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Is table tennis the sport for you?

30th June 2015

Who can enjoy the sport of table tennis?Watch the professionals firing shots back and forth at a million miles an hour, reflexes tuned to pounce this way and that at seemingly inhuman speed, and you may convince yourself that table tennis is far too complex, fast-paced and physical a sport for you, but you’d be wrong. A confident statement I know, but while you could be 12 years old or 98, able-bodied and fit or disabled, there will be a club, a grade or a fun family gathering that is suited to your involvement in the sport.

Personally I found a love for the game when I was a pre-teen and we made makeshift table tennis tables from books and broomsticks at school, but things have certainly moved on from there. So, whether you intend to have fun with friends and family, socialise at your local club, or compete at a regional, national or international level, table tennis can adapt to any need.

Here are a few ways in which you can get involved.

  1. Table tennis for kids. Table tennis is a game you can get involved with at any age, really, as soon as you can pick up a bat and hit a ball you can enjoy the sport and the sooner you start the better your chances of honing those natural hand-eye coordination skills. Tables can be set up in relatively small spaces and are often found at schools and youth clubs.
  2. Table tennis for those who wish to compete. Men’s and women’s singles and doubles, mixed doubles, age group specific leagues and disabled tournaments. There is a competitive level and a club happy to train you to that level to be found round the corner from wherever you are in the UK. Get started and join in the fun.
  3. Disability table tennis. The Paralympics shows that anyone from any background and with almost any disability can take part in this sport. Organisations in England, Scotland and Wales are keen to encourage and support anyone who is interested in taking up and progressing within the sport.
  4. Coaching and volunteering. It’s a way to give something back. Youth workers focused on table tennis as part of the sports activities offered by their facility don’t need any specific experience in the sport, just an interest, and if you have a talent for it you can give a little back by helping to train the next generation of Olympic hopefuls.
  5. Ping pong. Much like table tennis and used as an interchangeable word in some quarters, the sport of ping pong is similar but completely independent of table tennis.

Caloo are champions of outdoor fitness and exercise and one of our specialisations is our excellent range of outdoor table tennis tables, sold to schools, businesses and local authorities. So if you’re an aspiring future Olympic gold medallist or you just fancy a quick knockabout with some friends, then pop down to your local open spaces and see if they have a table (and if not ask your council why) to play on. It’s fun, it’s free and it’s an enjoyable way to stay fit.


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How much physical activity should we really be doing each week?

25th June 2015

How much physical activity should we all be doing?Because of the variety of opinion and the volume of information available out there it can be a little confusing for anyone to understand just how much exercise one needs to stay fit. I mean, you’ll know that you want to be doing something in-between ‘sofa sloth’ and ‘injuring yourself’, but what is the safe zone; how much physical activity should we really be doing each week to stay fit and healthy?

The government guidelines from the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) tell us that adults should be doing moderate activity which adds up to at least two and a half hours each and every week, or one and a quarter hours of vigorous activity, or, if preference takes you that way, a combination of the two. For children from 5 to 18 this comes down to 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity.

These guidelines were drawn up over 20 years ago and leave many questions unanswered. Lumping everyone under a simple banner of 5–18 year olds and 19–64 year old does little to tell you about how you should translate this to your needs. What difference will it make if you are tall or short, overweight or underweight, 21 or 58 years old, and whether you regularly exercise or rarely exercise. And is it better to go for the moderate or the intensive fitness regime, and do any of the above factors influence that decision?

The simple fact of the matter is that the government guidelines are generic so, to be effective and healthy, your fitness regime should be personalised around you as an individual. Different people will react differently to intensity, type, length and regularity of exercise and all this needs to be factored into your physical activity plans for the week.

When you decide on your own personal plan, please do consider those guidelines as just that – a vague generic ‘rule of thumb’ for a diverse population, and they will need to be adapted to your abilities and needs. So whether you walk, ride a bike, play tennis, do martial arts, football or yoga, find your own personal fitness plan for your own personal fitness.

Whatever you choose to do to stay fit and healthy, include some time in your week for outdoor activity as there is no substitute for fresh air and the vitamin D you’ll gain from natural sunshine (though do remember to slap on the sunscreen as the summer rolls on). If you fancy exercising in the open air, then why not try out one of our local outdoor gyms full of exercise equipment at your local park. They’re popping up all over the place, and of course they’re free to use.


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Do gym monopolies mean it’s time for you to think outside the box when it comes to your fitness?

15th June 2015

Do gym monopolies mean it’s time for you to think outside the box when it comes to your fitnessHow expensive is your gym membership? The likelihood is that the answer will be that it’s mightily expensive and seems to become less affordable with every year that passes. So the news that two of the UK’s largest gym chains are coming together, as Pure Gym takes over LA Fitness in what is reported as being potentially a £60 to £80 million deal, will certainly cause worries about membership cost increases. After all, what else could be the outcome of a hugely expensive purchase followed by promises of refurbishments, rebranding, and more? Evidence suggests that when businesses gain a monopoly-like position in the market they are more able to exploit this position to demand higher fees to fund their continued expansion.

While to my knowledge this has not been announced, it is common sense to prepare for the possibility. So could it be time to start looking for a venue for your fitness regime that will be a little more cost-effective?

Leeds-based Pure Gyms adds LA Fitness’s 43 clubs to their own 98 to make them a force to be reckoned with in the UK fitness arena. This has not gone unnoticed by the authorities and Pure Gyms’ bid to take over peer firm, The Gym Group, last year was blocked by regulators who worried that they may have too much of a monopoly post-takeover to protect members from all the issues of a lack of competition – one of which presumably is the worry of fee hikes.

So what can you do if you are looking for an alternative to your expensive gym membership? Well, you could look around for a cheaper alternative, but quite frankly even the ‘bargain’ gym chains cost an arm and a leg these days (well, it does mean 50% less limbs to work on I suppose!). Or you could do yourself a massive favour and join a very different kind of gym – one that’s totally free of charge, gives you all the social and fitness benefits of your current gym with the added advantage of the freshest of air and additional vitamins thrown in for good measure. I’m talking about your local outdoor gym.

Outdoor fitness gym

In recent years, local authorities have been investing in the government’s commitment to get the nation fitter and to fight the obesity problem that is driving the NHS to breaking point. This investment has been in the form of local outdoor gym equipment in parks and open spaces, installed for the public to use totally free of charge. There are strength and stamina machines, cardio machines, and new ones that you’ve never seen in the gym before, and all for use under the open sky so you can soak up all that lovely vitamin D from the sunshine that everyone, including probably your local GP, is going on about you needing.

So, leave the sterile environment of your gym and check out your local outdoor fitness area in the park. And if your park doesn’t have one, then get onto your local authority to have one installed.


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Exercise could extend your life by 5 years or more

8th June 2015

Exercise could extend your lifeIf ever there was a good reason for keeping fit this is it: research shows that keeping fit can actually extend your life.

An 11-year study conducted by Oslo University Hospital found that both light and vigorous exercise in elderly people had a dramatic effect on their mortality. An analysis of 5,700 elderly men aged between 68 and 77 in Norway suggested that regular exercise of just three hours a week extended their lives approximately five years longer than those who led more sedentary existences.

Researchers go even further to say that they believed that “regular exercise in old age has as powerful an effect on life expectancy as giving up smoking”, and seeing that over 100,000 people a year die from smoking related conditions and illnesses, I’d say that was quite a bold statement.

Findings:

  • Those who exercised for 30 minutes, six times a week were 40% less likely to die during the ‘decade and a bit’ long study.
  • It did not matter how vigorous the exercise was – the results were similar.
  • Within the range of the study’s subject, it did not matter how old they were at the start of the study – the results were similar.

Fitness is important no matter how old you are, and undoubtedly the sooner you start the better it will be for your prospects for a lengthy life. But this study shows that it is never too late to start, and the life-giving benefits of a healthy existence can be gained even when you are in your more advanced years.

The old story was that as Western society advanced its medical knowledge, we all started living longer – wonderful news – but governments had to find new ways of supporting an aging population that demanded more care. This new story could be that the aging population might become better at looking after themselves. And, through greater health and fitness from a lifetime of regular exercise, a longer life would not have to mean a greater burden on the NHS – it can mean a longer and more independent life for many.

So get out there and start exercising today, keep it up and keep to a regular routine, because it could add years to your life.


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The dangers of quick fix diet pills

22nd May 2015

The dangers of diet pillsThere can’t be many of us out there who haven’t been tempted by the miracle claims of quick fix diet pills. After all, who wants to bother with exercise and a healthy diet when a simple daily supplement claims to achieve the amazing results documented on websites and social media pages? But before you cave in to the promise of an ‘easy solution’ and order weight loss drugs online, it’s important to look at the dangers of these so-called miracle pills.

Since the death of 21-year-old Eloise Aimee Parry in April this year, global police forces have been on high alert working to prevent the supply of these ‘diet pills’. Miss Parry died after taking a substance known as Dinitrophenol, or DNP – a common ingredient in many pills aimed at the weight loss market.

DNP is a toxic pesticide and while some people use the drug as a weight loss or bodybuilding aid, its effects can be fatal. One of the problems is that the companies selling these drugs are unregulated, so the pills are produced in laboratories with no hygiene or safety regulations. And with amateur pharmacists creating the drugs with no specialist knowledge, the levels of active ingredients can vary wildly from batch to batch – making it easy for an individual to overdose even when they believe they are taking a recommended amount.

According to a 2014 report, DNP could be linked directly to as many as five deaths in the UK between 2007 and 2013. The same report warns that the side effects of taking the drug can include breathing difficulties, fast heart rates, fever, nausea and vomiting. So just what is it that makes people risk the dangers of diet pills?

We all want to look and feel our best, and reaching our ideal weight is a large part of that. Most of us know that a healthy diet and exercise is the best route to weight loss, but with the pressures of busy modern life we often struggle to maintain a fitness regime and avoid snacking on sugary, fatty foods. In these circumstances, diet pills can seem like a tempting short cut to a slimmer figure.

At Caloo, we want to encourage people to steer clear of the dangers of weight loss drugs by making keeping fit as easy and enjoyable as possible. By installing outdoor gym equipment for schools, communities and local councils around the country, we aim to provide simple fitness solutions that fit in with your busy life – helping you to avoid the temptations of potentially deadly shortcuts.


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‘Liam Pitchford out of World Table Tennis Championship.’ We need better headlines!

20th May 2015

Table tennis needs better headlinesAre you sick and tired of looking at the sporting headlines to see Brits constantly being knocked out of your favourite competitions? For fans of table tennis, it’s an all too common frustration. At the end of April, England’s hopeful in the World Table Tennis Championships was knocked out of the running.

Liam Pitchford, ranked 62nd in the world, was beaten by Korea’s world number 17 Saehyuk Joo in the competition held in Suzhou, China. The 21-year-old from Chesterfield had started off well, beating Portugal’s world number 20, Tiago Apolonia, in the previous round. However, his luck soon ran out and he was out of the competition – along with England’s hopes of taking home a title.

Pitchford’s exit from the competition followed those of his fellow compatriots Paul Drinkhall and Scot Gavin Rumgay, the latest in a long line of less than positive results for English table tennis. While the country has enjoyed some successes in the sport – most notably the career of Milton Keynes’ Andrew Baggaley, who won two gold medals in the Commonwealth Games in 2002 and holds the title of World Ping Pong Champion in 2015, and Paul Drinkhall who won medals at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the Glasgow team event that same year – fans of English table tennis too often have to put up with negative headlines and depressing results.

But instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, the team at Caloo is suggesting that fans everywhere take a more proactive approach and start encouraging the next generation of table tennis players – giving us some excellent future headlines to look forward to. Table tennis is an amazing sport to be part of, and one that anyone can get involved with – there’s no expensive equipment to buy or costly membership fees to maintain. Just pick up a bat and give it a go!

At Caloo, we’re committed to opening as many doors as possible to the exciting world of competitive table tennis – which is why we work tirelessly to provide free access to outdoor table tennis tables for children and adults around the country. By partnering with schools, community centres and local councils, we install all-weather tables in accessible outdoor spaces where anyone and everyone can get involved. As well as helping to encourage the next generation of table tennis medal winners, our tables are a great way to keep communities fit and healthy.

Want to get involved in supporting England’s efforts in your favourite sport? Speak to your local authority about getting an outdoor table installed in your area and be part of the table tennis revolution!


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Shock horror, science tells us that exercise alone won’t make us healthier

18th May 2015

Exercise alone not good enough for healthy lifestyleAs the battle to fight the obesity epidemic rolls on, some scientists are suggesting that we may be focusing our attention in the wrong place. It’s long been believed that one of the key factors in maintaining a healthy weight is to ensure that we take part in regular exercise – however, recent research claims that physical activity should be the least of our worries.

In an article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, three experts have set out to correct what they believe to be a massive public misconception regarding the benefits of exercise. The authors, including London cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra among their number, claim that the food industry may well be more to blame than previously thought for presenting an unrealistic picture of what people need to do in order to stay slim and healthy.

Traditionally, information has focused on promoting regular exercise and high levels of fitness as a sure-fire way to stave off obesity and the diseases and health issues associated with it. But, according to these experts, this could be encouraging a dangerous belief that physical fitness alone can counteract the damaging effects of unhealthy eating.

Their concern stems from a belief that the public health message – backed by the advertising campaigns of the food industry – suggests that you can eat what you like as long as you exercise, when in fact it’s actually the source of calories that matters most to our health. Research suggests, for example, that the risk of diabetes increases 11-fold for every 150 additional sugar calories consumed compared to fat calories. These experts also point to evidence which shows that up to 40% of people within a normal weight range will still harbour some of the harmful metabolic abnormalities typically associated with obesity – meaning that even those who look slim and fit could be damaging their health through a poor diet.

The report, of course, has attracted much controversy. Indeed, other experts such as Professor Mark Baker of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and Ian Wright of the Food and Drink Federation both bemoaned the risks of such a short-sighted approach. The key, they tell us, is in maintaining both a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle – something that companies like Caloo strive to promote in schools and communities around the country. With our outdoor exercise and gym equipment, we make staying fit and healthy an easy and fun choice for adults and children alike. So stay fit by staying active and being fully aware and informed about what you eat.


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Double trouble – two distinct obesity danger points in a child’s development

18th May 2015

2 stages of childhood obesityRecent figures estimate that around 28% of children aged 2 to 15 are classed as either overweight or obese. Think about that for a moment – aged just 2 to 15 and already obese.

Whether this is a side-effect of a more sedentary lifestyle filled with TV and video games or the result of poor diet packed with junk food and fizzy drinks, we’re all aware that the risk of childhood obesity is now far higher than ever before. And, while we all understand the importance of encouraging a healthy diet and regular exercise to minimise the risks of our children becoming part of that statistic, how many of us take an active part in their fitness? How many of us encourage and partake in regular exercise with our children, leading by example and making the whole experience fun? Not enough is the answer. But a recent study makes this all the more important to do so.

Recent research suggests that there are two distinct obesity ‘danger points’ in a child’s life – the first while they are infants and the second while they are adolescents. The study, led by Professor Terence Wilkin of Exeter University, compared obesity data on children in the 1980s with more than 300 present-day children to reach its conclusions.

According to Professor Wilkin, the data suggested that the rise in obesity in the very young was largely restricted to those with obese parents, while rates among toddlers with non-obese parents had hardly changed. This implies that incidences of obesity in young children are directly influenced by the health and diet habits of their parents. In contrast, obesity amongst 16-year-olds had risen across the board – suggesting that their parents’ attitudes had little impact on their condition, and that peer-group influence is a key factor.

For parents concerned about their children’s health, this data suggests that the best way to avoid childhood obesity is with a twofold approach. While children are young, it is important to cultivate our own healthy lifestyles and ensure that we pass good habits down through the generations. And when children are at the difficult teenage stage we must try to penetrate the peer-group pressures that encourage them to live unhealthily by keeping self-belief and confidence in those lifestyle choices we established in earlier childhood.

Caloo does all it can to make it that little bit easier to promote fitness and a healthy lifestyle as a fun, accessible and positive choice. With our fantastic selection of outdoor gym and fitness equipment, Caloo have been supplying schools, community groups and local councils with fun and effective ways to encourage active play for 20 years. Instead of being aimed at helping children and teenagers to lose weight, they offer a dynamic and exciting environment where a healthy lifestyle is merely a happy side effect of having fun – ideal for giving teenagers the motivation they need to get and stay fit.


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Beginner to table tennis top 250 in just 1 year –possible with a little hard work and coaching?

27th April 2015

Table tennis champion in 12 monthsIt’s easy for us to watch sportsmen and women competing at a national level on the TV and assume that their prowess comes as the result of a natural aptitude or talent for their chosen sport. But what if we could all reach their standard through a combination of commitment, practice and training – no special skills required? Sports coach Ben Larcombe believes that mastery doesn’t necessarily need natural talent – and he recently set out to prove it with the help of his friend Sam Priestley.

The plan was simple: in a year, Larcombe aimed to transform the self-confessed “uncoordinated computer geek”, Priestley, into one of the top table tennis players in Britain. With just one hour’s training a day for 12 months, Larcombe predicted that he could make Priestley one of the 250 highest ranked players in the whole of the UK.

Many experts subscribe to the view that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of purposeful practice to achieve mastery of any activity. While he had significantly less than 10,000 hours to work with – just 365, to be precise – Larcombe was still confident that he could achieve incredible results. Over the course of the year, he trained Priestley in the kitchen of his shared flat, using a table that doubled up as a dining table. Video footage taken during this time shows an amazing improvement in Priestley’s skill and accuracy in the game – and he was soon holding his own amongst seasoned players – but would it be enough to take him to the top?

Unfortunately for Larcombe, his experiment was not a success. While Priestley’s table tennis ability improved dramatically over the course of his year’s training, an expert observer concluded that his standard was still far below that of the top under-11 player in the UK. However, Larcombe has not been dissuaded and still believes that success is possible – just within a longer time frame than he originally predicted.

Although he didn’t become one of the top players in the UK, Priestley’s evident progression from non-sportsman to competent player has attracted the attention of those who believe that practice and training are just as important as natural ability. Matthew Syed, a former Commonwealth table tennis champion, is excited by Sam’s progress and believes that it shows the adaptability of the human brain and disproves the notion that to be successful at something you need to have a natural gift.

So if natural ability isn’t as important as hard work and dedication, how can we encourage the next generation of sportsmen and women to hone their skills? Many believe that experiments such as Larcombe’s are evidence for reform in the educational system, promoting the importance of effort over aptitude. Meanwhile, companies like Caloo can supply everything that schools and councils need to encourage fitness and table tennis training in young people. They specialise in installing outdoor table tennis tables in school playgrounds and areas accessible to the wider community – hoping to encourage more stories like Priestley’s in the world of sports.


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Can fitness stave off cancer?

23rd April 2015

Can fitness stave off cancer?With an estimated one in every two people (according to Cancer Research UK) likely to be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetime, the apprehension and fear surrounding this disease is higher now than it has ever been. Surprisingly, however, many people are still unclear on the steps doctors would recommend that they take to stave off the risk of cancer and increase their chances of living a long and healthy life.

Among the most regularly-mentioned approaches that individuals can take to fight off cancer is that of keeping fit and engaging in regular exercise. But can fitness really help to reduce the risk of developing cancer? Recent research by the University of Vermont suggests that it could.

In a study of 14,000 men, aged between 46 and 50, researchers concluded that even small improvements in fitness could help to reduce the risk of cancer. By regularly testing the fitness levels of the participants, over an average of six and a half years, the study was able to make comparisons between their overall fitness and their likelihood of contracting various cancers.

It found that men with high levels of fitness in middle age reduced their risk of lung cancer by 55% and their risk of colorectal cancer by 44% compared to the men deemed to have lower levels of fitness.

This research confirms what many specialists have suspected for years, and should give men and women of all ages the inspiration to get active and start improving their overall health. In fact, study author Dr Susan Lakoski believes that an individualised approach detailing exactly how much a patient needs to improve their fitness in order to reduce their cancer risk could by key.

Although the study focused on men in middle age, experts say that improving your fitness early in life can have benefits as you grow older. To work towards this goal, many schools and councils are employing the services of companies like Caloo to install outdoor fitness equipment in accessible places.

Our range of products are designed to get communities and people of all ages active in the outdoors, helping to reduce the occurrence of illness later in life.

For those that make the decision to improve their fitness, there are plenty of options out there. Lakoski suggests starting with cardio-respiratory fitness, and there are many training centres and lifestyle coaches who can help set you on the road to a fitter you. While research about the direct relationship between fitness and cancer is in its early stages, there’s no denying that taking regular exercise and maintaining a healthy diet is a sure fire way to give yourself the very best chance in life.


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