Tag Archive for man

Do You Do 150 Minutes Of Exercise a Week?

The big question in sports science is how much exercise to do to get the health benefits, and how often?  The advice is often contradictory.  Some people have been suggesting you need to break it up into five slots over the week, others disagree.

workout exerciseFortunately there appears to be some consensus emerging.

First, 150 minutes of moderate exercise seems to be the figure we need to aim for.

Second, it doesn’t really matter how u split the time so long as you hit the 150 minutes over the week, and don’t do it all in one go.  As little as 10 minutes at a time may even be beneficial.

But what counts as ‘moderate exercise’?  The disappointing news is that most people underestimate it!  Walking, for example, counts as moderate exercise so long as your heart rate increases significantly, but you can still hold down a conversation.  About a 100 steps a minute should see you about right.  This isn’t a shopping trip down Market Street on a Saturday afternoon!

For many guys, 150 minutes of exercise seems a huge target to try and fit into their everyday lives.  Here’s my advice for getting into exercise.

1. Build Exercise Slots Into Your Daily Routine.

These slots need only be five minutes to start with.  In fact they shouldn’t be too adventurous.

2. Slowly Increase The Amount You Exercise.

Only consider increasing the length of time you exercise after 4 or 5 weeks – when the routine has starting to settle down.  The biggest mistake guys make is trying to do too much too soon.  You will only become demoralised and give yourself a ‘failure’ experience.  Exercise should be a lifestyle for the long run.  Not a quick fix.  So it makes sense to build up slowly.

3. Do Something You Enjoy.

Everybody is different.  Do something you enjoy … or feel you might cum to enjoy at the very least.  There is no reason not to find an activity you find fun.  It could be walking, jogging, weights, skiing at the indoor slope, football, swimming – you could even combine exercise with a social event, like dancing.

4. Do a Variety of Things.

150 minutes of the same thing every week will bore even the most committed.  Try and mix up your activities with some strength and some cardio activities.  It doesn’t really matter what you do, so long as you do something.  Down the line, when your routine is solid, you might want to fine tune your program.  Don’t worry about this too much at the start.

5. Keep a Record of Your Achievements.

Before you start, take a picture of yourself in your trunks, weigh yourself and take a measure of you waist and other body dimensions. Then repeat this every month.  There’s nothing better for building motivation than to keep a diary of how far you’ve come.

6. If all else fails … use a personal trainer.

Try Lewis Hughes, he’s starting an outdoor exercise ‘boot camp’ over the summer.  It will be a great introduction to exercise for men of all abilities.

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The Indignity Of Producing a Sperm Sample – Is Home Testing The Way Forward?

The venue was an antiquated general hospital on the northern shores of the Welsh coastline.  The building looked like a prefabricated relic from the post war era from the early days of the NHS.  I was ushered by a matronly looking, stern but caring type of middle aged nurse, into a side room.  Her uniform, and the authority it represented, may have excited some men … but not me.

The room itself was painted in two shades of clinical green.  It contained a desk, an examination table, and various medical paraphernalia, including a stethoscope, a wound trolley, and x-ray viewing cabinet.

“Lie on there”, said Sister in a matter of fact sort of way, “and use this to collect the sample”, handing me a small jar on which had been written my name and hospital number.

With her instructions ringing in my ears, the ‘privacy curtain’ was pulled around me.  Sister apologised for not having any porn, and she was gone.

Like a ‘good patient’, I tried to ‘produce’ my sample.  Although a little embarrassed, I tried to be ‘grown up’ about the procedure.  These were professionals after all, and had asked many men to perform the same manoeuvre.

‘The sample’, of course, was of sperm … and it necessitated, as a precondition of its production, an erection.

I tried, as best conditions would allow, to make myself comfortable.  I took off my shoes, dropped my jeans to my ankles, and lay on my back with a heavy sense of duty.

I closed my eyes and withdrew into the deep recesses of my mind, you know, where the ‘really dirty’ fantasies reside … the ones that only come out when the need to cum outweighs the need masturbate in a morally responsible way.

Nothing happened … in fact the longer it took … the more difficult it became.

I wondered what NHS porn, should it have been available, would have looked like.  I came to the conclusion it probably wouldn’t have been of any help.  Any porn, so I reasoned, pre-screened and approved by Sister, wasn’t going to hit the spot.

I reflected that a more male friendly ‘masturbatory suite’ should have been pre-planned by managers for just these eventualities, and wondered what such a suite might contain.  A comfortable ‘bed’ was a must, as was subdued lighting, a DVD player of course, and perhaps solicitous décor.

Such thoughts, though pleasant, only served to impede my progress through my usual routine, and frustrated my ability to meet Sisters’ request.

As time moved on, I imagined the nurses talking amongst themselves, wondering why I was taking so long.  Perhaps it was the end of their shift, and they were waiting for me before going home.  The pressure was intense.

It was only when I was at the point of giving up that ‘things’ managed to stir in the right direction. Seizing my opportunity, I indulged with vigour – finally able to let inhibition retreat sufficiently to let necessity in.  I produced ‘my sample’.

Somewhat embarrassed by the three quarters of an hour I had been cocooned in this medico-sexual nightmare, I handed my sample to Sister with a sense of pride tapered with relief.  The ordeal was over.

“No” she said to my horror “you don’t give it to me, you have to take it to the lab”.

“The lab!” I exclaimed.

And so it was I was despatched to hand deliver the sample “as quickly as possible” to the counting facility for their attention.

I left the hospital feeling bruised and battered.  In producing ‘on command’, the very thing that defined me as a man, I had been emasculated by the process.


Perhaps because my memory of that day is etched indelibly into my consciousness, I read with considerable interest of the efforts of Loes Segerink and colleagues at the MESA and the Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Twente in the Netherlands.  They have produced a 10 centimetre long ‘lab on a chip’ that, in principle, means that sperm counting could be done at home.

What a great idea!

In fact the technology is so ‘portable’, it may be possible to deliver it as an ‘off the shelf’ test similar to women’s pregnancy testing kits.

Of course there are ‘ethical’ issues about making such tests available to men without a medical consultation.  Given my experience, if any medical ethicists are reading this, you need to seriously consider the ethical benefits of the home test, against the reality of its alternative.  Trust me, it’s not pretty!

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Do You Masturbate Too Much?

In the olden days, or so I am led to believe, it was considered wrong for boys and men to masturbate.  No doubt heavily influenced by Roman Catholicism, this view seemed to be received wisdom throughout much of the 19th and 20th Century’s.  Then came the 60’s.  With the sexual revolution, masturbation became good, almost compulsory.  Received scientific thinking, led by the great sexologist Kinsey, ‘normalised’ masturbation, so that it became, if not immoral, then at least acceptable.
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Of course boys and most men masturbate, but is there any reason to think you could be masturbating too much?  I think there is.

First, masturbation results in the emission of semen from the body.  In order to achieve this, the body’s nervous and endocrine system is activated which stimulates the acetylcholine/parasympathetic nervous system.  This, in turn, creates an excess of sex hormones and neurotransmitters which alters the body’s biochemistry and nerve function.  The emission of semen itself results in many vital nutrients being released from the body.

Research is beginning to suggest that this combination of endocrine/nervous system overstimulation, and emission of semen, can have negative impact on a man’s health.  The researchers found that the more men masturbate, the more they are likely to suffer from memory and concentration problems, fatigue, back pain, hair loss, a poor erection and even premature ejaculation.

Second, men who masturbate can begin to suffer from psychological problems.  In my experience of working with men, I have seen that excessive masturbation can reduce the ability to orgasm with a partner, encourage more elaborate and sometimes unhelpful sexual fantasy, and can lead to unrealistic expectations on sexual partners.  Sometimes this can even prevent men from finding and maintaining a sexual partner.  Furthermore, masturbation, especially over internet porn, is often a participatory factor in sexual addiction.

It seems, then, that excessive masturbation is not the neutral blank cheque that some people led us to believe. But what constitutes ‘excessive’.  Depending on your habits, you might be relieved or disappointed to learn that masturbation to completion more than three times a week is the threshold at which these negative side effects start to take hold.  This is a ball park figure, as every man is different, but it is a sobering statistic … at least for me!

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Homosexuality Can’t Be ‘Cured’ – But Can We Accept It?

Over the last 200 years or so, there has been ongoing debate about the relative role of psychology and biology in a range of human behaviours.  Autism and homosexuality are two good examples that research has placed firmly on the side of biology.  For many years professionals tried talking therapies to help people with autism and homosexuality overcome their ‘afflictions’.  In both cases all they served to do was increase the distress of the patient, and their families, by making them feel responsible for their behaviour.
With respect to homosexuality, the psychiatric profession for many years held it to be an illness.  This is no longer the case.  Although the causes of homosexuality are still debated in nuance, there is increasing consensus that it is biology that determines a person’s sexuality, not psychology, upbringing or indeed, personal choice.  Interestingly there are different biological reasons for male homosexuality and female homosexuality, rather than a unified reason that accounts for both.

Furthermore, a survey of all published research about therapies that have tried to change a person’s sexuality has shown that it has always failed to do so, and often causes harm.  This has recently led to the American Psychological Society issuing a declaration that therapy to change a person’s sexuality does not work, with the implication that it is unethical to try to do so.  Pressure is being put on the British Psychological Society and the Royal College of Psychiatry to issue a similar statement.

Given this backdrop it is alarming that a recent study in MBC Psychiatry found that as many as 1 in 6 therapists have attempted to change at least one person’s sexual orientation  in their professional career.  On the face of it this seems to go against the evidence.  I wonder, though, if something more subtle is going on – namely a difficulty knowing how to deal with gay clients who are unhappy about their sexuality.

In the life history of most gay men there is likely to be a period when they couldn’t accept their sexuality, and therefore really didn’t want to be gay.  The pressures of family and society to conform to a heterosexual norm seem insurmountable for many men.  It is clear that many gay clients have a lot of soul searching to do before they form an acceptance of their sexuality.  Indeed, it could be argued that many gay men, though superficially accepting and adopting a gay lifestyle, still suffer from a hangover of ‘internalised homophobia’ that continues to impact on their emotional wellbeing and ability to form meaningful relationships.

Given the very real unhappiness that finding oneself gay can bring to a person, it seems understandable, if ill advised, to try and help the person to lead a straight lifestyle.  I suspect this, rather than a real belief in its possibility, that has led so many of my colleagues to try and change a persons sexuality.

It is within this backdrop, however, that the real danger to gay men’s well-being lies – namely in those religious organisations that still offer ‘treatments’ for homosexuality. Against the grain of science but in the name of God, such organisations can only serve to enhance gay men’s unhappiness with their sexuality, and not in fact offer any real solution to it.  At best all they can hope to achieve is an asexual life where sex and relationships are sacrificed for a supposed ‘greater’ ideal of ‘what God wants’.  I can’t see this being beneficial to the individual, or, indeed, society.

Homosexuality will continue to be a contentious issue, not least because it raises tensions between individual behaviour and social and religious mores. All I can do as a therapist is help everybody, gay or straight alike, to be more accepting of homosexuality.  It is in accepting others how they really are, that we are best able to learn to accept ourselves as we really are.  Psychological health, after all, starts by seeing the world as it really is, rather than how we think it should be.

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