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Chocolate may actually be healthy for you, but only if you also stay fit

27th July 2015

Chocolate may actually be healthy for you, but only if you also stay fitCould this be the news we’ve all been waiting for? Researchers at the University of Aberdeen appear to have found evidence that a certain food is linked to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. So what is this wonder food – an exotic berry from deep in the Amazon, perhaps, or the latest high-tech health supplement? No – believe it or not, it’s the humble chocolate bar.

The study, published by the British Medical Journal’s ‘Heart’ magazine, found that people who ate a small bar of chocolate every day had an 11% lower risk of heart disease and a 23% lower risk of stroke compared to those who ate no chocolate.

By studying the long-term health of 25,000 men and women in Norfolk, researchers observed a reduction in the instances of both diseases over 12 years in those who consumed a maximum of 100g of chocolate a day. However, chocoholics shouldn’t rejoice just yet – those involved in the study are quick to point out that they have not yet uncovered any solid evidence to suggest that chocolate itself is the cause of the reduction in these diseases among study participants.

While other studies have suggested that the consumption of chocolate may have an effect on rates of cardiovascular disease, the University of Aberdeen report found that those who ate chocolate regularly also tended to already have lower weight, lower blood pressure and a lower risk of diabetes – along with being more likely to carry out physical exercise – all of which adds up to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

They also pointed out that most chocolate-eating participants ate an average of 7g of chocolate a day – so it’s probably advisable not to start breaking out the king-size snacks straight away. Instead, experts suggest that the message to be taken away from the study is that for those of a healthy weight, eating chocolate doesn’t detectably increase the risk of stroke and heart disease – and that it may even have some benefits.

So what does that mean for all us chocolate lovers? Well, while we can’t turn to our favourite food as a miracle fitness solution just yet, the good news is that as part of a regime consisting of a balanced diet and plenty of exercise it could well help us to fight off illness later in life. And at Caloo, that’s exactly what we’re about – combining things we enjoy with things that have a positive impact on our health. With our range of outdoor gym equipment, we help adults and children to combine exercise with having fun and enjoying the great outdoors – and now you can even enjoy a guilt-free (small) bar of chocolate along with your workout too!

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Caffeine tablet weight loss warning

20th July 2015

Caffeine tablet weight loss warningFollowing our blog post in May this year about the tragic consequences of forgoing exercise in favour of quick-fix diet pills, yet more deaths in the UK have been reportedly linked to dangerous, unregulated drugs.

This time round, the substances in question are caffeine supplements, branded as diet pills. For those struggling with their weight, the promise of a quick-fix solution is understandably appealing. Imagine forgetting all those trips to the gym and all that calorie counting and just popping a simple pill instead. But not only are such ‘miracle solutions’ unlikely to have any effect on your weight, they could have a serious impact on your health as well.

Pub landlord Chris Wilcock died of caffeine toxicity after taking a caffeine pill known as T5. Marketed as a slimming aid, the pill contained the same amount of caffeine as around 300 cups of coffee. And he’s not alone – experts estimate that at least four deaths have been linked to caffeine pills in the last year.

Part of the problem is the lack of regulation of these pills, which are classified as food supplements rather than medicines and aren’t subject to the same safety checks. But not only do these pills contain potentially toxic levels of caffeine, experts believe that evidence to suggest caffeine helps with weight loss is flimsy at best.

Of course, the other side of the problem is individuals looking for a quick fix to losing weight. While we’ve all been tempted to believe that one crazy trick or a super supplement could finally help us get rid of those tummy rolls and flabby thighs, the only effective way to really get fit is still a decent diet and plenty of exercise.

But that’s not to say the prognosis is bleak – at Caloo we believe that exercise can and should be all about having a good time. That’s why we provide outdoor gym equipment to schools, communities and local councils around the country, helping to encourage people of all ages and abilities to discover fitness the fun way. So, whether you’re considering a serious weight loss regime or just looking for a light workout, Caloo’s extensive range of exercise equipment can help you lose those pounds fast without resorting to drastic – and potentially deadly – measures.

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Guernsey paddle their way to Island Games victory

17th July 2015

Guernsey paddle their way to Island Games victoryThere was plenty of celebrating to be done in Guernsey last month when their talented sportsmen and women took the team table tennis gold medal at the 2015 Island Games.

The sporting event, which was held in Jersey this year, was launched in 1985 as a way to showcase the sporting prowess of islands around the United Kingdom as well as the rest of the world. Today, it features 3,000 competitors from 24 islands competing in 14 different sports ranging from football and swimming to archery and volleyball. The 2015 games were the first to feature table tennis as part of their programme since 2011 – a year in which Guernsey also took the gold.

Over the years, competition for the top spot has been tight between the French-speaking island in the English Channel and Gotland, an island in Sweden which has also seen its share of table tennis victories. However, this year the Swedes were pipped to the post by Guernsey’s outstanding team.

While their neighbouring island Jersey excelled in the cycling, high jumping and shooting, with four gold medals shared out between the sports, the table tennis team proved that Guernsey is still a force to be reckoned with in the world of international sport.

The final match, which saw Alice Loveridge win her women’s singles match and team up with Dawn Morgan and Gary Dodd for doubles wins, resulted in a win against Gotland 4–2.

This success can only be a good thing for the profile of table tennis across Guernsey and indeed the rest of the UK, helping to encourage new players to get involved in this challenging and rewarding sport.

Unlike many sports which can require lots of money to be spent on specialist equipment and expensive gear, table tennis can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of their budget or current level of fitness. It’s the perfect sport for encouraging young people to get active, not to mention a fantastic workout and a great way to promote a healthy lifestyle across all age groups.

That’s why here at Caloo we want to encourage the next generation of table tennis stars by providing quality table tennis tables and equipment for schools, community groups and local councils around the country. Part of a range of outdoor fitness equipment, our aim is to help children and members of the public to engage in active pursuits that will keep them healthy and happy throughout their lives. And for sporting fans everywhere, developing the skills of our future table tennis gold medal winners is definitely not something to be sniffed at!

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Please Sir, why did I get an ‘F’ in fitness?

17th July 2015

Please sir, why do I have an F for fitness?While debates rage on year after year over the most effective ways to test our children’s abilities in core subjects like English and Maths, health campaigners are suggesting that a different type of test could prove an essential part of their development. With experts concerned about school children’s lack of exercise, and the health problems it could lead to, many are suggesting that an official fitness test could be the answer.

A report by campaign group ukactive has found that only half of seven-year-olds in England are active for more than an hour a day, raising concerns that the country is facing a ‘ticking time bomb’ of health problems caused by lack of exercise. The report goes on to suggest that in young children the commonly considered catch-all indicator for obesity, the BMI (or Body Mass Index), can often give little indication of a child’s general health. To avoid health problems later in life, the authors of the report argue that children should be encouraged to be more active throughout the day, every day.

But while we all know how to go about cramming numbers and equations for a maths exam, or pouring over Shakespearian texts to brush up on our English literature skills, what’s the best way to get children in shape and help them to get the best possible marks in their fitness?

Already, schools around the country are taking a creative approach to bringing fitness into the classroom. Encouraging children to walk to school is a great way to gradually introduce regular daily exercise, while more and more teachers are incorporating standing lessons into their school day. By transforming a simple question and answer session, for example, into a physical game where the children’s movements reflect their answers, teachers can create a routine for their students that help to keep obesity and related illness at bay.

Outside the classroom, play can be an easy and fun way to encourage children to exercise. That’s why, alongside the regular PE and sports programmes being promoted by the government, there are companies like ours making active play all the more accessible to children everywhere. With a wide selection of outdoor gym and fitness equipment, we supply schools, community centres and local councils with the tools they need to keep young children fit and at the top of their fitness game.

So while fitness GCSEs and AS Levels might be a long way off, it’s worth encouraging our children to get their practice in now so they can be sure to pass with flying colours.

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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.


  • 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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