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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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A long night’s sleep can put you more at risk of the ‘big sleep’!

20th April 2015

Could a long night's sleep be bad for your health?We’re all aware of the downsides associated with getting too little sleep. In the short term, we can feel tired and unmotivated throughout the day and, in the long term, everything from obesity and heart disease to high blood pressure have been linked to lack of sleep in individuals. But, if you’re one of the many people who sleep for more than eight hours a night, rather than less, you might not want to be too smug about it as recent research has suggested that getting too much sleep can also have a negative impact on your health.

Franco Cappuccio, a professor of cardiovascular medicine and epidemiology at the University of Warwick, has analysed data from over a million people in an attempt to gain a better understanding of how our sleeping habits affect our health. By grouping people into three broad categories – those who sleep for less than six hours a night, those who sleep for between six and eight hours a night, and those who sleep for more than eight hours a night – Cappuccio was able to identify an increased rate of mortality in those who fell outside the six to eight hour category.

For those who slept less than six hours a night, a mortality rate of 12% higher than medium sleepers was found – perhaps an unsurprising result given the well-known health implications of getting too little sleep. But what may come as a surprise to many is the result associated with those who slept longer than eight hours a night – a staggering 30% more of them died in comparison to the medium sleepers.

So what does this research tell us about the relationship between sleep and health? While some may theorise that those who sleep longer may be more likely to be suffering from depression or using sleeping pills, Carpuccio corrected for this in his research – and still found the correlation remained. His own theory is that long sleeps can be caused by underlying, often undiagnosed health problems – but of course many experts disagree.

There is much research to suggest that prolonged periods of inactivity can have a very detrimental effect on an individual’s overall health, with staying in bed an extra hour or two being a key concern. In fact, in a study by the Arizona State University during which young adults were persuaded to remain in bed two hours longer every night for three weeks, researchers found that the subjects reported a variety of health complaints.

Concerned that your oversleeping could be affecting your health? Regular exercise can help to reduce prolonged periods of inactivity and encourage healthy, natural sleep. Companies like Caloo specialise in supplying outdoor gym and fitness equipment that can help you to exercise and stay active while enjoying the great outdoors – a sure-fire way to guarantee an excellent night’s sleep.

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Did you know that sitting can be a health and safety risk at work?

20th April 2015

Did you know that sitting can be a health and safety risk at work?We’ve all experienced that frustration of sitting inside the office on a sunny day, glumly staring outside at the birds and the bees while metaphorically chained to our desks. But recent research by Get Britain Standing and the British Heart Foundation suggests that sitting still for too long doesn’t just lead to gloomy days in the office – it can cause a variety of health problems too.

The study, part of the two organisations’ joint On Your Feet Britain campaign, surveyed 2,000 office workers in a bid to find out more about the lasting effects of prolonged sitting on overall health. The results were surprising, with nearly two-thirds of respondents worried that sitting at work was having a negative impact on their health, and with sedentary behaviour linked to a variety of health complaints, from heart disease to type 2 diabetes, it seems that their worries could be well-founded.

According to the survey, many office workers are developing worrying habits during their daily routine.

Surprisingly 45% of women and 37% of men spend less than 30 minutes a day on their feet at work, and with more than half regularly eating their lunches at their desks people are sitting for longer than they should. What’s more, even those who consider themselves to have a high level of fitness – such as those who run or cycle to work – are at risk from the health implications of prolonged sitting.

So it turns out that fidgeting may well be a good thing because prolonged sitting can result in a slowing of the metabolism, affecting the way the body controls sugar levels and blood pressure, and how it breaks down fat.

So what steps can workers and employers take to encourage more exercise and a healthier lifestyle in the office?

Experts suggest a range of approaches that can be used to promote more activity within the workplace. Standing desks have become a popular alternative in many offices, while simple tasks – like standing up while on the telephone, using the stairs rather than a lift and walking to colleagues’ desks instead of calling or emailing them – can all help to reduce the amount of time spent sitting and promote a healthier experience at work.

For those that want to take an even more proactive approach to keeping their workforce healthy and active, companies like Caloo have some innovative solutions.

We specialise in supplying and installing outdoor gym and fitness equipment in schools and community spaces, parks, and police and military training centres – but we have increasingly found that private businesses are keen to get in on the act. With standing up and getting moving more regularly linked to everything from weight loss to increased creativity and productivity at work, it’s one investment with real return potential.

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Smooth or pimpled? What’s the right paddle choice for your table tennis game?

26th March 2015

Smooth or pimpled? What’s the right paddle choice for your table tennis game?As you’ll know, from reading our blog last month, Andrew Baggaley won the 2015 World Championship of Ping Pong (WCPP). The tournament differentiated itself from table tennis by the roughness of the paddles it employed. Like the sandpaper paddles of old, these paddles had less speed and spin, enabling longer rallies. Consequently, players who were accustomed to rubber had to modify their approaches to the game to account for the different impact of shots. While many are unable to adapt, the British table tennis star succeeded after only a month of practice. Surprisingly, Baggaley even reported that using the ping pong paddle had a positive effect, saying: “In fact whenever I play ping pong, my backhand improves in table tennis.”

So, changing your paddle can help you improve your game in leaps and bounds, or even discover a style of play that better caters to your skills. With spring just around the corner, and Caloo’s outdoor table tennis tables beckoning players outside for a summer of intense matches with friends, is your favourite paddle up to the challenge?

One fascinating aspect of table tennis is that it allows for a high variety of play styles, depending on whether you’re more comfortable attacking or defending, with many different blades and paddle surfaces catering to every need.

If you prefer to play an attacking game then you’ll want a paddle with power, and this means a pips-out or inverted pips paddle. An inverted pips surface is smooth with a high level of grip to generate spin with. It’s also the most common type of surface used by competitive players. Meanwhile, pips-out has less spin, because of its rougher surface, but gives you the chance to power your way through a rally with high speed.

Conversely, playing defensively means having ultimate control of the ball whilst nullifying your opponent’s speed and spin, or even countering it with an unexpected return. Anti-spin rubber and longer, thinner pimples have an ability to cushion the impact of a strong opponent’s shots and counter a ball’s spin. This style of paddle will produce slower shots with less spin, but the increased control means you can play a smarter game against a stronger player.

When you head out to your local ping pong or table tennis table this spring, be sure you have the right paddle for the job. Whether it’s for smashing your way to victory or toying with an aggressive opponent – it will not only make you more effective, it will help you reach new heights as a player.

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Should parents be fined for allowing their children to be obese?

16th March 2015

Should parents be fined for allowing their children to be obese?A new bill being debated in the Puerto Rican legislature is taking, what is to date, the most drastic step towards eradicating childhood obesity we have ever seen. If passed, parents of obese children could be fined up to $800 (about £530) for failing to help them lose weight.

Parents of obese children would work with a counsellor to implement a diet and exercise plan that would be monitored every month. Fines would occur if no improvement is made after 6–12 months. According to Senator Gilberto Rodriguez, the bill aims to help parents make healthier choices and improve children’s wellbeing. However, by targeting people where it hurts most – in their wallets – it risks unfairly punishing the poorest segments of society, who could find themselves crippled by such a hefty fine.

Nevertheless, the bill correctly identifies the biggest influence on a child’s wellbeing – their parents. As research has shown, children tend to look to their parents regarding how they view their health. As well as attesting to this relationship, a 2012 Puerto Rican study in the IJERPH (International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health) found that half of the parents studied considered their overweight or obese child to be of normal weight. Consequently, not only did half of the overweight or obese children consider themselves to have a normal weight but 10.3% even thought they were underweight.

fitness for childrenAs extreme and potentially draconian as this bill may be, the fact that it is even being debated shows just how worrying childhood obesity has become worldwide. With over 28% of Puerto Rican children being obese, this may be showing us a sign of things to come if Brits are unable to reign in our own obesity problem. If we hope to truly combat this unnecessary blight on our next generation, we have to educate parents to be more vigilant and work to prevent obesity being seen as the new normal.

Should British MPs also take the extreme measure of fining parents who refuse to acknowledge that a problem exists? While negative reinforcement can be successful at changing bad habits, we’d prefer think that a positive approach – making playground equipment more fun and rewarding and providing free fitness equipment in public parks – is a better way forward. In this way, losing weight and getting fit is just a positive result of an afternoon in the great outdoors – for parents and kids. But, for their part, parents need to know when it’s time to encourage their child to be more active.

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