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Standing can increase your life expectancy

19th August 2014

Standing can increase your life expectancy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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School place shortage is leading to school space shortage

14th August 2014

School place shortage is leading to school space shortage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Drinkhalls win gold at Commonwealth Games, proud family moment

12th August 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Are our kids being brainwashed to eat unhealthily?

28th July 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Obesity costs NHS over £200m in Scotland

22nd July 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17th July 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Battling dementia with daily fitness

17th July 2014

Battling dementia with daily fitness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Breaking the curse of the yo-yo diet

23rd June 2014

Breaking the curse of the yo-yo dietEveryone loves a success story. There is nothing more heart-warming, if you are a dieter, than to see transformational before and after photos of those who have achieved weight loss goals and to think ‘wow, how did they do that?’. Yo-yo dieters in particular – so named because they take weight off and then put it back on again time and time again – can often look for sources of inspiration in an attempt to hit their own targets. What these photos don’t tell, however, is what can often happen after the initial heroic weight loss is achieved.

Yo-yo dieters suffer from an age-old problem, temporarily changing their habits to achieve a goal rather than changing their lifestyle to succeed in it. Once the yo-yo dieter’s goal is achieved, they will relax, go back to old habits and – not surprisingly – the weight is likely to pile back on.

No better is this demonstrated than in the world of the celebrity dieter. Perhaps the most famous of all is Oprah Winfrey who has had a long, often highly public battle, to keep on top of her weight aspirations. At times she has looked incredibly slim and yet within a relatively short space of time could be pictured again looking, well, distinctly puffy. And this doesn’t appear simply to be a ploy to out-manoeuvre the paparazzi – rather it reflects, and essentially documents, a long term struggle with self-image.

The media love to plaster pictures of celebrities going through such personal battles, and there is no shortage of articles in magazines about the latest fad diet. All this is much to the joy of the dieting industry, which is reportedly worth over £1 billion in the UK alone, and $60 billion in the US. According to research from Mintel, foods with a weight control claim are on the increase as are foods labelled as variations of ‘low fat’.

The causes for yo-yo dieting are as varied as the number of calories found within the average chocolate bar (148 in case you were wondering!), but in essence they can be boiled down to good old human nature. Some diets can be so extreme that they may reward the dieter with initial weight loss and a sense of success; however, as they can’t be sustained once a normal eating pattern is reintroduced, the pounds pile back on – often causing depression and anxiety. And so the cycle is established.

Despite the variations of fad diets that have arisen over the years, experts in the field of sustained weight loss have remained fairly unchanged in their belief that a sensible combination of diet and exercise is key. The NHS in England has said any weight-management programmes should tackle diet, physical activity and a change in behaviour.

It can be simple to integrate small changes into a daily routine – walking the kids to school, or taking the stairs rather than the lift, can help. Many parks these days have outdoor fitness equipment installed in them, and using them instead of your hardly-ever-used gym membership, can be a great way to get some vitamin D as well as enjoy a fun outdoor workout.

Small changes such as regular outdoor fitness fun and a more sociable or sporting lifestyle can help break the yo-yo cycle and deliver an achievable and sustainable long-term routine for all. And that sounds like one success story we can all enjoy.

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Is environment to blame for the nation’s health problems?

16th June 2014

Is environment to blame for the nation's obesity problem?

Obesogenic is a term used to describe environments that encourage people to eat unhealthily and neglect the need to exercise. Such a place is usually overrun by fast-food chains, is plastered with advertising for unhealthy edibles and activities, and encourages its population to drive everywhere rather than walk. Many US cities already fall into this category, but a recent report by the UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has shed worrying light on the obesity-encouraging potential of many UK high streets, claiming they offer too many easy opportunities to indulge in burgers, pasties, sweets and fizzy drinks.

In Birmingham, where 64% of the population is overweight and three-quarters of schools have at least one fast-food outlet within 400 metres of their front gates, health officials have taken the decisive action of cracking down on the number of new takeaways allowed to open. And, since 2012, when the policy was introduced, 15 outlets have already been refused planning permission. While this is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, there is the looming reality that things aren’t happening fast enough. With almost a quarter of Year 6 children in the UK now officially classified as obese, there is an obesity time bomb ticking away that we ignore at our peril.

Of course, even if fast-food consumption was completely outlawed, the obesogenic epicentres would hardly disappear overnight. This is because with or without junk food, our lives are still too sedentary, our children in particular squander too many hours in front of small screens instead of gaining the vital exercise they need. Cycle-to-work and walk-to-school initiatives are great but not always practical. That is why we need to invest in communal outdoor spaces where adults and children can play and keep fit.

For instance, free-to-use outdoor gyms in local parks would encourage adults to keep active on a regular basis. This in turn would lead to a healthier workforce taking fewer sick days. At Caloo, we work with local councils to install robust, attractive and easy-to-use outdoor gym equipment in communal areas. We also work with schools and community groups to develop children’s play areas that promote fun and safety. In short, we provide creative and unique solutions to encourage adults and children to become more active, stemming the pernicious influence of obesogenic environments.

It would be nice to imagine that soon, instead of a fast-food shop within 400 metres of every school, there will be a playground with fun outdoor exercise and play equipment aplenty.

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Every sport needs its heroes – table tennis is no exception

12th June 2014

Every sport needs its heroes – table tennis is no exception

Table tennis may not be the first thing that leaps to mind when we think of home-grown sporting heroes. Yet, over the last century, there have been a handful of British players who have enjoyed staggering success within the game, on an international level.

One such player was Edinburgh-born Helen Elliot Hamilton, who won her first Women’s Singles title in 1949, just three years after she first picked up a ping-pong bat. She went on to win the title 13 times consecutively plus a glistening array of international awards and accolades including World Doubles championships and International Open championships, before retiring to coach young players in holiday camps across the country.

Another British table tennis great was Richard Yule, a fellow Scot who achieved the rare feat of a triple win of the French national, English national and Scottish national titles in the 1970s. Remarkably, Richard’s ping-pong career started off in the less glamorous surrounds of a table tennis bat factory, where he worked before achieving fame. Whether this inspired his love affair with the sport we do not know, but his skill and passion for table tennis saw him take away six World championships, seven European championships and six Commonwealths, and serve a presidency of the National Association.

Both Helen and Richard helped raise the UK’s profile within the game and inspire future generations of table tennis talent across the globe. They showed how you could surpass expectation to become a champion on the world stage, no matter who you were – even if you had only just taken up the sport. Yet, in the UK, their legacy is under threat. With a lack of sufficient communal outdoor ping-pong tables, we are leaving countless future champions unable to unlock their potential. As a result, we continue to succumb to the blistering dominance of a few far eastern countries that have held the global top spots for far too long.

Thankfully, Caloo’s range of affordable outdoor table tennis tables can help turn the tide. With over 20 years’ experience working with companies, local councils and schools, we use creativity and expertise to transform outdoor spaces into places where adults and children can play and keep fit. For ping-pong we are second to none, offering attractive and robust outdoor tables that can withstand heavy use and abuse. Tables that are perfect for nurturing the talent of our future table tennis champions. Our future Helen Elliot Hamiltons and Richard Yules.

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