Men have unique health needs and challenges, but not enough people know what they are, and even fewer pay heed to them. That’s what Men’s Health Week brings attention to. The observance always begins on the Monday before Father’s Day and ends on the holiday itself (June 12-18 in 2023).

Men’s Health Week is part of National Safety Month in the U.S., but it’s also celebrated in other countries, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

What are the core aspects of men’s health, and how can you set a proper “SMART” goal to improve yours? Let’s talk about how you can take control of your health as a man — or support one who wants to.

What Men’s Health Week is about

What do you think is the most important aspect of men’s health?

  • Fitness?
  • Diet?
  • Lifestyle?
  • Mental wellness?

The answer is all of the above. That’s why Men’s Health Week doesn’t just focus on one aspect of men’s health but all of them.

"The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement."“The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.”

How to improve your health as a man (or supporting one)

Some recommendations are almost obvious: Get 150 minutes of exercise a week. Eat nutritious foods, not those that can cause health issues. Avoid tobacco and alcohol.

These are all good enough tips, but they are not, in themselves, plans. You can’t do anything about your health if you don’t have a solid plan first.

The key to making a plan is to form one that works for you. It might not necessarily work for the person sitting next to you, and vice-versa.

But the ability to form one that’s doable is a skill in itself.

Luckily, there’s a formula.

The SMART method

Any goal, health-related or otherwise, needs to have five qualities; it should be:

  • Specific.
  • Measurable.
  • Achievable.
  • Relevant.
  • Time-bound.

Turn those into an acronym, and you get SMART.

Before you start forming your goal, consider what part of your health you want to improve. You can improve one or several aspects, but you need to make SMART goals for each one.

For example, say you want to improve your lifestyle by cutting down on the amount of alcohol you drink. Merely telling yourself, “I want to cut down on my drinking,” is unlikely to get you very far. It’s vague, includes no way of measuring progress and is easy to put off because it’s not bound by time. Changing the statement to “I want to stop drinking starting today” isn’t any better; if you have a problem with your drinking, it may not be realistic to go from 100-0 that quickly. You’re likely to rebound and end up just feeling bad about yourself.

Instead, change it up and follow the SMART method. Make it:

Specific: “I want to have one fewer drink per week until I reach seven or fewer each week.”
Measurable: In this scenario, it would be counting the number of drinks you’re leaving out.
Achievable: Ask yourself, “Is this realistic?”
Relevant: Does it matter if you succeed? Does it complement your other long-term goals?
Time-bound. This is the “per week” part. It offers a timespan you can aim for.

Improve your health as a man to feel better and live longer

Yes, it’s a cliche, but it’s true: Exercising, eating healthy and avoiding tobacco and alcohol is the well-known — yet often ignored — secret to feeling better and living longer.

Observe this year’s Men’s Health Week by setting a proper goal to improve your own or support someone who wants to. Being healthy doesn’t mean you have to be a fitness model, so set a goal you know you can achieve and feel the results.