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Breaking the student stereotype; staying healthy at uni

23rd September 2014

Breaking the student stereotype, staying healthy at Uni
Don’t fall into the classic pot noodle-munching pigeonhole. Student life is about so much more than couch slouching and junk food. As much as we all deserve to indulge in the luxury of lounging every once in a while, it is not something we should be looking to turn into an art form!

Prove your individuality, break the mould and escape the common student stereotype. Staying healthy while you study is essential for maintaining enough physical and mental energy for both work and play! It does not have to be a chore – far from it! In fact, being at university and living in shared accommodation opens up a plethora of health boosting opportunities.

Firstly you should be considering the kind of food you are consuming. In the words of the great literary legend Virginia Woolf: “One cannot think well, love well or sleep well if one has not dined well.” The lady wasn’t wrong. Our mind and bodies cannot perform well without being powered by the right kind of grub. Cold beans straight from the tin might be cheap and convenient, but that is about the extent of their associated benefits. To ensure your brain and brawn are functioning at optimum levels, you need to be eating a healthy balanced diet.

This does not mean breaking the bank as there are many ways to keep costs low. Shopping around is worthwhile: local markets offer great deals on fruit, vegetables and meat. Sharing costs for meals with flatmates is another great tip to keep costs down.

Secondly, ensure that you are getting enough exercise. You could potentially include dancing all night as a form of cardiovascular fitness; however, that all depends on the circumstances! It is of course important to get enough beauty sleep too. What with looming deadlines and a party every night of the week, it can be tough getting your head down. Make sure, despite all the distractions, that you try to settle into a healthy sleeping pattern.

Most universities offer an array of exciting sports clubs and facilities. Outdoor equipment is often available on uni campuses and is a fantastic way to work out. Open air exercise has a whole host of benefits – you can soak up some vitamin D while exercising in a stimulating and social environment. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people who also want to keep fit.

For universities, the benefits of investing in some outdoor exercise facilities for your students are second to none. Open air fitness areas provide a space for students to socialise and engage in healthy, productive activity. Encouraging an active lifestyle in turn boosts the health of students, meaning higher attendance and increased concentration; factors which are likely to boost results and promote a positive reputation for your establishment – and create a happy student population to boot!

Students, fight the inner sloth! Head outdoors for some invigorating exercise this term.

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‘Die Hard’ action films more likely to shorten your life expectancy

23rd September 2014

Action films could be bad for your health and fitnessAs we all know, too much television can be a bad thing. Don’t worry, we’re not going to suggest that an excess of sitting motionless, gawping at the screen is going to kill you… well, not immediately anyway, but it’s certainly not good for your health. Particularly when watching others in action, a recent study suggests.

Teamed with long periods of inactivity, people often tend to snack when watching TV and there is now evidence to suggest that while we’re distracted, we will eat more than we should, as the usual impulses that tell us we are full don’t kick in when they are supposed to.

A study by researchers from Cornell University, New York, was carried out to try to discover whether there is a link between the type of content that we watch and the amount of food we consume. The results, which were published in JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association) highlighted that people snack far more during action films.

The tests carried out involved giving students bowls of chocolate, biscuits, carrots or grapes while they watched television. The volunteers were divided into two teams, one of which watched the 2005 action thriller ‘The Island’, while the other half viewed a show based on one-to-one interviews.

The people who watched the dynamic action film ate double the amount of food in weight than the other subjects, as well as consuming 65% more calories. The test also indicated a variation between the sexes, with the difference in the outcome being more distinct in men.

The report offers advice to those in the medical profession, stating that “When counselling patients, physicians should stress the dangers of overeating while watching TV”, with an added word of warning that “highly distracting content”, such as action movies, may increase the potential of overeating.

The study offers an interesting insight into the way we react when viewing certain TV genres. This does not mean, however, that we should simply replace action films with another kind of programme… Whatever you watch, if it means you have too much sedentary time along with extra food, it’s simply not good for you.

Instead of watching highly-charged fictional characters burn energy, we need to prise ourselves off the couch and engage in some lively activity. Getting enough exercise is vital in order to stay happy and healthy. Why not break the usual routine and head to the local park for a run or alternatively hit the outdoor gym for a workout?

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Why water is so important to your summer fitness regime

25th August 2014

Why water is so important to your summer fitness regimeWhen the sun starts to shine it’s the perfect time to get outdoors, soak up some rays and enjoy some exercise. After all, you want to look your best on the beach this summer, don’t you? But, doing so without knowledge of the right ways to stay hydrated could be damaging to your health – whether you’re heading out for a jog or planning to take the kids to the park to play. It’s vital that you consider your water intake and ensure you stay hydrated throughout the day, especially in the summertime.

Water makes up approximately 60% of your body weight, and every system in your body depends on it. It carries nutrients and oxygen to cells, provides a moist environment to keep joints working well and also regulates body temperature. Clearly, it’s important to drink water when you’re exercising in the heat, whether that’s chasing the children around the park or working up a sweat in an outdoor gym.

Although around 20% of your water intake probably comes from vegetables (if you have a healthy diet!), it still means you have to make up the other 40% to reduce your risk of dehydrating – early signs of which include headaches, constipation and fatigue.

Many people perceive fizzy drinks and coffee as an adequate substitute, but the only sure- fire way to stay hydrated is to drink water and plenty of it. Try to plan ahead when you know you’re going to be running around in the heat and take a good supply with you. Thirst is often a late indicator that your body is lacking water, so taking regular water breaks, whether you feel like you need them or not, will keep up your fitness and energy levels.

If you are looking for a more scientific calculation as to how much water you should be drinking, weigh yourself before and after exercise. Then drink approximately 16 ounces, or a half litre, for every pound of weight you have lost – much of this will be fluid lost through sweating. Replacing this water will give you back lots of electrolytes to keep your body functioning correctly.

Whether you’re considering strenuous fitness or just wanting to bask in the warm weather, always remember that when the temperature starts to climb it’s extremely important to ensure you drink more water than normal to stay fit, hydrated and healthy – while also making sure that nothing can ruin your fun!

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Standing can increase your life expectancy

19th August 2014

Standing can increase your life expectancy

It’s not exactly breaking news that in the 21st century we live extremely sedentary lives, especially in comparison to our predecessors. Thanks to supermarkets on every corner, we no longer need to hunt for food. We’re certainly not spending our days running from ferocious animals trying to include us in their own food chain, – unless you include salespeople! Our jobs increasingly consist of tapping away at keyboards, while our social activities and sports are more likely to take place in front of screens of one size or another rather than including a kick-around with mates in the park or a bike ride in the open air.

It’s no surprise then that this lifestyle – one which humans aren’t designed for – is leading to increasing health problems. With an astounding 64% of adults in the UK now classed as overweight or obese, according to thinktank The Overseas Development Institute, we’re constantly being reminded that we should be incorporating more activity into our daily routine.

Dr Mike Loosemore, head of Exercise Medicine at the Institute of Sports Exercise and Health at the University College London (UCL), feels that even the smallest changes to our day-to-day lives could go some way to improving the nation’s health – even something as simple as being on your feet more.

It’s estimated that simply by standing up for a mere three hours a day, you can actually increase life expectancy by up to two years. Even such minor things as getting out of your chair more, instead of sitting in the office for hours on end, can have a positive impact. Such low-level exercise like this also has the added advantage of seeming less daunting to the general public – offering an attainable way to stay healthy.

However, there is still a lot to be said for more strenuous activity – after all, this is what our bodies are designed for. Regular exercising for up to 30 minutes at a time, several times a week, is proven to lower blood pressure and prevent a range of other obesity-related illnesses such as type 2 diabetes.

Getting outside in the fresh air and expending both calories and energy also has a huge impact on mental health, with regular exercise being linked to a lower risk of developing dementia. The strong endorphin rush that comes from working out can also aid anyone suffering from depression.

Yes, the smallest movements can add up to make a big difference to your life, but the real benefit comes from regular movement, outdoor pursuits and an end to indoor lethargy.

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School place shortage is leading to school space shortage

14th August 2014

School place shortage is leading to school space shortage

Rising birth rates, migration and immigration obviously all have an effect on the population of the UK. A result of this is a shortage in school places, forcing schools to expand their buildings to create more classroom space. This seems sensible enough, but too few consider how this eats into the schools’ playground areas ¬– meaning less outdoor space for youngsters’ vital exercise time. In the battle against childhood obesity, which by the way we are losing in the UK, this is an important consideration.

This squeeze on space is being felt across the country. A survey of 82 of England’s councils indicates that 335 of the 957 expanding primaries involved are losing their outdoor space in order to accommodate new pupils. With an estimated 256,000 school places needed by September 2014, it’s understandable that schools are desperately trying to create temporary classrooms – however it’s often at the expense of the school playground.

This has huge implications for students’ education, health and overall development. With the rising rates of obesity in the UK, it’s fairly obvious that limiting outdoor play areas will have a knock-on effect on fitness. With 64% of adults in the UK now being classed as overweight or obese, it’s clearly a national problem. Many studies have also shown that maintaining a healthy weight starts with a good diet and regular exercise in childhood.

Alongside the effects this has on children’s health, the education aspect also needs to be considered when schools decide to expand and build classrooms on their playing fields. Whether it’s just a quick run around during their lunchtime or participating in after school sports, these are the perfect outlet for pent-up energy. If kids are cooped up for too long in small, potentially packed classrooms, without any sort of release, their concentration levels can plummet. The result is increased fidgeting, disobedience and the inability to retain information effectively.

Some propose that each school should have a minimum amount of outdoor space to support outdoor play and energetic pursuits. Currently, schools must apply directly to the Department of Education, which stresses that losing field and playground space must only be considered as a last resort. However, stricter regulations would ensure that regardless of which school children attend, they would always have access to outdoor play and get the best possible start in life.

Caloo supplies outdoor playground and fitness equipment to local authorities, social clubs and schools. As one of the leading retailers and installers in this arena, they know how important it is for every school to have a play space that is both safe and fun. Spaces have to be found, but whether through sensible expansion or the building of new schools, outdoor space must be preserved for our children’s well-being.

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Drinkhalls win gold at Commonwealth Games, proud family moment

12th August 2014

Drinkalls win Glasgow goldThe 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow were a huge success, with an impressive 178 medals for England and 53 for Scotland. Among those were English husband and wife table- tennis team Paul and Joanna Drinkhall. They secured a mixed doubles win to take the Commonwealth title – a very proud day for British table tennis.

Four years ago they left Delhi with the bronze medal, which is a feat in itself. However, the team came back stronger than ever this year, and after a close 3–2 match with fellow English pair Liam Pitchford and Tin-Tin Ho, they proved that this family team is a force to be reckoned with.

An English team also took the bronze medal, making it a clean sweep on the tennis-table front. This brilliant win unsurprisingly created a huge feeling of national pride, and with such a closely fought match, they certainly did the sport proud.

This English triumph is sure to lead to a rise in the popularity of the sport, which is a great way to stay fit. What many still don’t realise is that table tennis is not just an indoor sport, making it an ideal choice for anyone wanting to get outdoors in the fresh air and try something new.

One of the big perks for the sport is that it doesn’t require a huge amount of equipment and outlay – anyone can play and have fun. With an outdoor specialist such as Caloo providing outdoor ping pong tables for a huge range of communal areas – those provided by business, those for community play areas as well as health and social clubs – potential players can easily just pick up a bat and head out for a few matches.

As the Drinkhalls prove, table tennis is also a great sport to get the whole family involved. Exercising outdoors comes with a tremendous range of benefits for young and old, both to fitness and to mental health – something that should certainly be encouraged. This is particularly important considering the rise in obesity rates and the increasingly sedentary lifestyles for both adults and children. A staggering number of adults in the UK are now classed as overweight or obese, and many studies show exercising in childhood can pave the way for a healthier lifestyle.

So grab your kit and head out with the family. You never know – eventually, it could be you in the Commonwealth Games!

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Are our kids being brainwashed to eat unhealthily?

28th July 2014

Are our kids being brainwashed to eat unhealthily?Junk-food adverts are heavily restricted during children’s television shows, but many feel enough isn’t being done to limit exposure to them.

Campaigners from Action on Junk Food Marketing have proposed a ban on junk food adverts before 9pm, as their analysis of over 750 adverts during popular shows such as The X Factor and The Simpsons found that one in ten promoted a fast food restaurant, junk food or some kind of confectionery.

Although there are currently laws in place to protect children from targeted advertising, they only cover specific children’s TV shows that are broadcast much earlier in the day. However Action on Junk Food Marketing point out that children’s TV viewing peaks at 8pm, leaving them very susceptible to the influence these adverts can have.

The Children’s Food Campaign, a member of Action on Junk Food Marketing, have gone further in their criticism and voiced concerns about the content of the actual TV shows, noting that children are being bombarded with images of unhealthy food on a daily basis through their favourite cartoons and programmes.

A team at the University of Limerick found that 48% of foods appearing in children’s TV shows were sweets, chocolate, or classifiable as junk food, while drinks with a high sugar content made up a quarter of all liquids. This ranged from children being shown heading to a fast food shop after school to children consuming snacks and sweets throughout the day, all while remaining thin, happy and healthy: this, they believe, sends a bad message to young minds.

Malcolm Clark, co-ordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign, notes that all of this food is being consumed without consequence, without any mention of obesity, type 2 diabetes and other issues that stem from eating such an unhealthy diet. He feels they should be presenting a positive food message to their viewers to encourage youngsters to eat a more balanced diet.

However, in this age of modern technology, kids are being presented with images of junk food and unhealthy eating habits everywhere they turn. As groups continue to put pressure on the government to create a solution, there remains only one sure-fire way to keep kids away from junk food adverts, and that’s to get them outside playing in the TV-free fresh air.

Along with the huge fitness benefits to be gained from outdoor play in public and school playgrounds, kids learn to socialise more, make friends and can easily soak up plenty of sun’s vitamin D bounty. It’s the perfect way to help them get active and it’s not just for kids either. Outdoor fitness gyms and play areas are great for teens and adults too, so inspiring your youngster to get into this healthier habit can help them sustain a lifelong passion for exercise.

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Obesity costs NHS over £200m in Scotland

22nd July 2014

Obesity costs NHS over £200m in ScotlandThe recent news that obesity and diabetes drugs and treatment has cost NHS Scotland a staggering £230 million over the last three years hammers home the scale of the UK’s obesity crisis. And, as front line fitness evangelists we felt this needed some additional coverage, just in case the need for more places to go to get fit for free needed underlining any more.

For a number of years, the UK’s growing obesity problem has been the focus of a huge range of think tanks, research teams and debates within the media. The UK is rapidly following in America’s footsteps and this shocking statistic shows very clearly just how quickly rates of obesity and obesity-related illnesses are rising in Scotland.

This latest news also came with the worrying statistic that nearly a quarter of a million Scots now have diabetes – roughly 5% of the entire population, with a majority of sufferers having type 2 diabetes. This illness has strong links with obesity, as anyone who has a higher than recommended BMI is up to 80 times more likely to develop it.

This amount of money may sound shocking, but the fact is that the true cost of obesity is likely to be far higher and is very difficult to pin down. Days off work due to ill health cost the economy dearly, along with the strain on public funding for those on long-term sick leave or those needing costly treatment because they have fallen into the obesity trap.

Because this issue has been so thoroughly debated and discussed for years in the media we are all well aware of how to prevent ourselves from becoming overweight – a healthy diet and regular exercise. Despite this, the nation is still piling on the pounds.

Many leading health organisations agree that just 30 minutes of moderate exercise several times a week, along with cutting out food high in sugar and saturated fat, can do wonders for the waistline. With this in mind, every school, local authority and business has an obligation to join the fight against fat and ensure that pupils, constituents and workers have access to playgrounds and exercise equipment so they can stay fit and active.

From children through to senior citizens, everyone should have access to the right fitness facilities to help them lead a healthy lifestyle – something that will benefit the whole of the UK in the long term.

It’s clear that anyone struggling to maintain a healthy weight can’t go it alone, but with access to the right play equipment, play areas, and outdoor gyms we can turn this around – it isn’t too late to save the nation.

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Table Tennis YouTube Channel is 4th largest of all Olympic sports

17th July 2014

Table Tennis YouTube Channel is 4th largest of all Olympic sportsWith the growing popularity of table tennis as a competitive sport, the news that the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) is teaming up with Rightster is sure to delight fans from across the globe.

It may not look like the ITTF needs the boost with its YouTube channel boasting 26 million views and 55,000 subscribers, making it the fourth largest of any Olympic sport. However, Rightster founder and chief executive, Charlie Muirhead, believes this move will make the site even bigger and help grow the popularity of the sport even further.

Rightster is a global video distribution firm that already has sports such as the Australian Football League on their books. Rightster aims to help the ITTF boost their reach and maximise their exposure, something that the federation hopes will lead to increased revenue through advertising and sponsorship deals.

Steve Dainton, the ITTF’s marketing director, is also extremely excited about the prospect of bringing table tennis to a wider audience with the help of Rightster, stating “we hope Rightster can now use their expertise to take our channel to the next level”.

The site already has such a big following thanks to the huge variety of content it offers fans of the sport. From the latest professional matches through to videos showing how to nail the coolest trick shots, it’s clear to see why it’s so high in the popularity stakes.

The international appeal comes from the fact that the website covers matches across the world and helps fans keep up to date with the latest hits, slips and tricks from big events such as the Olympic Games, through to junior and cadet matches in Korea and Hong Kong.

Although many viewers head to the site for the excitement of the game, some go in search of advice that will help them become the number one table tennis player in their school, club or region. The site is happy to oblige, showing viewers how to improve their game and featuring interviews from some top players.

It also provides a social element for table tennis fans to discuss the latest matches and breaking news through the discussion forums.

This latest pairing shows just how popular the sport is becoming, and with the ITTF YouTube channels’ popularity and Rightsers knack for creating targeted content, it’s sure to be a real hit with the fans.

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Battling dementia with daily fitness

17th July 2014

Battling dementia with daily fitness

Terry Pratchett, much loved fantasy author of the Discworld series of books and currently one of the UK’s most famous sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease, has, for the first time ever, had to pull out of a personal appearance due to ill health. He was due to be the guest of honour in Manchester in August at the International Discworld Convention. But he admits that despite fighting the illness for a very long time, his Alzheimer’s has ‘caught up with him’.

Pratchett is a long-time sufferer of the condition and has been a fierce campaigner for Alzheimer’s and dementia-related research ever since his diagnosis seven years ago. Despite the fact that he has continued writing many well-received titles since then, pulling out of an appearance for the first time was clearly necessary and highlights the very scary experience of living with dementia.

The stark reality is that 44 million people across the globe currently have some form of dementia: a number that is expected to rise to a staggering 135 million by 2050. It isn’t clear what causes Alzheimer’s and other related illnesses either, although specific genes can heighten the risk of developing certain forms of dementia.

Dementia can affect people in a variety of ways, ranging from short- and long-term memory loss to personality changes and the inability to complete simple day-to-day tasks. It robs even the most fertile of imaginations, and as a long-term illness it often progresses slowly before taking hold. All of this is understandably distressing for both the sufferer and their relatives, and with such shocking statistics it’s clear that we all need to be concerned.

Scientists have spent years researching different ways to predict the onset of diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Recent studies have actually found a way of identifying a set of proteins in the blood that can indicate the start of dementia with 87% accuracy. However, this research is still very much in its infancy and, although early diagnosis is important, it’s still not a cure.

The main focus of the medical community for delaying the effects of dementia is around a healthy lifestyle; an extensive 35-year study at Cardiff University has backed up the growing theory that exercise can significantly reduce a person’s susceptibility to dementia. It found that regular exercise, from as little as three times a week, stops the brain from shrinking and, therefore, limits the damage done to the hippocampus – essentially the brain’s memory hub.

Those in the study who engaged in regular exercise and were non-smokers with low body weight, who had a healthy diet and a low alcohol intake, had a 60% reduced risk of dementia, with exercise being identified as the strongest factor in the study.

Here at Caloo we are keen to stress how helpful exercise can be to people of all ages, levels of fitness and health. Dementia can strike any of us down; if even the great and imaginative mind of Terry Pratchett can be struck down by this limiting illness, then this should be a wake-up call to all of us to be more active and put prevention at the top of our weekly routine.

At Caloo we are doing our bit to encourage an active lifestyle for all those around us. With our huge range of outdoor fitness equipment, outdoor gyms and exercise parks we can help businesses, local authorities, schools and public institutions that wish to prioritise the health and well-being of those in their care or responsibility. Working out in the great outdoors is also fun way to get a daily dose of vitamin D and, as research suggests, give your brain the tools it needs to stave off this incredibly cruel illness.

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