3 July 2010
Did you know that it was National Men’s Health Week recently, and this year the focus was ‘men and physical activity’? I happened to notice a poster at work, partly out of interest in the name of the sponsor, but mainly out of surprise at such an open invitation in the corporate workplace to consider male health issues. Despite this, the rather one-sided nature of the campaign left me uneasy.
The group behind the Week was Validium, whose name is derived from the Latin word validus which means ‘strong, powerful, able; sound, healthy; effective’. The trouble is that there was no acknowledgement of any other aspect of men’s health: what about the mental, spiritual and emotional needs of a man? In fact, men’s health is probably most strongly associated with the eponymous glossy magazine, which invariably boasts on its cover a hunk of a man with adamantine abdominals and a chiselled chin.
Is men’s health solely about physical health – the week’s aims were to encourage increased physical activity; improve male participation in sport; and develop the delivery of health services and campaigns to men – or is there more to it than that? There is a well established link between physical and mental health – just consider the sports brand ASICS: anima sana in corpore sano; ‘a sound mind in a sound body’ – which was presumably the thrust of the campaign. But can a man be healthy if he is not ‘strong, powerful or able’ in the gym?
No amount of good mental and physical well-being will matter, if the spiritual needs of a man are not met. We read in the Bible that God ‘breathed into his [man’s] nostrils the breath of life’ and also that ‘man shall not live by bread alone’. The spiritual element of a man is undeniable and needs sustaining, just as his physical elements. The heart is the ‘wellspring of life’ – if it is in the right place, life and health will pour forth in all other areas. A five mile run will not solve a broken heart.
‘No man is an island’, as Hugh Grant says in About a Boy, so consider yourself – are you the sum of your physical needs? Instead of buckling to the world’s health plan, get your heart right, align it with the things that God has for you and then live confidently, knowing that true health, an inner soul that is alive, will follow.