Man to man for men’s health

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Graeme (pictured with Doug Hawkins) since taking part in Sons of the West
A men's health initiative in Melbourne's western suburbs is seeing men band together to improve their physical and emotional health.

For Graeme Ball, the Western Bulldogs’ Sons of the West men’s health program has been a life-changer.

Before joining in 2014, Graeme was overweight and at high risk of heart disease. Now Graeme has not only undergone big physical changes, he has a new outlook on life.

Sons of the West is a free ten-week program for men living and working in Melbourne’s Western suburbs, encouraging them to improve their physical and mental health.

Men’s health programs like this matter. Around 31 per cent of Australian men aged 35-74 do no or little exercise at all*, and 44 per cent of them are overweight or obese.^

Graeme was one of these statistics. He did little or no exercise simply because he didn’t know how to make healthier choices. Through Sons of The West, men like Graeme are banding together to change their lives.  Below, he talks about his experience.

What kind of men take part in the Sons of the West program?

They’re typically over 40 years of age to late 80s and want to improve their health and fitness. They come from many cultural and ethnic backgrounds and occupations. Sons of the West helps us to improve our health and fitness through workshops, presentations and events.

Why did you get involved?

I was overweight and realised I needed to lose a few kilos. Both my wife and doctor had been telling me for a long time to lose weight and Sons of the West sounded like the ideal program to achieve that goal. I was also hoping it might offer me the chance to make new friends.

Have you seen any positive change so far?

Sons of the West has been life changing for me. Before starting in 2014, I was overweight and my waist measurement put me at a ‘high risk’ of heart disease. I suffered from high blood pressure and regular migraines, both of which were treated with medication. Sons of the West gave me the incentive and motivation to change my lifestyle and drastically improve my health and fitness.

I have also seen positive changes in many of my fellow Sons of the West brothers, including weight loss, improved fitness, better awareness of male health issues, greater self-confidence and, importantly, an open willingness to visit health professionals.

What has been the highlight, or highlights, of your experience?

The major highlights for me have been the improvement in my health and fitness. I walk on average 15-20 km each day and I am more aware of the need to control portion size. I have lost more than 20 kg and my waist has reduced by 23 cm. This happened in my first year, and I have been able to maintain both those changes.  I no longer need to take prescription medication because my blood pressure is now normal, and I only suffer the occasional severe headache.

Need to make a change?

Sons of the West has partnered with the Heart Foundation to help improve men’s health. If you want to change your life like Graeme has, the Heart Foundation has walking groups all around Australia that provide a great social outlet as well as helping participants be physically active. Our Walking program is for people of all fitness levels and ages, can be done just about anywhere, is free and doesn’t require any special equipment or training.

Getting started and asking for help is always the biggest hurdle to overcome. But even starting small can have a positive impact on your physical and emotional health. Visit the Heart Foundation Walking page to find a Walking group near you. If you prefer to walk on your own, or can’t access a group nearby, you can join our Virtual Walking Community and register as an individual to track your walks online.  


* Heart Foundation level of exercise statistics

Heart Foundation overweight and obesity statistics

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