Health and Cognitive Function

The mental health benefits of exercise are well-documented, and recent research continues to support this. A 2022 study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry found that men who engage in regular physical activity experience lower levels of depression and anxiety.


Moreover, physical activity has been linked to improved cognitive function. The same study highlighted that men over 50 who maintain an active lifestyle are less likely to suffer from cognitive decline and diseases like Alzheimer’s. Activities such as weight training and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) have been shown to boost brain health by enhancing memory and learning capabilities


4. Bone Health and Sarcopenia

As men age, maintaining bone density becomes increasingly important to prevent conditions such as osteoporosis. Weight-bearing and resistance exercises are particularly effective in promoting bone health. A 2022 study from the Canadian Osteoporosis Society found that men who engage in regular weight-bearing exercises, such as jogging or strength training, have higher bone density and a lower risk of fractures.


And as we age, we begin to lose skeletal muscle mass. After the age of 30, men lose as much as 3-5% of muscle mass per decade. The declines in physical function and mobility associated with sarcopenia can lead to falls, loss of independence, institutionalization and even death. Given the severity of these outcomes, it is essential we encourage physical activity in men – resistance training and improving overall aerobic fitness can reverse the effects of sarcopenia.

5. Cancer Prevention

Physical activity has been linked to a reduced risk of several types of cancer, including prostate and colon cancer. Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among Canadian men, with 1 in 8 men being diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. The Canadian Cancer Society’s 2023 report highlights that men who exercise regularly have a 20-30% lower risk of developing these cancers. Exercise helps by regulating hormone levels, reducing inflammation, and improving immune function.

The evidence is clear: Regular physical activity offers a multitude of health benefits for Canadian men – from enhancing cardiovascular health and managing weight to improving mental health and preventing chronic diseases, cancer prevention and mobility, exercise is a powerful tool for improving overall well-being. As we celebrate Father’s Day this Sunday, get active – many FIC members are hosting special events and open house weekends!

Fitness Industry Council of Canada (FIC) is the not-for profit trade association that represents the voice of fitness facility operators across Canada. Representing more than 6,000 facilities with more than six-million members nationwide, FIC pursues a legislative agenda in the hope of bettering the fitness industry for both consumers and operators. FIC aims to work with both industry and government to improve the health and physical activity levels of Canadians.

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