Ways to get your husband fitter, stronger and more manly

Left to right: Gavin Png, Farid Kamal Nordin and James Sim

We help you find ways to make Hubby healthier: Get ideas from our fitness challenge, know which diseases to look out for and see how you can stay active together. By Delle Chan and Sasha Gonzales


 

The Great Hubby Fitness Challenge

We asked the (not-so-fit) husbands of three Simply Her readers to sweat it out and improve their diet for four weeks, and tracked how they huffed and puffed their way to better health.

Gavin Png, 33, trainee teacher
Height: 170cm
ORIGINAL Weight: 88kg
Lost: 4kg

Gavin is a self-confessed foodie - he can polish off two square meals (think a bowl of wonton mee and a plate of rice with meat and vegetables) in a single sitting. This has caused the father of two to put on a fair bit of weight over the past few years. "He's training to be a Mathematics and PE teacher, but his physical build doesn't reflect that," wife Vanessa Chew confided.

We signed Gavin up for thrice-weekly Bootcamp classes at 7Cycle, a boutique indoor cycling gym.

These high intensity interval training-style classes saw Gavin alternating between short bursts on the bike and several bodyweight and plyometric training exercises like lunges, battle ropes, box jumps and push-ups - all within 35 minutes. Talk about intense!

"Our Bootcamp classes are designed to help participants improve their muscle tone, stability, agility, power and strength. They're also great for weight loss - Gavin can expect to burn a minimum of 400 calories per session. He'll definitely see the inches come off if he watches his diet carefully," said Bootcamp instructor Naz Osman.

Gavin says: "The first week was a killer! I could barely finish the first session - I had to take several breaks halfway. My body ached so much, too. However, my body slowly adapted to the workout, and I was soon able to complete sets without feeling as breathless as before.

"Sticking to a healthy diet was the toughest part - I craved my usual portions of rice. I'm glad I had a trainer because I don't think I could have pushed as hard if I were doing it alone. "After four weeks, I've managed to shed 4kg, and my skin and digestion have improved. I'm also getting used to eating clean - it's something I will strive to continue doing."

Farid Kamal Nordin, 36, IT architect
Height: 171cm
ORIGINAL Weight: 88kg
Lost: 4kg

Farid used to play basketball and competitive tennis back in school. This changed when he started working - the long hours meant his fitness took a back seat. "We started playing an hour of badminton weekly only recently. Unfortunately, Farid doesn't exercise much besides that," wife Vanessa Leo shared.

For our challenge, Farid attended physical conditioning classes at Grit, a no-frills gym that subscribes to the Training for Warriors (TFW) system, an established physical and mental training programme originally created for combat athletes. He was put through a series of strength and metabolic conditioning workouts thrice a week to help improve his overall fitness - think functional exercises like kettlebell deadlifts, medicine ball slams, assisted pull-ups and more. "He can expect to see an improvement in his stamina and muscle tone after four weeks," trainer Gene Leong said.

"Of course, this has to be coupled with dietary changes. For a start, we recommend cutting down on refined carbohydrates, skipping deep-fried food and sugary snacks, and consuming more green vegetables."

Farid says: "It was very tough initially, as I felt drained when I cut down on carbohydrates. Every workout was a challenge in itself - Gene would increase the weight or intensity if he found that I was taking it easy.

"I've noticed that my fitness has improved significantly. During my first week, I had trouble climbing the three flights of stairs to the gym. By the third week, it felt effortless!

"My wife also thinks that I look fitter, so that's a good thing! I think that my target goal weight of 75kg is well within reach. "I've really enjoyed training and I'm seriously contemplating signing up with Grit to continue my workout. I might even persuade my wife to do the same!"

James Sim, 33, marketing manager
Height: 175cm
Weight: 86kg

According to his wife Fiona Wan, James loves streaming movies online and playing computer games. These pursuits, coupled with late nights at work, have fuelled his snacking habits - he often munches on chips, cookies and chocolates. And while he plays badminton and football regularly, his weight hasn't budged.

We persuaded James to sweat it out three to four times a week at Trifecta Martial Arts, a mixed martial arts academy that conducts age and skill-specific classes. James grappled, arm-locked and parried his way to fitness through Brazilian jiu-jitsu, a popular combat sport. "Brazilian jiu-jitsu will provide James with a good cardio workout, with an element of strength," co-founder and programme director Arlene Lim said. "It's a physically demanding sport, but very practical as well - you never know when self-defence might come in handy. With the right diet and commitment, we expect James to get fit pretty quickly!"

James says: "I've tried muay thai before, but Brazilian jiu-jitsu was something new for me. I was surprised at how exhausting it can be! My entire body ached after the first session. At the start, I also needed to take a nap before each workout so I could have enough energy.

"I like the fact that the instructors at Trifecta take physical conditioning very seriously - I had to do exercises like push-ups and sit-ups every session, on top of practising grappling moves. They were also very helpful.

"After attending a few sessions, I found that I could sleep better at night. I also got used to the intensity of the workouts.

"Overall, while I did not lose weight, my four-week experience at Trifecta has taught me the importance of discipline when it comes to eating well and working out. My wife said that my tummy now looks smaller, so despite my busy schedule, I'll try my best to keep fit."

Has Hubby Had These Check-Ups?

These are the most common diseases that strike men. Here's when he should get tested for them.

1. METABOLIC SYNDROME

What is it? This is due to several conditions that occur at the same time: high blood pressure, high levels of sugar and fat in the blood, and obesity. "This is a silent disease with non-specific or no symptoms, therefore it can be present for a long time without your man knowing he has it," says Dr Gilbert Yeo, assistant medical director from Parkway Shenton.

"It's collectively known as metabolic syndrome, but having just one of these conditions doesn't mean that one has metabolic syndrome. However, any of these conditions raises the risk of serious disease. If more than one of these conditions occurs in combination, the risk is even greater." Long-term complications can affect the eyes, heart, kidneys and nerves. An unhealthy lifestyle - that is, a lack of exercise and an excessive intake of calories - is usually the cause behind metabolic syndrome.

When should he get screened? When he turns 40. What tests will he have to take? Body Mass Index measurement will test for obesity; a blood pressure measurement will test for high blood pressure; a fasting blood glucose test will check for diabetes; and a fasting blood cholesterol test will check for high blood cholesterol. How often should he get screened? Yearly for obesity; every two years or more as advised by his doctor for high blood pressure; and every three years or more as advised by his doctor for high blood cholesterol.

2. GOUT

What is it? This usually affects those with metabolic syndrome, says Dr Yeo. It causes sudden painful swelling around the joint of the big toes, the ankles, and occasionally the knees. High uric acid is the culprit - the crystals are deposited in the joints, causing the inflammation. Recurrent attacks can cause deformity of the joints and deposition of nodules over the limbs, Dr Yeo adds. When should he get screened? Upon the initial painful attack and swelling of his big toe. What tests will he have to take? His uric acid levels will be checked. How often should he get screened? Check with the doctor.

3. COLORECTAL CANCER

What is it? According to the Singapore Cancer Registry, the cancer of the large intestine is the most common cancer among men in Singapore. "Most cases of colorectal cancer begin as small, non-cancerous growths attached to the wall of the colon," says Dr Yeo.

"These cause no symptoms until the growths are big and begin to cause a change in bowel habits. Early screening detects the presence of small amounts of blood in the stools from the growths." When should he get screened? Once he turns 50. What tests will he have to take? A FIT (Faecal Immunochemical Test) will check for blood in stools. How often should he get screened? Yearly.

Get Your Man to Meet His Medical Appointments

Whether he is too scared to see the doctor or just plain lazy, there are ways to get him to the clinic, says Dr Yeo. "Most men will only seek treatment when they feel the symptoms are bothering them. That's why awareness of these diseases is so important - the more they know, the earlier and more regularly they'll get checked.

"Conditions like diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia and prostate disease can affect a man's libido and sex life. Your man should know that erectile dysfunction is a real consequence of these diseases. If you think your husband needs a nudge in the right direction, why not buy him a screening package as a gift? Tell him you're giving him the gift of health."

4. PROSTATE CANCER

What is it? "The chief function of the prostate gland is the production of seminal fluid for the transportation of sperm," says Dr Fong Yan Kit, a consultant urologist from Raffles Hospital. "It's a small walnut-shaped gland that surrounds the beginning of the urethra, and it's located just beneath the bladder. Cancer cells can affect the prostate gland, resulting in prostate cancer."

According to the Singapore Cancer Registry, this is now the third most common male cancer in Singapore. The rising incidence could be due to changes in dietary habits (higher intake of animal fat), an increase in the lifespan of Singaporean men, and the more prevalent use of prostate specific antigen (PSA) as tumour markers. PSA is a protein produced by the epithelial cells in the prostate gland. Its main function is to liquefy the semen. Most of the PSA produced by the prostate gland is excreted in the semen, but a small amount escapes in the bloodstream, says Dr Fong.

When should he get screened? Once he turns 50, says Dr Yeo. What tests will he have to take? If there are any suspicions of prostate cancer, or your hubby or dad is worried about prostate cancer, the doctor can first do a digital rectal examination to check for any hard or suspicious nodules. Subsequently, he may undergo a PSA test. The simple blood test can detect if there are elevated levels of PSA (more than 4 ug/L), which may indicate prostate cancer, though it could be due to another condition that's benign. How often should he get screened? PSA is not a standard screening test in most countries, including Singapore, says Dr Fong. Most doctors would advise patients above 50 years of age to undergo PSA testing if they have urinary symptoms, a family history of prostate cancer, or if they are worried about prostate cancer.

5. HEPATITIS B AND C

What is it? Both are viral infections, which can lead to chronic liver disease and subsequently, liver cancer, says Dr Yeo. These viruses are transmitted via blood contact, unprotected sex, unsterile needles, and from an infected mother to her newborn. Those who are at risk of such exposure should be screened. Only hepatitis B has a vaccine, whereas there is none for hepatitis C. When should he get screened? Any age. What tests will he have to take? Hepatitis B surface antigen and anti-hepatitis C antibody test. How often should he get screened? Check with the doctor. Boost Cancer Defence A natural supplement, now available at pharmacies in Singapore, has been shown to help boost men's defence against prostate cancer. Pomi-T ($49.90 for 60 capsules) is made from pomegranate, broccoli, turmeric and green tea, which are known for their cancer-fighting and antioxidant properties.

It was formulated by leading British oncologist, Professor Robert Thomas, who conducted a clinical trial involving 203 men in the UK. Results published in 2013 showed that Pomi-T lowered PSA levels and helped slow cancer progression, reportedly without significant side effects.

Get Active Together

Keeping fit need not be a solo effort! Six couples share with us the healthful activities they do together.

"We both used to be dragon boaters but we've since retired from the sport. These days, we go swimming about once a week and jogging twice a week to keep fit. We treasure the time we spend exercising together as 'couple time' as well." - Felicia Foo, 26, accounts executive, and Kelward Ong, 30, service engineer

"Every Sunday, we'd have dinner at Darius' place with his family. Before feasting, we'd usually go for a swim to burn off calories!" - Daphne Leong, 26, hospitality executive, and Darius Xu, 28, banker

"We've started to make an effort to cycle together regularly along East Coast Park. We take our one-year-old daughter, Emma, along, as she has just learnt to sit up properly. We're hoping to do it once a week." - Charise Liew, 34, teacher, and Sean Tan, 37, student life manager

"We've started to make an effort to cycle together regularly along East Coast Park. We take our one-year-old daughter, Emma, along, as she has just learnt to sit up properly. We're hoping to do it once a week." - Charise Liew, 34, teacher, and Sean Tan, 37, student life manager

"We often jog together at MacRitchie Reservoir and Bedok Reservoir. Whenever we travel, we like to include outdoor activities in our itinerary. For instance, we've dived in Malaysia and hiked in Switzerland and South Africa!" - Koh Xiao Ting, 25, inventory executive, and Gary Quek, 27, engineer

"We try to work out together - sometimes, he'll accompany me for a run, and I'll go with him to the gym. When we're overseas, we love to hike across mountains! We recently hiked across an epic crossing in New Zealand." - Phyllis Chua, 35, salad delivery owner, and Ng Wei Lieh, 39, product designer

BE INSPIRED

Is one's physical health a barrier to true love? Not according to motivational speaker Nick Vujicic, who was born without arms or legs.

In his new book Love Without Limits ($19.90 at Books Kinokuniya and Popular bookstore), he and his wife Kanae describe how they fell in love and overcame challenges. They also offer tips on how you can strengthen your marriage.

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