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How to engage men in health

Posted by: Special Guest

“All I did was make small changes….a lot of people just don’t believe that it can be done… ”

The evidence tells us that men are less likely to engage in their own health, less likely to visit their GP for regular check-ups and less likely to be honest with their GP when they are getting a check-up…which (not surprisingly) often leads to worse health outcomes.

Engaging men is challenging as they respond to health information differently to women. From my experience implementing the SHED-IT weight loss program for men, here are a few things to consider when engaging men in health programs:

Use humour
In general, men don’t like to take themselves too seriously so using humour is key to engaging them in health. Laughing reduces stress and breaks down social barriers so can be a great way to break the ice when discussing difficult subjects such as weight loss. The SHED-IT weight loss program for men includes funny weekly videos (like this one) to keep men engaged.

Men like autonomy
While many women opt for group based health programs where they can talk and lean on their social network for support and advice, men typically prefer to go it alone. Initiatives like one-on-one consults with a health professional or a self-directed program like SHED-IT are more likely to engage men.

Ensure it is enjoyable and flexible
Programs that are rigid and prescriptive just won’t fly with men. A successful program needs to allow men to continue to enjoy the things they love and be flexible enough to fit into their busy lifestyle.  SHED-IT lets men continue to enjoy the things like a beer and a barbeque with mates – but teaches them the importance of balance and moderation.

Use science and maths
While women tend to be engaged by emotion and stories, men are often engaged with tangible facts, calculations and science. Present any relevant facts and figures upfront and then consider how to get their brains ticking. SHED-IT uses a mathematical equation which allows men to work out their daily energy needs and gets them to calculate if their daily food intake is over or above this.

Use a frank and realistic approach
Men don’t want bells, whistles, pills or potions – they want something practical and simple. Some comments from SHED-IT participants say it all:

“I don’t want a situation where everything’s made flowery.  It’s a case of mate, here’s what we’ve got to do….bang, you’re in or you’re out, you’re call.” 

“the handbook just spelled everything out in black and white, there’s even a maths equation.  Okay this is what I can eat and know its not wishy washy kind of support stuff, its just fact and you either accept it or you don’t.” 

Don’t ‘information overload’
Whether male or female, most of us reach overload if we’re presented with too much new information. From the SHED-IT experience, men do prefer written information over verbal coaching or counselling. They will usually pick and choose what is relevant to them from your material, so don’t be afraid to give them a bit more readable content that you would usually expect to.

For more tips and information on engaging men, catch my webinar here.

See you there,

Lauren, Diabetes WA 


About Special Guest

Drumroll...Our special guest authors provide their perspective on a range of workplace health and wellbeing topics.

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