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Fitness homework should be mandatory

14th April 2014

Should fitness homework be compulsory?Judy Murray, the mother of world-famous British tennis player Andy Murray, is calling for compulsory PE homework for kids. What a great idea! The suggestion arose after she recently backed a report called ‘Start Young, Stay Active’, carried out by ukactive, a fitness industry association “…committed to improving the health of the nation through promoting active lifestyles”, which took a thorough look at children’s health and fitness in the UK. The study highlights current issues such as childhood obesity and makes positive suggestions about how parents and schools can begin to work together to combat these problems and encourage kids to get more active.

The proposition suggested in this study is that the Government should introduce mandatory physical education homework, which to us makes a lot of sense. As children split their time between home and school, both parents and teachers have a responsibility to ensure that kids are fit, happy and healthy. By collaborating to achieve this goal, with schools creating and setting out of hours fitness tasks and parents encouraging their children to complete them, brilliant improvements could be seen in the health and happiness of our children.

As we all know, engaging in regular physical exercise has heaps of benefits, and ensuring that our kids stay active and excited by fitness is a must. As well as boosting our children’s health, exercise is proven to heighten energy levels and increase concentration levels; which in turn can improve their learning capacity. When we exercise our brain produces endorphins that make us feel relaxed and happy, so getting your kids outdoors for a run around is great for boosting their mood and reducing stress too. As well as benefitting the body, getting outdoors and active is a great way for kids to socialise and have fun.

So, how can we integrate play and fitness into our children’s schedule in a fun and engaging way? Well there are plenty of options to do so. The report by ukactive suggested a number of fun activities which you could do with the kids at home and in the garden. This included skipping, sprinting, balancing and ball games. Alternatively, for a more social and immersive experience, heading outdoors to your local park, playground or sports centre is a great way to build kids’ interest in fitness and have some fun.

At Caloo we are proud to support a happy healthy nation, and are already members of ukactive. Why not head down to one of our local playground sites and let your children run wild? Or how about getting your kids to try their hand at ping pong at one of our outdoor tables? Whatever you opt for, make sure your kids stay healthy, happy and active!

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Does running or walking burn more fat?

11th April 2014

Which is better for burning fat, running or walking?

So, you have set yourself a goal to boost your fitness and shed a few pounds, but what’s the best way to go about it? Should you run or walk to burn more fat? Many of us are dying to know in order to engage in the right exercise routine. However, the reality is that this is not a simple question to answer.

Our first thought on the subject is, why choose? Running and walking are both fantastic for boosting cardiovascular fitness. This type of aerobic exercise not only contributes to weight loss, but also offers a number of other benefits such as raising your mood and boosting your energy levels, decreasing blood pressure and reducing cholesterol levels, thus lowering the risk of cancer diabetes and heart disease.

So, in terms of fat busting, walking and running each have their own individual benefits. The reason that the answer to this question is difficult to define and study is that there are a range of changeable factors will influence the outcome.

Walking falls into the bracket of ‘moderate’ exercise. Depending on the speed you are moving, this type of light movement typically uses around 3 to 6 METs. A ‘MET’ (Metabolic Equivalent) is a measurement of how hard your body is working. The higher the MET level, the more oxygen your body burns to release the energy it needs to perform.

The benefit of light exercise is that proportionately you burn more calories from fat compared to other more dynamic forms of exercise which tend to use carbohydrates to fuel the movement instead. What is great about walking is that is typically takes little recovery time, thus enabling you to do it more often.

Intense exercise such as running usually uses 6 METs or more, and because you are working your body harder you burn calories far more quickly, thus overall burning more fat. Of course, with more vigorous forms of exercise, it takes longer to recover. Often when we work our bodies harder, we crave food to replenish the energy we have burned, so this is another factor which needs to be taken into consideration.

In order to decide which option is best for you, aspects such as weight and health should be considered. While running can burn more calories overall, it can trigger injury more often than walking. If you currently have any health problems that could be an issue, it is advisable to speak to a personal trainer so they can create a suitable fitness plan for your needs. For people who don’t exercise often, the best option is to start off with lighter exercise, steadily building up to faster activity as the body becomes used to the exertion.

Whichever goal you have in mind, a great way to burn some extra calories is to hit one of our outdoor fitness gyms. Take a walk or run along to your local outdoor training space and test out some of our exciting equipment to boost your fitness regime!

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How fit are you? Can you walk the walk?

25th March 2014

Can you walk the walk with your health and fitness?While some of us are lucky enough to get a workout while at work, many of us are confined to a desk, often sitting for long periods during the working day. When feeling tired after a hard day, it is often all too easy to give in to the temptation of melting into the couch and staring mindlessly at the television. However, as we all know deep down, there are far more productive things we could be spending our time doing.

In an attempt to fire up the nation and get people up off the sofa and out being active, sporting legend James Cracknell teamed up with Duracell to complete ‘The Wheel of Endurance’. The long-life battery boffins set the athlete an intense stamina circuit to complete during one rotation of the London Eye. The challenge, inspired by the ever-so-energetic Duracell Bunny included running, cycling, gym ball balancing, boxing, a high-intensity leg workout and a training circuit.

Cracknell is no stranger to a gruelling fitness trial, having taken on the feat of running the Sahara desert, rowing the Atlantic and cycling across the Arctic, not to mention having bagged two Olympic gold medals. Even despite his experience, the athlete found the experience tough, and this was the point of it, as he explains.

“I love a challenge and having something to plan for,” he says. “And it’s a lesson for life: in everything, whether it’s working, studying or in your relationship, if you get into a lazy routine, you need to change it.” Completing the test is not only a personal achievement for Cracknell – he aims to inspire and motivate us all into setting our own individual goals. “Plot your path and go about achieving it. You will amaze yourself,” he says.

Now, if we ever needed that extra push to get moving, this is surely it. We are not all world-famous athletes and no one is expecting you to tackle harsh, unyielding climates when you clock off at five! The point is, we can each set ourselves manageable targets in order to test our own fitness levels and have fun keeping fit and active.

Maybe you need the added support of seeing others get into a fitness frenzy – if so, check out the upcoming 2014 Sport Relief. Stars such as Radio 1’s Nick Grimshaw and singer Olly Murs take on Olympic-style challenges to raise money for charity.

A great way to get started would be to visit your local outdoor gym and get that blood pumping. Getting outdoors to exercise has a number of benefits. We are able to build on our fitness in exciting surroundings and meet new people, as well as getting that blast of fresh air you’ve been craving, after a day stuck indoors.

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Can becoming a ‘twiddler’ improve your table tennis game?

18th March 2014

Could 'twiddling' boost your table tennis game?If you are looking to enhance your dexterity and boost your table tennis talent, then read on. The art of ‘twiddling’ is a skill that can dramatically improve your game. Yes, that’s right – it’s called twiddling, and while the name is somewhat amusing, the variety it adds to your game is impressive!

Twiddling involves twisting the paddle in your hand during the game, in order to change the side of the bat which the ball hits. This is usually done when players are using combination bats – a paddle which has a different surface on either side. These bats will have a ‘normal’ side, which is made of inverted rubber, and a side that is often ‘long pimple’ rubber or an ‘anti-spin’ plane. The different surfaces increase the diversity of the game, affecting the rhythm and type of shot that can be made.

In order to twiddle the bat, a player needs to loosen their hold, then use the wrist and bottom three fingers to twist the handle around so that the opposite face of the bat is ready to receive the ball. For right-handed players the spin is usually made in an anticlockwise direction – clockwise for a left-hander.

There are many reasons to employ the use of twiddling in a game. It increases the selection of potential shots that a player is able to make. The effects of long pimpled rubber include being able to wobble the ball, while anti-spin enables you to reverse your opponent’s spin. Twiddling is also used as a tactical move to confuse the opponent and force mistakes. Turning the paddle can distract the other player – it can be difficult to keep up with which side of the paddle is being used during a fast-paced game. The variation also changes the timing and flow of the ball and may baffle your rival if they are unfamiliar with the effects.

What you need to bear in mind, while learning to twiddle, is that it will take time to learn the art. At first you may puzzle yourself as much as your opponent if you don’t concentrate! You need to remain focused, so that you know which side of the bat is in play. A great way to keep track is by judging the feel of the rubber against your index finger, which will lie flat against the bat.

Practice makes perfect. It is likely to take a month or so to master the turning of the paddle; however, being aware of when to do so and the effects it can produce is likely to take longer. The best way to improve at the skill is to try to involve it in your game as much as possible.

Ready to give it a try? Head down to your local outdoor table tennis tables and get twiddling!

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Could health ‘gamification’ help keep childhood obesity at bay?

14th March 2014

Could health gamification help keep children fit?

Recent decades have seen the rise of a huge gaming culture. Children, and many adults it should be said, are nowadays often much more interested in playing on the computer or game console than heading outside for some much-needed exercise and play. When the latest game hits the market, queuing at some ungodly hour outside whatever retail establishment happens to publicise stocks is often the closest thing to exercise that many children are getting, and that really is not a healthy existence. If kids made their own rules, they would sit, for a solid week, in a darkened room with their new game, most likely armed with a supply of junk food until every last immersive level is complete. But is there something we can do about this? Is there any way that we can combine the fun of gaming with the need for fitness? With the rise of health gamification, it seems there is.

While computer games are fine in small doses, what is important to remember is that extended inactivity is of course unhealthy. Keeping our kids fit and active is incredibly important to ensuring their future happiness and well-being. Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the UK, with the latest statistics from the Health Survey for England showing that in 2012 over 28% of children aged 2-15 were considered overweight or obese. Scary statistics!

Getting children outside into the open, whether it’s down to your local outdoor gym or to the playground for a climb and run about, is a brilliant way to give them the room and the push in the right direction to exercise. However, as we know, this can sometimes be a challenge. Recent studies suggest that fitness trackers could be a successful way of engaging children’s interest and encouraging them to get outdoors and exercise.

Michelle Garrison, an epidemiologist at Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the University of Washington School of Medicine talks about the “gamification of health”, explaining that children are likely to respond well to these devices as getting fit “can be turned into what is essentially a video game”.

For parents, the new trackers can help to provide an insight into their children’s activity levels, giving information on when they are most lively as well as monitoring sleep duration and quality. Currently there are a number of companies working on designing trackers which are specifically aimed at children. Daniel Reeves, CEO of Beeminder, one of the businesses in this field, suggests that a key aspect which needs to be developed further is improving the simplicity of the devices. “Ideally the trackers should have a way for kids to instantly see the data,” Reeves said.

Progression of the technology is underway and it seems that fitness trackers could be the next big craze for kids and a great way to motivate them into getting active. Whatever your verdict on the trackers, it’s important that we find a way to get children outside and running around more to improve their health.

At Caloo we want to help kids all across the nation stay fit, healthy and active. We provide an extensive range of quality outdoor fitness and playground equipment to encourage youngsters to embrace the outdoors and exercise. Check out our exciting products by clicking here.

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Keep that ticker in tip-top condition with stress-busting exercise!

14th March 2014

Anger can kill, de-stress with exerciseYou’ve had a hard day, little annoyances have escalated and before you know it, your face is on fire, your heart is pounding and an unsuspecting victim gets the brunt of your white-hot rage. We all get irritated every now and again – it’s natural, it happens. Day-to-day life can sometimes be stressful; the key is to not let it get the better of you, because recent studies have shown that having a hot temper may increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

US researchers have analysed results from nine different studies which looked at the cardiovascular health of thousands of people. The findings show that rage often precedes an attack and people may be particularly at risk in the two-hour period following an angry outburst. The research highlights that people with existing issues such as heart disease are likely to be more vulnerable. The risk of a heart attack increases fivefold in this time slot immediately after a heated outburst, while the risk of having a stroke is three times higher.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health explain that the risk from a single outburst is fairly low: a one in 10,000 chance among those who are classed as being of low cardiovascular risk but an extra four per 10,000 people could be expected from the high cardiovascular risk category. As Dr Elizabeth Mostofsky explains: “Although the risk of experiencing an acute cardiovascular event with any single outburst of anger is relatively low, the risk can accumulate for people with frequent episodes of anger.”

The connections between anger and heart problems are not fully understood at this time and more research is needed to investigate the relationship. Doireann Maddock, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, stated that: “It may be linked to the physiological changes that anger causes to our bodies, but more research is needed to explore the biology behind this.” She also highlighted the importance of recognising and dealing with anger and stress. She explained that “learning how to relax can help you move on from high-pressure situations”, and suggested physical activity is a great solution for many people.

We know for sure that exercise can be a great way to combat stress and positively channel some of that pent-up emotion. At Caloo we are committed to getting the nation moving. We specialise in the provision of high-quality outdoor fitness equipment. Check out our range of outdoor gym kit and create a healthy haven for some stress-busting moves. It’s just what the doctor ordered!

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Could you be resting yourself into an early grave?

25th February 2014

Could you be resting yourself into an early grave?We all need to sit down and relax in front of the goggle-box to unwind at the end of a hard day, don’t we? I mean, it’s become habit for most of us to walk in and switch on the TV, moan about how tough the day has been, then spend hour after hour entranced by the magical box of light in the corner of the living room. But, could we be overdoing the time we spend on our gluteus maximus, and could doing so really risk our heart health? A recent study in the American Heart Association journal Circulation: Heart Failure suggests so.

The study, carried out over ten years by scientists at the health and wellness specialists and directories Kaiser Permanente in Pasadena in California, took 84,000 men with no identified heart problems, aged between 45 and 69, and measured their exercise levels and the time they spent outside work sitting down and the results were amazing.

  1. Irrespective of the amount of exercise they did, men who sat for five hours or more a day were 34% more likely to develop heart failure than those who sat for just two hours a day outside work. That’s huge.
  2. Men who only got involved in low levels of physical exercise were 52% more likely to develop heart failure than those whose exercise and fitness activities were at the higher end of the scale.
  3. Those whose fitness activities were at the lower end of the scale and sat for five hours or more were more than twice as likely to develop heart failure than those who lived more energised lives and sat for two hours or less.

These statistics are shocking to say the least, but it should be pointed out that this study was not a full cross-section of society. There were no women in the study, no note was taken of what the men did while at work, and the group were all selected from a pool of those with comprehensive health plans, so you can take from that what you will about the starting position of those in the study. However, I think we can still take away from this the sensible advice that if you don’t get out and exercise and you sit around for too long each day and night then you are playing Russian roulette with your heart.

Caloo have always championed the idea of outdoor exercise to keep moving and keep fit, and the extensive range of high-quality outdoor fitness equipment and bundles on offer at are a testament to our commitment to helping the nation to get up and get out. Take a look around our site, read a few of our blogs, and see whether we have the outdoor gym equipment that could transform your local park or your office outdoor space.

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Sport England offers table tennis funding, but are there strings attached?

20th February 2014

Funding for table tennisSport England, the body tasked with encouraging more people into sporting activities, has agreed to give six financially ailing sports millions of pounds in additional funds. However, they have all been warned that they need to do more to encourage young people into their respective sports if they are going to get more money in future.

The six sports in question are swimming, fencing, basketball, tennis, squash and yes, table tennis, and three of them, namely tennis, basketball and squash have specifically had some of their funds held back until they prove that they can do more to encourage grass root interest.

Sport England are committed to investing over a billion pounds of National Lottery and Exchequer funding in organisations and projects over the next few years with a goal of engaging more disabled and able-bodied young people aged between 14 and 25 in sporting activities. They believe that in England over 15.3 million people play a sport at least once a week, which falls a little short of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) target of at least an hour of physical activity every day, so Sport England know they have a way to go in the fight against lethargy and obesity.

Sport England are focusing much of their efforts on schools and universities, offering them connections with local sporting activities and providing them with facilities so young people can participate in sports from an early age.

The funds Sport England are currently distributing will be split as follows:

  • Swimming – £3.5m, though the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) has been told that they are not doing enough to increase the number of people who swim regularly.
  • Fencing – £1.33m, but their efforts to improve participation have been described as disappointing.
  • Basketball – Although Sport England intend to increase their funding over the next few years they have decided not to invest the £3.2m they had set aside for the sport’s governing body because it has yet to prove that its plans for improved participation are strong enough to warrant the investment.
  • Tennis – £1.9m to the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), which is generally considered to be doing a good job.
  • Squash – £1.25m to stem the tide of people moving away from the sport.
  • Table tennis – £2.3m has been invested in table tennis, increased from £2.27m last year after what they describe as ‘good progress’. An additional £1.7m has been committed to core funding up to 2017 and a further quarter of a million pounds have been set aside for recreational projects.

The message from Sport England was clear, as their Chief Executive Jennie Price said: “If they don’t grow participation, we will reduce their funding and we won’t make long-term investments until we have confidence in their ability to deliver.” Stern words that should be heeded by all.

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Research finds that outdoor exercise can speed up weight loss

20th February 2014

Exercise outside can speed up weight lossThose in the fitness and wellness industries are always on the lookout for the next big weight loss thing, the technique or strategy, plan or diet that will help people, and ultimately populations, to win their own personal battle against the world obesity crisis. Well, maybe it has been in front of them all along, though there’s little likelihood that anyone would have been shouting warmer, warmer, as they got closer to the solution!

The answer, according to research carried out by a team at Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands and published recently in Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, is to turn the heat down when you are indoors. In fact the study says that varying indoor temperatures, that are closer to those experienced outdoors, at different times of the day and night is what helps. Logic then dictates that getting outdoors more often is going to be good for you.

Today, we spend most of our lives indoors, especially here in the UK where the cold and the rain have us running for cover more often than not. And, no matter whether we’re at home or at work, we all benefit from the building industry’s improved thermal efficiencies, thanks to our drive to more sustainable living construction methods in recent years. Essentially, we have become so good at insulating our buildings that we are able to maintain temperatures at almost any level, and more often than not this means the thermostat being stuck on a temperature far higher than is needed, just so we can all be toasty warm. However, this new report suggests that this may be less than healthy for us all, and that being kept mildly cold may be the best way to keep from acquiring an expanding waistline.

We’re not talking about making an extreme change where you’re left shivering, cold-to-the-bone cold. Mild cold means just turning the thermostat down a little at various times of the day. A Japanese study along the same lines found that just two hours a day at 17 degrees for six weeks resulted in a decrease in body fat. Apparently it has a lot to do with the production of something called ‘brown’ fat, which generates heat when we are cold and aids in the burning of calories. Although the Netherlands study is yet to be completed, they are warmed by the results of their study which has been keeping its participants at ‘mildly cold’ temperatures for six hours a day for ten days and they have already seen increased levels of brown fat.

According to the study it’s not only the temperature of the environment, it’s the variation of that temperature during the day to mimic the outdoors. Therefore, we say, why not get out and about while you exercise? Get fit outdoors and not only will you get all the benefits of the fresh air on top, but you’ll be motivated to get even fitter to stay warm, building your brown fat deposits that will help you to stay fit, not fat.

So the next time your partner goes to turn the thermostat up to 23 (in our household the thermal difference between us is around four degrees so the poor old thermostat sees a lot of toing and froing), point out that if they’re keen to stay as trim as you’ve always thought they were, then maybe the temperature should stay where it is!

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Are we really 15% less fit than our parents were?

20th February 2014

Are we really 15% less fit than our parents were at our age?
Have you ever seen your dad go for a jog or your mum lifting weights? Of course not, they’re far too busy looking after their jobs, home and you. But interestingly, it seems as though when they were your age they were probably fitter than you are now!

Impossible, I hear you cry. I’ve got that gym membership (that I went along to once in 2005), and I jog all the time (to the station from my car when I’m late in the mornings or to avoid missing the last train home after a night out with friends), and what about all the time I spend with my kids in the park (watching them run around the playground equipment and pushing them on the swings)!

According to the American Heart Association it takes children today, on average, 90 seconds longer to run a mile than it took children of a similar age to do so 30 years ago. The statistics came from 50 studies involving 25 million kids, aged between nine and 17, in 28 countries between 1964 and 2010. The conclusion of the research was that each generation over the last 30 years has been slower and fatter than the one before, with heart-related fitness declining by 5% for every ten years of the research statistics.

It’s no surprise then that WHO (World Health Organisation) believes that possibly up to 80% of children worldwide are not getting enough daily exercise.

Now we can blame this on the invention of the game station, the sedentary lives of both children and adults who sit for most of their time in front of one screen or another while they are home, at work, in school or en route to their next destination, but the reality is that we just don’t push ourselves or our children to get out and about as much as we used to do ourselves.

Outdoor exercise of a quick jog or a game of footy in the park has been replaced by X-Box and unused gym memberships, rambles in the woods or the use of fitness equipment has been substituted for Angry Birds on the iPad and a film on a Saturday morning. We have used technology as an excuse to closet ourselves indoors in centrally heated bliss rather than getting out in all weather, getting muddy, running about and coming home cold and exhausted covered from head to foot in the dust and dirt of whatever surface you were playing in.

So come on dads and mums, uncles and aunts, being 15% fitter than the younger generation may sound like a win but it really isn’t. Take a little responsibility for getting them outdoors getting fit, outside exercising, and down the local outdoor gym today, no matter the weather.

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