The University of Newcastle, Australia

HEYMAN, it’s a tailored lifestyle study for young men

Thursday, 17 March 2016

They asked for it, they informed the program design, and now a group of men aged 18-25 are about to receive a University of Newcastle (UON) intervention firmly focused on improving eating habits, exercise and mental health.


Researchers recruited more than 360 young men for the initial discussion groups and surveys to determine the motivators and barriers to a healthy lifestyle and tailor the program accordingly. Now they want to enrol a further 50 participants to test its effectiveness in a study titled HEYMAN (Harnessing E-health to enhance Your Mental health, Activity and Nutrition).

“We found that the main deterrent was lack of motivation because there hasn’t been specific programs for men of this age, yet most know they should be doing it,” study coordinator Lee Ashton said. “That’s why we’re trying to account for the “but” factor …  the ‘but I’m too busy’ or ‘but I don’t have enough money’.

“We thought the guys might prefer an e-health approach overall – in fact when it came to physical activity and stress they mostly wanted face-to-face group and one-on-one sessions. As a result, we merged weekly sessions into the program, supported by mobile apps and a website.”

With a lack of culinary skills highlighted in the planning phase, especially as many men in this age group are leaving home for the first time, the HEYMAN website features cooking videos designed to improve fruit and vegetable consumption and decrease discretionary foods, without asking participants to eat like rabbits.

“On the website, for example, we’ve created ‘Healthy Man Food’ with healthy versions of potentially unhealthy foods … pizzas, burritos, burgers and so on,” Mr Ashton said. “We’ve compared the home-cooked meals with fast-food equivalents – in the case of a burger, a guy would need an extra 60 minutes of jogging to burn off the kilojoule difference.”

A Jawbone fitness band will be provided to set physical activity goals and resistance training equipment is also offered to avoid the cost and time burden of gym membership.

Rutger, a 24-year-old student, has already enrolled in HEYMAN with the hope of developing and maintaining healthier behaviours. “It’s challenging because I live on my own in a small apartment,” he said. “I’m not very knowledgeable with cooking so I eat a lot of pasta meals with the same vegetables every time.

“Most important for me is the cooking skills but the physical and mental health aspects appealed to me too. Learning how to deal with these issues now will set me up better when I get older.”

Statistics support that point, according to Mr Ashton: “A 20-year study of men aged 18-30 in the US showed that those who were healthy as young adults had significantly less risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension and Type 2 diabetes when they hit middle-age,” he said.

The 12-week HEYMAN study is open to men aged 18-25 years old with access to a computer, smartphone and email. Recruitment is open now, assessments begin April and the study starts in May.

Take the eligibility survey:

Contact: 4913 8034 or

* Lee Ashton is a member of the University of Newcastle’s PRC for Physical Activity and Nutrition. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the Community

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