OSU First Cowboy Shrum shares health journey during International Men’s Health Week
Tuesday, June 14, 2022
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International Men’s Health Week began June 13, and for Oklahoma State University First Cowboy Darren Shrum, taking care of his health goes beyond the walls of a gym.
“I think the first thing you have to do is make it a priority,” Shrum said. “We're all creatures of habit — either good or bad or a combination of both. And I think you have to create good habits and try to stick with them as much as possible.”
At home, a daily routine includes taking vitamins and reading books to keep up-to-date on the best ways to improve his health, he said.
“I think you need to go see your doctor once a year. People think, ‘Well if I feel OK, I must be OK,’” Shrum said. “Well, a lot of times when something's identified, it's too late at that point. And so I would say be consistent about your checkups with your doctor.”
Having annual prostate and blood panel checkups with his internal medicine doctor helps Shrum take preventative measures for his health. Watching cholesterol and blood pressure levels can be lifesaving and help him get the most out of his life, he said.
In your early 20s or 30s, OSU Chief Wellness Officer Todd Misener recommends starting routine blood pressure and cholesterol checks. He also advises men to have an established relationship with their physician to discuss any issues that tend to arise in their 40s, along with beginning annual prostate exams by their 50s.
“The most important thing with men's health is we have to realize our bodies are ours for the rest of our lives,” Dr. Misener said. “The things we do early in life can impact us for the rest of our lives.”
Shrum reflected on his journey, mentioning he became an athlete at the age of 6. When he began high school, he kicked it up a notch and began working out rigorously. As a college football player at the University of Central Arkansas, he continued his workout routine and tailored a diet to enhance his performance.
“But when athletics are actually over, you have a tendency to continue eating habits that are not great, or they're used to maintain or gain weight,” Shrum said.
As the competitive athletic chapter of his life ended, Shrum said he looked forward to marriage, children and being around to enjoy quality time with grandchildren, which was a driving force for him to continue his fitness routine.
“My goal is just to stay as young as possible, as long as possible. So, I just try to eat right,” Shrum said. “I try to get targeted cardiac work in and lift — stuff I really like to do. And it's just a good thing for stress relief, too.”
Creating and sticking to healthy habits and lifting four to five times a week helps Shrum set a good example for his family and community members to show they can take control of their health at any stage in their life.
“I'd say start with your diet. Gyms are nice. Workout plans and workout programs are great. I think they're a necessity,” Shrum said. “But I think it all starts with your diet. What you put in your body is what you're gonna get out of it.”
The best way to start creating a nutrition plan is to track everything you take in to understand what you're consuming daily and then devise a plan from there, Shrum said.
Shrum laughed and said he loves sugar, but when his doctor told him it can cause inflammation and joint pain, he chose to prioritize his health and family.
After creating nutrition plans, Shrum recommends looking at low-impact workouts. These workouts can be done at home, at the Colvin Recreation Center or at a local gym.
“Regular physical activity, obviously, is always going to be the key, but it's the physical activity you can do on a regular basis,” Misener said. “And what I mean by that is avoiding these kinds of aspirational, first big pushes where you're over-committing yourself. If you're not currently involved in an active lifestyle, the best is to gradually work into it, and not just go gung ho and go all in. Because we want you to be able to gradually build up over time.”
Joining a gym or a workout group is a great opportunity to improve your physical health, Shrum said, but it’s also intertwined with your mental health.
Health impacts all parts of life, and that isn't just a physical thing, it is an emotional thing as well, Misener said. Involvement is a critical part of social adaptation and a cornerstone to wellness.
These groups give people a common goal of becoming healthier and help them build relationships in a family-oriented environment, Shrum said.
Shrum joked he’s just “trying to keep the old man out.”
“That’s the great thing about this university — this campus is awesome,” Shrum said. “And that's kind of motivation to just want to be a part of this for as long as possible. And to do that, you have to be able to keep up with it.”