Fitness Features

A wide range of interesting topics for your information :-


Throughout history, and through all societies, mankind has always danced.  Dancing, and the moving to rhythms and music, have always been fundamental to the strength and structure of tribal communities, being used habitually for example, in rituals; ceremonial, sacrificial, or religious events; in celebration; and even for war or black magic.  It is fair to say that dance is therefore one of mankind's most natural and instinctive forms of exercise, evolving in a multitude of ways from prehistoric times to the present day.  Recently it has reached out to both men and women once again, with it's new-age forms of ballroom dancing - and ballroom dancing has now become a part of the entertainment industry, which has given it it's rising appeal.

The social benefits :-

Dancing can be incredibly enjoyable.  But what most people don't know is that it also has a large number of health benefits, not only for the body but also for the mind.  It can make your body and soul feel good in a way that no other exercise can.  The benefits of dancing are unparalleled.  Yes, it can help you to lose weight; strengthen and tone your body; increase stamina and flexibility; and improve your balance and posture: but dancing is also fun, and as a social activity it provides many opportunities to meet other people, and studies have shown that strong social ties and socialising with friends contribute to high self esteem, and a positive outlook.  Joining a dance class can increase self confidence and build social skills, and the physical activity reduces stress, depression and loneliness, and regular dancing gives an overall sense of well being.  Although in modern times the appeal of dancing with men has fluctuated, in the last number of years the most popular forms of dance have included men just as much as women.  Whether it be dancing the Waltz, Cha Cha Cha, or Jive, dancing can be a great form of exercise for anyone.

The physical benefits :-

Dancing can be used in place of regular low impact exercises such as cycling, walking, or aerobics. Depending on the form of the dance, you can actually burn a large amount of calories doing it.   Research has shown that a 150 pound adult can actually burn approximately 150 calories doing 30 minutes of social dancing.  The best part is that you are not even thinking about losing the weight while doing it.

When you dance, you use and move all the different parts of your body, therefore using all of the different muscles groups - and usually in a low impact way (depending on the type of dancing - but ballroom dancing is a great example of this) - therefore, helping to strengthen and tone your muscles without hurting your joints.  It also helps to strengthen your bones, and tone your entire body.  All forms of dance are known to lower your risk of heart disease; help lower blood pressure and cholesterol; help with weight loss; balance and coordination; increase lung capacity; improve flexibility; and strengthen the bones and muscles in your legs and hips.

For the mind :-

Researchers believe that dancing can also keep your mind and body healthy as you age - even retarding the ageing process immensely - and so therefore is tremendously beneficial in keeping us young.  Any kind of dancing increases the number of chemicals being produced in the brain to help with the growth of nerve cells.  More importantly, dances that require you to learn certain steps can actually increase your brain power and help to improve your cognitive, and memory skills.  This is because when you dance you don't just move your feet, you engage your brain and stimulate neuromuscular pathways that control the communication between your brain and your muscles.  It's holistic, taking a 'whole body' approach to fitness that is not necessarily always found in the more regimental forms of exercise.

Research has shown that dance is beneficial in the direct treatment of a number of conditions including arthritis, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, dementia, and depression.  A report from the New England Journal of Medicine found that taking part in ballroom dancing, for example, reduced the chances of getting dementia by 76 per cent.

Studies both in Germany and at the University of New England found that dance lowers levels of stress hormones and significantly lowers levels of depression.  Social interaction, shared experience, and the self-confidence that dance can bring, all contribute to improved self-esteem.  So being active with other people, in a dance class environment for example, can really help to fight depression.

Get dancing :-

So, with so many benefits for good health and general well being ...... if you don't already ...... don't you think that you should ........ GET DANCING ?! :-




In 1997 The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognised obesity as a global epidemic.

Since then, according to the Department of Health, it's estimated that obesity costs the NHS £4 billion per year, and will rise to £6.5 billion by 2015.

It is a sad fact that Great Britain is now the fattest nation in Europe with 24% of us being obese compared to 8% in Italy, 9% in France and 12% in Germany and Spain.  The key illnesses associated with obesity are Type 2 Diabetes, Hypertension, Heart Attack, Colon Cancer, Angina, Gall Bladder Disease, Ovarian Cancer, Osteoarthritis, and Stroke.

Because of this, in December 2006, the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE), a government body looking at best practice in healthcare, published guidelines on obesity, which include strategies on achieving and maintaining a healthy weight :-

Through diet :-

1) Base meals on starchy foods such as potatoes, bread, rice and pasta, choosing whole grain where ever possible.

2) Eat plenty of fibre-rich foods - such as oats, beans, peas, lentils, grains, seeds, fruit and vegetables, as well as whole grain bread and brown rice and pasta.

3) Eat at least five portions of a variety of  fruit and vegetables each day, in place of foods higher in fat and calories.

4) Eat a low-fat diet and avoid increasing your fat and/or calorie intake.

5) Eat as little as possible of fried foods; drinks and confectionary high in added sugars; other food and drinks high in fat and sugar, such as some take-away and fast foods.

6) Eat breakfast.

7) Watch the portion size of meals and snacks, and how often you are eating.

8) Minimise the calories that you take in from alcohol.

In the US,  Harvard University's School of Public Health have produced the following chart, illustrating comparable dietary advice for good health and weight management (2012) :-

Through activity :-

1) Make enjoyable activities - such as walking, cycling, swimming, aerobics and gardening - part of everyday life.

2) Minimise sedentary activities, such as sitting for long periods watching television, at a computer, or playing video games.

3) Build activity into the working day - for example, take the stairs instead of the lift, or take a walk at lunchtime.

In Summary :-

A waist circumference of 102 cm or over in men, and 88 cm or over in women, is associated with a substantially increased risk in cardiovascular disease, and other health risks.

However, even if you are a healthy weight, it is still important to include regular physical activity into your lifestyle, alongside a healthy diet.

Aim to do a minimum of 30 minutes of at least moderate intensity physical activity on five or more days a week.  The activity can be in one session, or several lasting 10 minutes or more.  If you want to lose weight then aim for 45-60 minutes of moderate intensity activity per day plus reduced energy intake to really get some effective results.

Group exercise classes, combined with sensible eating habits, will set you up to be healthy for life !





In simple terms, losing weight is just a basic mathematical equation : -  

If you consume more calories in one day than you expend, you will put on weight; if you consume less, you will lose it; and if you consume the same, your weight will remain constant.

To generate a negative energy balance, you will need a combination of a small calorie restriction over the course of one day, with a simultaneous increase in your daily energy expenditure through some form of exercise.

Guidelines for successful weight loss recommend reducing energy intake by 500-1000 calories per day, thereby promoting a 1-2lb per week weight loss.  Exercise should also be progressively increased to a minimum of 150 minutes (2.5 hours) per week of moderate intensity exercise.  Increasing this further to 200 minutes per week, makes it easier to maintain long term weight loss.  The long term benefits include : -

1) Weight loss occurs in a safe and controlled manner.

2) The calorie deficit is not dramatic, therefore it has greater adherence rates, and also prevents the common yo-yo effect in body weight levels.

3) Exercise provides a significant cardiovascular health benefit, reducing the risk of coronary heart disease.

Avoid large calorie restriction : -

Unfortunately, significantly restricting ones calorie intake is a popular practice, but this can actually have adverse effects.

Whilst placing your body into a state of nutritional deficiency may increase the amount of fat utilised, it will also lead to a significant reduction in your carbohydrate stores, and a significant breakdown of protein in addition to fat.  If these circumstances occur, the body tends to adopt the "survival strategy" of lowering its metabolic rate (the rate of burning calories) in order to conserve its fuel stores.  

This 'slowing down' of the metabolic rate then has adverse effects on weight loss, as the total additional calories burnt from fat to maintain energy requirements will decrease as the total energy demand decreases, plus the enzyme lipoprotein lipase will actually promote the storage of fat in such states of nutritional deficiency.  Also, the quality and frequency of your exercise will decrease as you will not have sufficient levels of energy.

Therefore, in order to achieve your long term weight loss goals, there is no need to dramatically restrict your calorie intake.  The most effective method of weight loss is achieved by a combination of both sensible, healthy eating, of a well balanced diet, and exercise.  Drastic diets cannot be maintained for long, but small changes such as reducing fat intake in particular, and increasing activity levels, really can help facilitate the long term maintenance of weight loss.

A mind-body approach has to be the way forward : -

The difference between someone who wants to lose weight and someone wanting to stop smoking is that smokers can delete that behaviour completely, whereas to lose weight you can't stop eating - you have to eat several times every day - so in order to make changes, you have to learn to think and feel differently about food.

When it comes to exercise regimes there is a clear response relationship between the amount of exercise and the amount of weight lost.  However, it is never just about physiology, and many people cannot physically manage the required activity levels and end up 'failing', which results in them giving up and feeling disillusioned.

The behavioural aspects of weight loss are therefore very important too, and the utilisation of effective behavioural change techniques can be very beneficial.

When people 'fail' to do it 'naturally' they often look to medication for an answer.  The NHS Information Centre has estimated costs of directly treating obese patients, and state that: "The total NIC for drugs for the treatment of obesity increased from £6.6 million in 2000 to £46.8 million in 2009, reaching it's peak in 2007 a £51.6 million."  Whilst there's no doubt that some individuals might benefit from some medicated intervention, the potential benefits of behavioural intervention should be considered.

In the last ten years there has been an increase in the demand for new therapeutic styles of behavioural intervention.  These include neurolinguistic programming (NLP), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), hypnosis, and life coaching.  These are all techniques or skills that can be learned over a period of as little as two weeks in some cases.

There is much synergy between all of these 'talking therapies', the main common denominator being enhancing the power of imagination to bring about a change in thinking, and to want to make positive changes naturally.





If you sit at a computer all day, there are probably times when you reach for snack foods and caffeine-laden drinks.  If this is the case, you are certainly not doing much for your health, waistline, or productivity.

Breakfast like a king :-

Research has shown that eating breakfast can improve mental performance, levels of concentration, mood, memory, and make you feel more alert.  But rather than grabbing a coffee and croissant on the way to work, take a stock of cereals, fresh fruit and yoghurt with you instead.  This is cheaper and more nutritious.  Opt for high fibre, lower salt cereals - such as muesli, porridge, or other wholegrain cereals - wholegrain breads, fruit smoothies, dried and fresh fruits, yoghurt and fresh fruit juice.

Feed the brain, and take a break :-

Although sitting at a desk all day is not going to require a great deal of energy, you still need to fuel the brain.  A lack of carbohydrate will make you feel fatigued, sluggish, irritable and unable to concentrate.  Eating small amounts of carbohydrate-rich foods during the day will keep the brain powered, but don't overdo it as sitting at a desk only uses approximately 80-110 kcals per hour.  As well as burning calories, a burst of activity such as a lunchtime swim will make you feel energised.

The right type of foods to eat :-

Eating small quantities of the right types of carbohydrate foods during the day will help maintain concentration.  Carbohydrates are digested and absorbed by the body at different speeds.   Those that are absorbed into the blood stream quickly are known as high glycaemic index (GI) foods and cause a quicker rise in blood glucose levels.  Those that produce a gentler rise in blood glucose levels are known as low glycaemic index foods.  Lower GI foods allow the blood glucose levels to remain at a steadier level thus maintaining energy levels during the course of the day.  Research has shown other benefits to having more low-GI food in the diet such as : helping to lower blood fats; aiding weight loss by increasing the sense of fullness; reducing appetite and helping to reduce the risk of developing heart disease and possibly type II diabetes.

These types of foods also tend to be richer in fibre and so also help to produce healthy bowel function.

So at lunchtime, lower GI options include wholegrain/soya and linseed breads, basmati rice, pasta or sweet potato, with some protein such as chicken, turkey, prawns, beans, lean beef or ham, lower fat cheeses, plus salad and fruit.  If hungry during the day, snack on dried and fresh fruits, cereal bars, oatcakes, fruit smoothies, and low-fat yoghurt.

Don't forget to stay hydrated :-

Fluid accounts for 70% of our body weight, so it makes sense that what and how much we drink will affect our health and how we feel.

Dehydration has been shown to affect mental functioning, arithmetic ability, short-term memory and attention span.  So if you are seriously flagging at work, think about what you are drinking.  Have a 1.5-2 litre bottle of water on your desk and aim to get through it by the end of the day.  Try to avoid excessive amounts of caffeine-rich drinks regularly as this can cause a mild dependency, and so when you drink less of them you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, irritability and fatigue.  High doses of caffeine can also have a diuretic effect.  However, there is no evidence that drinking 2-3 cups of tea/coffee per day will do any harm - just remember to drink other fluids as well.

When exercising, make sure that you are not one of the 65% who turn up to classes already dehydrated as it is very likely to affect both the effectiveness of your workout and your enjoyment of it.  

A little exercise :-

In addition to addressing the issue of food and fluids, remember to get up from your desk regularly, stretch your legs, and re-focus, get out at lunchtime to recharge your batteries, and include physical activity in your day-to-day routine.




Over 40% of us regularly take at least one vitamin or mineral supplement, but do they really improve our health, or are they just money down the drain ?

In an ideal world people would follow a regime of regular exercise and healthy eating, such as a fully varied and nutritious diet.  There then wouldn't be a need for additional vitamins and dietary supplements (e.g protein drinks).  However, we all know that time pressure, combined with modern food choices and farming methods has reduced the range of nutrients available to us.

Supplements can help provide convenience and make up for short falls in our diets.  If diet alone was adequate then we wouldn't have a large percentage of the population showing deficiencies in certain nutrients, such as omega 3 fats, b-vitamins and things like vitamin D.

Statistically, people are buying more supplements and this is both good and bad.  It's good as people might be more health aware but it is bad if they are using them instead of a varied diet.  Advertising probably has lot to do with it, as do diet programmes which rely overtly on shakes as meal replacements.

In the real world people are simply not eating appropriately.  This is due to an over emphasis on omega 6 fats, a generally inadequate level of  proteins and omega 3 fatty acids, combined with excess grain consumption and severely restricted vegetable and fruit consumption.  B-vitamins are also hugely lacking in people's diets, along with magnesium and other essential minerals.

It should be noted that if you supplement regularly it is advisable to get your bloods checked from a medical professional.

Also, make sure to look out for brands with a pharmaceutical grade, they should follow GMP manufacturing standards, drug screening, and use quality forms of ingredients - e.g. no fillers or binders.  They should also keep to bioavailable forms of minerals and vitamins - using the enzyme activated forms where possible.

Therefore, if you are going to use supplements make sure you do your research and also ensure that you follow a health, balanced and varied diet plan.

Matt Lovell, performance nutritionist.



Should being sick put you off training, or should you power through ?

There are of course arguments both for and against.  Exercising is after all food for you and often getting up, and out of the house is better than staying cooped up in bed.  However, others would argue that being sick is your body's way of telling you to slow down and you should therefore take the opportunity to rest.

An article in The Huffington Post weighed up the pros and cons of exercising whilst feeling ill. 

It said that if you have 'above the neck' symptoms ie. headache, runny nose, sore throat, but DON'T have a fever, then you can work out as planned - just notch the intensity down from high to moderate. As soon as these symptoms disappear, you can resume high intensity training.

If you have 'below the neck' symptoms ie. muscle aches (non workout related), a chesty cough, swollen lymph glands, vomiting, diarrhoea, extreme tiredness - then either rest, or keep workout intensity low.  You can increase to moderate intensity once the symptoms start to subside, but give it a good two weeks before increasing back up to high intensity workouts. 

On the whole it argued that exercising whilst ill was the right approach, providing that you kept the intensity low to medium.

However, it did outline the following Don'ts :-

1) Do NOT exercise if you have a fever.  A temperature indicates your body is trying to fight something, so adding stress by working out is going to inhibit this process, at best prolonging the illness and at worst, causing it to develop into something much more serious.

2) Do NOT work out at the gym whilst you are contagious.  You might feel up to it, but the other gym users at risk of being of infected will be less than appreciative.  Don't be selfish - stick to home or outdoor training.

3) Do NOT give up altogether.  Use your downtime to focus on general well-being - meditative yoga and short walks are both great options when training is out of the question.

4) Do NOT immediately try to make up for lost time.  Once you're able to resume workouts, don't attempt to start from where you left off.  Instead, gradually work back up to your usual training intensity.  Doing too much too soon could potentially trigger another bout of illness - your immune system will be weakened and you'll be extra susceptible.  Apply common sense and listen to your body.  If you start to feel dizzy or nauseous, slow down.

Ultimately, it is up to the individual.  Everyone is different, and if you are unsure of your symptoms you should of course consult your GP.

Courtesy of REPs and The Huffington Post.



All year we put so much effort into maintaining that fitness regime, and then let it slip when we go on holiday.  Sound familiar ?  Well now there's no excuse for being lazy with all the activity holidays on offer.  That's not to say that you can't have fun and relax at the same time - it just means that you won't have to work extra hard at regaining your fitness when you get back !

There are a vast array of activity holidays from which to choose your ideal break.  Whether you are off for a fun time with the girls, your partner, or taking the family on their annual break, you are guaranteed to find something to suit you.  You can do as much or as little as you want, but one thing is for sure - with this type of holiday, you won't have time to let boredom set in.

Activities Abroad :-

Activities Abroad are a provider of year-round adventure activity holidays.  They offer a WET WET WET... WET WET !!!  weekend away in Slovenia and the Julian Alps.  This is the holiday for you if you love adventure and want something to get your pulse racing.  This adrenalin-filled weekend includes five river-based activities ranging from gentle night canoeing to exhilarating hydrospeeding.  With beautiful scenery as an added bonus it sounds like an amazing weekend.

Sunsail Clubs :-

Sunsail Clubs offer a variety of activities in great locations such as Antigua, Turkey, and Greece. What an experience it would be to do your usual fitness class on the beach !  Private tennis lessons are also on offer so you can return from your holiday with an extra skill or you could spend a day scuba diving or on a mountain biking adventure.  Sunsail also has watersports holidays where you can use dinghies, go windsurfing, yachting, water skiing, wakeboarding or canoeing.  The list is endless !  But if all that activity gets a bit much then you can just take advantage of the beauty treatments, massages, or go on one of the local excursions or sightseeing trips.  These holidays seem perfect if you are after a bit of variety, or if you are going away with the family who all want to do different things.

Neilson :-

Neilson is another activity holiday expert who caters for beginners and experts alike.  You could go skiing and snowboarding, biking or sailing - and all in the most exotic of locations.  Even if you are considering travelling alone you are guaranteed a great time as they promise to look after their solo holiday makers.  Neilson even offers a way of getting in touch with other solo travellers before you go.

Action-Outdoors :-

If it is a climbing, flying, horse riding or hiking weekend you are after, Action-Outdoors has a huge list of locations to choose from.  They offer all-inclusive holidays and pride themselves in being extremely good value.

Do-It-Yourself :-

So as you can see there is so much out there to allow you to incorporate activity into your summer holiday.  But if you are just going away on a normal holiday and are really determined not to abandon your exercise regime during your time away, there are still things that you could do.  You could take a skipping rope or resistance bands with you - both are lightweight and can assist you in a great workout.  Or try going for a 15 minute jog in the mornings before the sun gets too strong.  You could follow this with a session of lunges, squats, press ups and sit ups.  It will leave you feeling great and then you have the whole day ahead of you to do as you please.  

So what excuse do you have now ?!





Sleep is the ultimate training companion, and boosts everything from muscle repair to growth and temperature regulation.  Most people though are surprised to learn that sleeping is a skill that can be honed and improved through practice and understanding.  The following article by Dr Guy Meadows (PhD) discusses the relationship between sleep and fitness, and explores techniques for improving the quality of sleep.

Imagine a world where you could sleep less and yet have more daytime energy.  This may sound like a dream but with the correct knowledge and regular training it is possible to achieve.  Learning to sleep is just like physical training; better techniques lead to greater gains.  Understanding and respecting the sleeping process should be an essential element of your personal training plan.

Optimising fitness :-

Sleep is essential for many functions in the human body including the recovery of energy, managing memory, regulation of temperature and hormones, and maintaining the immune system.  With regards to physical fitness, sleep is unequivocally the body's most important training aid as this is when the body undergoes the majority of it's growth and repair.  Unfortunately sleep is the one thing that most of us believe that we do not get enough of, or could do with more of.  In fact most of us believe that we need eight hours of sleep every night to function at our very best and any less will lead to daytime fatigue, poor performance and even illness.  Unfortunately since the majority of us lead busy lives and do not have the luxury of eight hours in bed, this presents a potential problem.  Thankfully the restorative effects of sleep are not solely dependent on the length of time you sleep.

The importance of sleep quality and sleep efficiency cannot be underestimated, and by optimising these factors, you can start to experience more daytime energy from less sleep.  This applies to training as well, as improved sleep quality means greater physical growth and repair, leading to boosted physical performance.

Letting go :-

Most of us take sleep for granted, as something that just happens every night that we do not have control of or need to bother about.  It's only when we can't sleep that we suddenly learn how important it is and start giving it the respect that it deserves.  Falling asleep is the essence of  'letting go' and something that can be quite challenging if we have a lot on our minds.  Understanding how to 'let go' of the problems we face can therefore be a very effective tool in making our lives easier.

Modern therapies such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT); mindfulness based cognitive therapy and acceptance; and commitment therapy, can teach us to 'let go' and 'accept' our problems rather than constantly trying to fight with them in an effort to fix them. 

Cognitive Behaviour Therapies :-

CBT is based on the Cognitive Model of Emotional Response.  This means that it is based on the idea that our thoughts cause our feelings and behaviours, not external things, like people, situations, and events.  The benefit of this fact is that we can change the way we think, to feel and act better, even if the situation does not change.  So it is learning how to think differently, and acting on that learning.

Reference :- NACBT Online Headquarters

Final thought :-

Remember also to live in the moment, and notice what is happening, as this can allow you to choose how you wish to respond to your experiences rather than being driven by old knee jerk habits that have built up over time.

Courtesy of REPs.



The success of injury healing can be boosted by appropriate, effective and timely action particularly in the first 72 hours after injury.  Any 'soft-tissue' is subject to injury including ligaments (which join bones to bones), and tendons (which join muscles to bones and to muscles themselves).  The immediate reaction of the body to injury is similar, irrespective of the soft tissue structure, and is known as an inflammatory reaction.  Injuries can be caused by over-stretching, bruising, or crushing. A strain describes over stretching of a muscle, while a sprain describes over stretching of a ligament or tendon.

The inflammatory reaction :-

Tissue injury usually involves damage to small blood vessels that results in bleeding at the site of injury.  This bleeding leads to the four main signs of inflammation :-

1) Heat - chemicals released from the damaged tissue causes dilation of surrounding blood vessels to bring healing agents to the area.  The result is more blood and therefore heat.

2) Redness - is due to the increase in blood to the area.

3) Pain - is caused by the chemicals released from the injured tissues, as well as the increased tissue pressure from the fluid acting on nearby nerve endings.

4) Swelling - is the result of this accumulation of extra fluid.

This inflammatory reaction is necessary as it is part of the natural healing process.  However, the body tends to overreact to sudden traumatic injury and as a result more inflammatory fluid accumulates than is necessary for healing.  This fluid contains a protein that turns into replacement 'scar' tissue.  If too much is allowed to form it may prevent the structure returning to normal function with reduced flexibility and increased risk of re-injury. 

PRICE protocol :-

Anyone experiencing an injury should benefit from the following recommendations, which should be carried out immediately, and for up to 3-5 days after injury.  These are remembered by the acronym PRICE.

Protect :-

Aim: To protect the injured tissue from undue stress that may disrupt the healing process, and/or cause further injury.

How: This could include splinting or bandaging by a medical professional, or simply rest, slings, or crutches.  Complete immobilisation isn't usually necessary or desirable.  Make sure the method of protection can accommodate swelling.

When and duration: Immediately, and for 3-5 days depending on injury severity.

Rest :-

Aim: Rest reduces the energy requirements of the area; avoids any unnecessary increase in blood flow; ensures protection of the area, and optimises healing.
How: Use slings, crutches, or static rest (ie. sitting or lying down).
When and duration: Immediately after injury and for 3-5 days depending on injury severity.  Complete rest isn't desirable but any movement needs to be carefully controlled.

Ice :-

Aim: Ice is used to limit the body's over reaction by reducing the temperature of the injured tissue and therefore the energy requirements and subsequent influx of blood.  The ice helps constrict the blood vessels thereby limiting bleeding and reducing the accumulation of unnecessary tissue protein.
How: Crushed ice wrapped in a damp towel or cloth is best (ice cubes can be wrapped in the cloth and smashed against a wall to crush them).  Alternatively ice in a plastic bag; a frozen gel pack; or a packet of frozen peas, is a cheap and practical substitute.  A damp towel must be placed between the ice and the skin to avoid ice burn.
When and duration: The sooner ice can be applied the better.  Ice should be applied for between 20-30 minutes every 3-4 hours.  If the area is very bony such as the elbow, reduce this time to around 10 minutes.  Do not return to activity immediately, as the ice will have an analgesic 'numbing' effect.

Compression :-

Aim: Compression limits an unnecessary accumulation of inflammatory fluid and ultimately over production of scar tissue.
How: Simple off-the-shelf compression bandages such as Tubigrip and adjustable neoprene supports are best for self-application.  The area should be compressed a minimum of six inches above and below the site of injury.  It should be flexible enough to accommodate initial swelling and continue to apply pressure as this reduces.  The application of bandages and strapping is best left to a medical practitioner.  Loosen the compression if you feel pins and needles around the compressed area.
When and duration: As soon as possible following injury, and continue for the first 72 hours.

Elevation :-

Aim: To lower the blood pressure and therefore help limit bleeding and encourage drainage of fluid through the lymphatic system.

How: Using pillows, foot stools, slings etc.

When and duration: As soon as possible following injury and for the first 72 hours.

Courtesy of REPs.



What is the menopause ?

As most women know, menopause is the cessation of periods marking the end of  the childbearing period.  It is considered to happen 12 months after the last menstrual period and usually occurs around the age of 52.  The early stage, peri-menopause, starts 5 to 10 years earlier and symptoms can last for many years.  For some it is a difficult time while for others it brings relief from menstrual irregularities and a sense of freedom.

Symptoms and effects of menopause :-

There are a number of symptoms associated with menopause and these can range in severity over time.  It is estimated that 75% of women will experience symptoms, the most common include: hot flushes; night sweats; disturbed sleep patterns; weight gain; vaginal discomfort; irregular or changed periods; mood swings and depression.

For some women menopause triggers a range of emotions, and while many women feel a sense of relief at the end of periods and the physical and mental problems they cause, others experience more negative emotions, ranging from sadness or a sense of loss at the end of the child bearing phase, to a disturbed sense of self.  These feelings can be transient and mild, or they may have a deeper effect, so it is important to seek professional help if you feel depressed or anxious during this time.

Menopause and physical activity :-

As well as the above symptoms, the combination of menopause and low levels of activity carries some significant health risks.  These include a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis, and reduced physical function.  The good news is that regular activity can lower these risks and may also help to alleviate their effects.

Why exercise :-

Exercise has many physical and mental benefits and can help you to improve your health and well being if you are approaching or past menopause, and specific benefits include heart health; muscle health; bone health; and mental health, but there are many more reasons to be active.  Start as early as you can - in your teens or twenties if possible.  If you are older, then get going now !

Start slowly, and choose something you like doing to help motivate you.  Walking is one of the easiest activities to start with, and being outside will help to improve your mental health.  You may like the gym or exercise classes, or prefer swimming.  Just remember that any activity is better than none, so start with a little and increase it gradually.

What type of activity is best :-

While stamina based activity is particularly important for health benefits, you also need to include some strength and flexibility based activity to get the best health gains :-

1) Stamina type activities : walking, swimming, cycling, dancing, tennis, and housework (washing floors or windows).

2) Strength type activities : walking uphill, carrying shopping, climbing stairs, gardening (digging or mowing) and housework.

3) Flexibility type activities : dancing, Pilates, yoga, and T'ai Chi.

Tips on increasing your activity level :-

1) Use activity or puzzles as a way of diverting your cravings.

2) Develop a pattern that it is the 'regular' rather than the activity that is important in the early stages.

3) There is evidence that being active outside and particularly around green spaces like parks, makes you fell mentally better.

4) Walking is an ideal activity as it's free and easy to do anywhere.  Perhaps take a dog for a walk to make it more interesting or use a pedometer to count your steps.

5) Look for opportunities to be active during your whole day.  For example park at the far end of the car park, or walk one stop further to catch the bus, and take 10 minutes out of your lunch break to go for a walk.

6) Try using the stairs instead of the escalator.  If you do use the escalator start by walking part of the way up, and progress to walking up the whole way.

7) Choose activities that you enjoy doing.  Involve your friends and family to make your activities fun, sociable, and enjoyable.

How much and how often :-

Frequency :-

Your main aim is to build up to 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity on 5 or more days of the week.  If this seems too much to start with, try starting with 3x10 minute walks spread throughout the day, and work towards 2x15 minute walks, and then 30 continuous minutes.  One goal is to try and increase your activity by 2 minutes each day.  If weight loss is a goal, then you need to aim for 250-300 minutes per week, or 60 minutes x5 days per week.

Intensity :-

Moderate intensity means breathing harder and getting warmer than normal.  It does not need to be hard.  You should be able to talk and be active at the same time.

How to exercise :-

Whatever your chosen activity, it should be performed at a gentle intensity which gradually increases, until after about 10 minutes you have reached the level you can maintain for your chosen period of activity.  This gets the blood flowing to your muscles and allows your heart rate to increase gradually. When you are nearing the end of your activity, you should also slowly decrease the level of activity over 5-10 minutes, to allow your heart rate to slow down gradually.  Remember, set yourself realistic goals, and don't worry if you miss one day.  Just make sure that the next day you pick up where you left off.

Courtesy of REPs.



There seems to be a fear amongst women that lifting heavy weights will cause them to bulk up and leave them with unwanted muscles.

Amanda Khouv from Women's Fitness recently outlined six good reasons as to why the ladies out there should be lifting heavier weights.  Her number one reason for lifting weights is that it prolongs your life.  She explains that the essential muscle mass which you build when lifting heavier weights can play an important role in reducing blood pressure, tackling obesity, and reducing the risk of developing diabetes. 

The article also outlines that although maintaining a healthy diet is important, adding heavy weight training will also help to fight off toxins from pollution, stress and alcohol.  Your bones and muscles store minerals which support your immune system and weight training keeps these cell spaces healthy.

Strength training plays an important role in weight loss.  Research shows that adding strength training to a calorie restriction program (diet) results in maintenance of weight loss (DL Ballor, et al 1988). Gary R. Hunter, et al (2000), who also conducted research in this area states that by performing strength training and gaining muscle you will burn more calories while resting, as strength training increases your metabolism.

In addition, Science Daily has also made clear that despite decades of doctor's reluctance to recommend weight training to pregnant women, a new University of Georgia study has found that a supervised, low-to-moderate intensity program is safe and beneficial.  

Here is a guide to how many reps and sets you should be performing depending on your exercise goal.

1) For general health and fitness :- 2-4 REPS, 8-12 SETS, 30-60 second REST PERIOD.

2) For maximal strength :- 1-6 REPS, 2-6 SETS, 2-5 minute REST PERIOD.

3) For power :- 1-5 REPS, 3-5 SETS, 2-5 minute REST PERIOD.

4) For muscle size (hypertrophy) :- 6-12 REPS, 3-6 SETS, 30-90 second REST PERIOD.

5) For muscle endurance :- 12+ REPS, 2-3 SETS, 30 second REST PERIOD.

Courtesy of REPs.