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Get fit for Stoptober

15th October 2014

Get fit for StoptoberThe annual NHS campaign to help people to stop smoking is underway – Stoptober is here and tens of thousands of people across the nation are trying to kick the habit! Smokers are taking on the challenge to ditch the tobacco for 28 days, with a view to quitting for good. The NHS asserts that cutting out cigarettes for four weeks gives you a five times better chance of stopping smoking entirely.

If you are a smoker considering giving up, there’s no better time to give it a go. With the collective support of so many others across the country attempting the fume-free feat, morale is at an all-time high. There is puff-busting power in numbers and all fellow tobacco abdicators will hail your allegiance to the cause.

The motivation from the campaign itself is, of course, inspiring – however, in order to succeed in your mission you are likely to need help in other forms too. Nicotine is a highly addictive drug and smokers everywhere are employing all the medical, psychological and over-the-counter means at their disposal to give them the strength needed to beat this tenacious beast.

Quitting smoking takes determination and discipline too. It is about altering your standard routine, substituting one ritual for another. So why not double up on your health aspirations this Stoptober and as well as striving to quit smoking, aim to improve your overall health and wellbeing at the same time. Rid yourself of the toxic tendencies and replace them with healthy practices.

Keeping active will firstly help you to keep busy, thus steering your attention away from the urge to smoke and focusing instead on a positive pursuit. On top of this, exercising will help you to relax, releasing some of that pent-up stress that you may usually combat by sparking up a cigarette. Getting outdoors and indulging in some alfresco fitness will be a breath of fresh air, in more ways than one!

Here at Caloo, we are in full support of the Stoptober campaign. As one of the UK’s leading outdoor gym and fitness equipment retailers, we are committed to the health of the nation. We install high quality open-air exercise apparatus and are dedicated to providing increased access to fitness equipment for more people across the country.

An open-air workout has a whole range of benefits. You can meet friends and socialise while exercising, as well as soaking up some brain and body enhancing vitamin D, all in a stimulating natural environment. So what are you waiting for? Stamp out the cigarettes and step outside this Stoptober for a dual fitness blast!

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Watch from Apple – just one technology revolutionising the way we stay fit

8th October 2014

Watch from Apple – just one technology revolutionising the way we stay fitLeading technology giant, Apple, has designed its first ever wearable gadget: the Apple Watch. This new intuitive device, introduced to the world last month at the launch of the new iPhone 6 (and 6 Plus), is set to be released in early 2015, and one of the key standout features of the up-and-coming smartwatch is its ability to monitor the health and fitness of its wearer.

This clever timekeeping device has the capacity to track and record information about the owner’s movement, heart rate and activity. The watch can pair up with an iPhone, allowing such data to then be shared and analysed using Apple’s newly developed Health app and HealthKit, which are featured in the brand new iOS 8 operating system.

The leading tech firm are finalising two apps for the Apple Watch – Activity and Workout. These are designed to measure movement and exercise levels. The Activity feature records information about general activity, such as steps per day, and displays advice on calories burned. It also encourages the wearer to move throughout the day.

The Workout app acts as a digital fitness coach, calculating the intensity of exercise sessions, responding to the user’s activity through an inbuilt accelerometer and it also monitors heart rate. Both new apps, along with others will be compatible with iPhone 5, 5C, 5S, 6 and 6 Plus.

As always, Apple has focused on creating an eye-catching and stylish design. Zoom and time functions are controlled by the ‘digital crown’ – a dial on the side of the device, while the smooth curved glass front offers ‘tap and touch’ capability for accessing apps. Hopefully this striking design will help to convince people that this smart fitness-boosting watch has at least an equal aesthetic appeal to the average wristwatch.

As well as developing devices for the consumer market, Apple’s new fitness focused technologies have received interest from the healthcare industry. Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is currently working with the firm, testing out the effectiveness of electronic patient record apps on an iPod touch.

Nurses in the Addenbrooke’s building will be using Apple iPod touch devices to record information on patient health and medication, as well as ordering new stock. A spokesman from the hospital said: “In addition we are using the two Epic apps, Haiku and Canto, which can be downloaded from the Apple store by our clinicians to access patient information.”

So it seems, there is certainly the potential for Apple’s Health related technologies to be used ‘en masse’ to boost efficiency in the NHS, as well as offering individuals the chance to monitor their own wellbeing on a personal scale. Let us hope that the new device will spark up a heightened interest in personal fitness and encourage more people to get out into the open air and get fit!

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How to beat the temptation to avoid exercise

30th September 2014

How to ensure that you keep up your exercise routineThere are 101 excuses for skipping your regular dose of exercise: I don’t have time, I’m meeting a friend, I need to go food shopping, or I must get back for the dog… We all have commitments which are important and increasingly busy lives, therefore, unfortunately, it always seems to be our fitness routine that takes the hit when life gets a bit hectic. It is important, however, to remember that staying active is fundamental to our happiness and health. We need to elevate the way in which we view our workouts in our mind’s eye, and be willing to fight harder to give them a more important spot in our weekly calendar. Rather than being the first thing to strike off the busy schedule, think of your fitness session as an essential energy boost for the mind and body, which will in turn reward you by making all of your other tasks easier.

Of course, after a long day at work, you may need some extra motivation to encourage you to stick to your guns. So here are a few things you can do to boost your inspiration for a good workout.

Never go home first
When you finish up your day at work, head straight out into the fresh air for some hearty outdoor exercise. Try to refrain from going home first, because once you sit down on that soft sofa and switch on the goggle-box, you’ve had it! Whether you go for a run around your local park or test out some of the outdoor training equipment, it will do wonders for your state of mind after being cooped up indoors all day long.

Plan your meals
Think ahead in terms of the food you are eating. Consuming a giant dinner and then attempting vigorous movement is not likely to have a pretty outcome! Make sure you leave at least 2 hours before you exercise after eating a large meal. A good tip can be to have a small snack to keep you going prior to your workout, or alternatively, if you absolutely have to go home first, prepare your evening meal the night before, so you can tuck straight in when you arrive home.

Make it official
Note down your fitness routine in your diary, tell other people you are heading to the outdoor gym, or indeed, make it a social affair by inviting a friend along. Do whatever it takes to ensure that there are no temptations to skip your workouts!

Come prepared
Make sure you have all the right kit with you to enjoy your workout session. Consider appropriate clothing; you may need extra layers if exercising outdoors, certainly for your warm-down and journey home. Also, ensure you are safe and clearly visible if it is dark. Another vital accessory is your water bottle – staying hydrated during exercise is extremely important to prevent cramp and maintain good energy levels.

Reward yourself
Finally, make sure you have an incentive to look forward to after your workout. Whether it is a catch-up meeting with friends, a one-off chocolate treat or indeed a date with a good book, it will certainly feel like you have earned it after your health boosting activities!

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History of the table tennis ball

25th September 2014

The history of the table tennis ball
Now an established world sport, table tennis has a huge following of both amateur and professional players as well as keen supporting fans. So, what are the origins of this highly popular game? Where did it all begin? Let’s take a look at the brief history of the sport and some key developments in apparatus that have helped to form the game we play today.

It is believed that the sport could have been inspired by ‘Royal Tennis’, a game with beginnings dating back to around the 12th century. This is the ancestor of contemporary lawn tennis, which used cork-based balls and wooden racquets with nylon strings.

Different sources give different suggestions about the beginnings of table tennis as a sport in its own right. An early improvised version is said to have been played in the 1880s by British army officers, who used cigar tin lids as paddles and rounded wine corks as balls with a makeshift net of books. Certainly by the 1890s some basic rules of the sport had been established, and at this point, the two main materials used to make the ball were solid rubber and wrapped cork.

It was in 1901, however, that the game really began to take off, after British table tennis enthusiast, James Gibb, discovered celluloid balls during a trip to America. The lightweight material offered increased speed and, therefore, a more exciting game. This is said to have inspired the name ‘Ping Pong’, due to the sound of the ball bouncing off the paddles.

The development of the table tennis ball did not stop there. As enthusiasm for the sport continued to rise, so too did the drive to perfect the paraphernalia that players used. Changes to the ball were introduced as a response to other innovations within the progression of the game. In 1952, thick foam sponge rubber began to be used on paddles, which allowed enhanced speed and spin and in 1970, ‘speed glue’ was discovered: a special type of adhesive which quickened the rate of play. In order to slow the game down again to increase rally time and thus game interest, in 2000, the ITTF (International Table Tennis Federation) increased the size of the ball from 38mm to 40mm.

Another very recent decision by the ITTF, which has only been in effect since 1 July 2014, is that table tennis balls must now only be made from plastic. Concerns about hazardous raw materials used in the production of celluloid balls and the health damage they could cause has brought about this resolution.

Whether you are a budding pro or a fresh-faced amateur, it is exciting to learn how the game has grown into the thriving sport it is today. Beginning as a purely indoor activity, the game has evolved along the way in this sense too, with new materials and processes allowing manufacturers to build robust tables suited to the outdoors. At Caloo we offer high quality, durable outdoor tables, bringing the thrill of the game back out into the open air!

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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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