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Men's Health Week - June 2021

Ben Zalmstra mountain bike riding

Shining the spotlight on Men’s health and wellbeing this June!

Every June, Men's Health Week is celebrated to raise awareness of key issues impacting men’s health, to make a positive difference in the lives of men and boys. This year, Men’s Health Week was held from 14-20 June.

Across Tasmania conversations and action gave focus to the importance of social connections. The week of events was a chance to bring our communities together to connect and share ideas about improving the health of all men and boys.

More than 249 000 men and boys live in Tasmania and face challenges in their health and wellbeing. They die earlier than women – and more often from a disease that can be prevented. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men also live significantly shorter lives than others.

Helping to guide action is the National Men's Health Strategy 2020-2030.

At the heart of the Strategy are three core commitments to drive meaningful progress towards its goal that every man and boy in Australia is supported to live a long, fulfilling, and healthy life. These three core commitments are:

  • empower and support men and boys to optimise their own and each other’s health and wellbeing
  • build the evidence base for improving men’s health
  • strengthen the capacity of the health system to provide quality appropriate care for men and boys.

The 10-year strategy focuses on five priority health issues that affect men's health: sexual and reproductive health and conditions; mental health; chronic conditions; injuries and risk taking; and Healthy ageing.

Seek Local Help

Men’s Resource Tasmania is a website with information, resources, and referral services for men and boys.

Making connections through social sports

Ben ZalmstraFor Men’s Health Week we spoke with Ben Zalmstra, a 43-year-old family man, experienced Agricultural Scientist living an active and adventurous lifestyle in Southern Tasmania.

He is a boat builder by trade who has led an active lifestyle with adrenalin-filled sports like competitive sailing and intensive yacht racing championships. This has unfortunately led to hip issues that now prevent him from participating in the walking and running-style sports he enjoyed in the past.

His favourite way to stay active now is mountain biking – twice a week when life allows. Rain hail or shine, every Wednesday night he rides with a group of guys and on the weekend, if the weather holds up, with friends and family.

Since taking up mountain bike riding six years ago, he can push his fitness by doing something he loves with a dose of thrill-seeking thrown in. Ben feels better the more he rides; it keeps him flexible and feeling more energetic to help manage his physically demanding job.

Ben says mountain biking offers diversity.

“I can go for adventure rides with family but can also do personal competitive racing and solo rides for my own headspace and can go riding with friends and enjoy being part of a community.”

Ben’s riding group is an important part of his life. He says being a part of a group of people, no matter what it is, is so important for your mental health.

“My night riding group is a diverse group of men that connect over our passion and through that we’ve opened ourselves up to talk to each other and hear different views and opinions about things but also support each other.”

How has the mountain biking community impacted you?

The mountain bike community is open, they welcome people at all different levels and ages and have been a source of guidance and motivation.

I’ve become more open to other people and learn a lot from others. I pick up stuff from others and acknowledge that I have still heaps to learn and enjoy learning how others approach stuff and different techniques.

It has made me want to focus on my health more in wanting to be fitter while learning how to achieve my goals.

Do you have any advice for others who may be interested in doing mountain biking?

Don’t be scared to give it a go – you will get a sore bum and sore legs and wake-up muscles you haven’t used when you start. By keeping it up over time your body will get used to the movement and you will build up fitness helping you to take in other experiences at a different level. As you get more involved you will start understanding the tracks, enjoy nature and relax more in the process of doing it while developing skills.

Get together with a friend or with someone already involved in the sport, or join a group there are plenty of groups at different levels. Get yourself tapped in there and get riding as much as you can. It gets easier and easier over time and you can find some more enjoyment out of it.

What’s your go-to healthy meal or snack?

My go-to snack is fruit – I’m a big fruit eater. I love bananas and mandarins and at work, it is easy to grab 3-4 pieces a day.

Is there anything important that we missed that you would like to share?

I think giving back is important!

Mountain biking isn’t just about riding bikes, it is the whole process. I enjoy riding bikes for the physical side of it but I enjoy building tracks because of the community and giving back side of things. I like helping out my community, there are different ways to get involved beyond riding by helping at events, like marshalling or marking out courses the week before race events, or helping build a new trail because it has been ruined or needs cleaning up.

All those factors bring you together with all these different people and through mountain biking, I’ve made a more diverse group of friends – some race, some don’t.

Giving back is an important part of being part of a community and an important part of me as a person – it helps you feel better about yourself.

Share your best health tip or healthy habit?

I drink a lot of water – I’m not a big hot drink person, so mainly drink water and have a kombucha for a treat.

Thanks, Ben – see you on the trails!