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posted: 6/10/2013 5:33 AM

Your health: Shape up men

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  • Men can improve many aspects of their health by exercising later in life.

    Men can improve many aspects of their health by exercising later in life.


Men and exercise

There is good news for men who want to live longer and healthier, according to Harvard Medical School. It only takes a few basic lifestyle changes to lower the chances of getting many age-related diseases and increase your chances of staying active and independent. One of the most powerful of these is getting, and staying, physically active. Performing regular exercises can help you:

Have a healthier heart. Regular physical activity raises healthy HDL cholesterol levels and reduces unhealthy LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. It also lowers blood pressure, burns body fat and lowers blood sugar levels -- all of which benefit heart health.

Keep your brain sharp. Exercise helps keep blood vessels throughout the body healthy and helps reduce the risk of stroke. Several studies suggest that exercise might also help ward off Alzheimer's disease.

Control blood sugar levels. Regular physical activity not only helps you maintain a healthy weight, but also boosts sensitivity to insulin and thereby modestly reduces blood sugar levels. This can help people with diabetes better control their disease -- and help those at risk for diabetes sidestep this condition.

Possibly lower cancer risks. Some evidence suggests that regular exercise may reduce the risk of certain cancers. One review found consistent evidence that regular physical activity reduced risk for colon cancer by about 24 percent in men.

Stay strong and mobile. It might surprise you to learn that men also can develop thinning of the bones with age. Regular weight-bearing exercise can help slow this bone loss. Exercise also helps keep joint cartilage healthy.

Fittest U.S. city

Farmers markets, public transportation and lots of space to play outside have put Washington near the top of a list of fittest U.S. cities, says The Washington Post.

The D.C. metro area is the second-fittest American city -- edged out only by Minneapolis for the second year in a row, according to the latest American Fitness Index, an annual review of health markers in the 50 largest cities in the U.S.

The Washington area earned accolades for such things as low smoking rates, a high percentage of people with health insurance and a high level of state requirements for school physical education classes, according to the report.

Washingtonians also received props for a multitude of factors relating to activity: Many bike, walk or take public transportation to work, and they spend more public money on parks and recreation than any of the other cities in the survey.

The high marks don't mean there isn't room for improvement, though. According to the report, the D.C. area has higher-than-preferred levels of asthma and a less-than-ideal number of golf courses per capita.

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