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How to Increase Men’s Physical Activity

Friendly competition attracts male group ex participants.

Men and group exercise

Program directors who are vying to attract male participants to group exercise classes may want to consider men-only programming. The sessions that most effectively increase physical activity in men reflect their values and interests, include regular group contact, and employ multiple behavior change strategies, according to a review of 24 studies published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (2020; 54 [20]).

Researchers noted that the most successful strategies for retaining male participants used simple, straightforward messages; images and humor; realistic recommendations; and flexible options promoting self-reliance and mastery.

Men seemed to be “drawn to programmes where they can connect with men similar to themselves, in a ‘male-friendly’ environment and engage in friendly banter and competition,” reported study authors. The most effective programs—yielding significantly greater physical activity improvements—involved contact with participants at least once a week. The researchers encouraged development of more gender-tailored programs to attract, engage and retain men.

See also: Why Men Breathe More Easily Than Women When Exercising


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Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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