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Today is known as “fail Friday”. It’s the day that most of us will finally fall off the wagon and give up on our new year’s resolutions. Apart from getting a personal trainer, there are of course other ways to get fit. A great way is by using a fitness tracker. These little gadgets are usually in the form of a wrist watch, and can monitor how many steps you are doing, what your heart rate is, how many calories you’ve been through, how you are sleeping and other useful measurements. So if you’re falling off the wagon, try one of these, the best fitness trackers 2016.
1 – Fitbit surge. A great all-rounder, the surge can track both exercise and general health. It can automatically see what type of exercise you are doing – running, cycling, rowing – and will help you keep track of how you’re sleeping too. In-built GPS tracking monitors your training route, with run time, distance, pace and elevation stats clearly displayed. Whether you jog, run or cycle, you’ll be able to review your workout summary and spilt times at the end of each session. (£148 from www.currys.co.uk)
2 – Garmin forerunner 630. The big daddy here, this is a more comprehensive fitness tracker than many of it’s rivals. With a chest strap it can measure when you are getting close to your lactate threshold, essential for properly zoned training at an advanced level. When running it can also analyse your cadence, step rate and form. You can get predicted race times based on training, stress scores, a recovery advisor to tell when is the optimal time to go for another intense running session and a performance condition number based on pace and heart rate variability in real time. If you see a +5 reading, you’re in a good state to go running. (£330 from www.gamin.com)
3 – Polar M400. The best value of the fitness trackers looked at here, it’s really slim and compact, and doesn’t get in the way. It has built in GPs to track outdoors activities and can also monitor sleep patterns and track your steps. is one of the first fitness devices to bridge the gap between the fitness band and the GPS sports watch.It will also give you a nudge if you’ve been stationery for a long period. (£98 from www.fitnessdigital.co.uk)
4 – Tom Tom Spark. The tom-tom is one of the only dedicated fitness trackers that can also play music. With storage of 3GB it can stream music to bluetooth headphones – great as there are no niggling wires and you won’t have to take an iPod as well. It’s one of the few fitness trackers that actually looks ok as a watch, plus it has built in GPS, a heart rate sensor and you can track both daily and weekly goals. Our personal favourite. (£190 from www.johnlewis.com).
5 – Microsoft band 2. A hybrid between a fitness tracker and a smart phone, it has 11 sensors that monitor your heart rate, measure UV levels, tell you how far it is to the next green (golf setting) and other features. And you can read emails. But we feel it’s best to stay disconnected when running, keep hold of your zen. (£200 from www.microsoftstore.com)
Research shows that for the vast majority of us, making a New Year’s resolution is in vain. Polls show that by “fail Friday” – the 3rd Friday in January, most of us will have given up, with a little as 3% keeping a resolution up all year long. In this DDW special, we look at why they fail, and how to keep your new year’s resolution.
1 – Pick a better time of year. Although the calendar says it’s a new year, it’s actually not a good time to make lifestyle changes. We have just come out of a holiday, and a holiday that is filled with parties, celebrations and general debauchery, both on the eating and drinking front. Coming back to normality is hard enough; coming back to a harsh new regime is even harder.
On top of that it’s the depth of winter. Days are short, the weather’s poor, so getting out is harder. The cold and darkness also make our “inner chimp” crave high calorie, sweet and starchy foods, just in case winter might co-incide with a famine. So what time is a good time? That’s a really individual question. Choose a time when things are reasonably settled in your life. But as the weather and light improve so do your chances of success. We propose the return of British Summer Time should be the start of your resolution. So make a note in your diary that resolutions start on the 27th of March.
2 – Be specific, not vague. If you have vowed to “lose weight” or “drink less” good luck. These are vague, hard to measure goals that you won’t keep. Instead, go for small, specific goals with a specific time frame. So “lose weight” becomes “lose 4 lb by the end of January”. “Eat better” becomes “I’m going to eat really well for 3 days of the week until Valentine’s day”. “Drink less” becomes “I’m only going to drink on Friday and Saturday nights for 4 weeks”. Once you have set these smaller, more specific goals, reset, go again! If you fail, jot down why, make more reasonable goals, go again. Like team GB cycling, it’s all about marginal gains. Take care of the little things, the big picture will sort itself out.
3 – Go small, not big. As above, resolving to start marathon training might just be a bit ambitious. Instead make a small, achievable challenge. Aim to go out and walk/run for 15 minutes, 3 times a week. The amazing things that happen to your body will then encourage you to do more. Ariane de Bonvoisin writes in her book “The First 30 Days” that it takes 30 days to replace a bad habit with a good one (but many people fail at around two weeks). That’s why it’s so important to make it to mid-February.
4 – Be sympathetic, not perfect. As experienced personal trainers, we know know that not everyone does well all the time, even us! So an expectation of small failures is important. Allow leeway for stumbling. If you hit the kebab shop one Friday night just accept it, move on, and make a better choice the next time. One bad meal won’t ruin your efforts. Perfection is the obstacle to change.
5 – Blip vs trend. In weight loss we see this all the time – the blip. Clients will have eaten well during a given week, but not seen this reflected in the scales. Likely as not another good week of eating sees that weight loss come plus a bit more from the second week. Be prepared for blips. They are not failure. Keep at it, win enough small battles, you will win the war. If after a month you have not seen much progress then it’s time to think why. That’s a trend. Trends need addressing. Blips need dismissing.
6 – Get tech savvy. Luckily we live in the computer age. There are thousands of apps, gadgets, bands, websites and companies that can help you count calories, spend less, worry less and be happier. Do some research. Get an app!
7 – Get accountable. Tell everyone about your goals. That way you are not just letting yourself down if you give up. Go on Facebook, do a blog, get accountable. Not only is exercise more fun with a friend, but you won’t skip a workout if that means letting someone down.
8 – Get professional help. Would you change the timing belt on your car yourself? Then what makes you think that something as complex as getting fit is a DIY job too? All top athletes (or piano players, or accountants) had lessons from someone qualified to help. Got phobias? See a hypo-therapist. Need to eat better? See a dietitian. Really want to address your eating and fitness? Get a personal trainer. It doesn’t have to be forever, but just some knowledge and a kick start could be all that you need.
Over Christmas the average UK adult will put on 5lbs of weight. On Christmas day itself we consume an average of 7,000 calories. This is roughly the equivalent to 6 days’ worth of calories all in one go. Not only will the weight gain take effort to shift but it will also expand your stomach and cause large swings in blood sugar levels. This in turn can also lead to you feeling hungry and getting into a vicious cycle of hunger and unhealthy eating.
Although losing weight over the festive season might not be the most realistic of goals, how about a more achievable weight maintenance program? With just a bit of timely activity and some clever food choices – both in terms of timing and content – you can have your cake and eat it.
Doing all of the above may seem like a bit of an effort, but it will be much more of an effort to try and lose 5 lbs later on down the line. Especially in depressing January.
So take these simple steps and have a happy, but slim (ish) Christmas!
Bitwalking Dollars – get paid for walking!
In japan a digital currency ( like bitcoin) has been launched that pays you to walk. Literally. A phone app counts and checks users’ steps and then rewards them with around 1BW$ (Bitwalking dollar) for each 10,000 steps – this is the recommended daily average to maintain basic health and fitness levels. Users of the app can then spend or trade what they earn, or even redeem their bit walking dollars for cash.
Murata, a Japanese technology firm is to release a wristband, like the jawbone or fitbit that will count steps instead of a smartphone. Several manufacturers and banks in the UK are poised to partner with the scheme, initially at one of the UK’s biggest music festivals next year.
How will it work?
Bit walking hopes to take advantage of the current trend for fitness trackers by offering an extra incentive to get those steps in. The global scheme will partner with sports brands, health insurance companies, environmental groups and of course advertisers – this last group would be offered insights into the lifestyles of the participants to help target their advertising, thus raising revenue for the scheme. Employees would be invited to take part in a “step scheme” that encourages them to get fitter and take less sick leave, while employers would convert their bit walking revenue to be paid in addition to their wage. An average weekly earning in the western world would be around 15BW$ a month.
It is hoped that the real benefits may be to poorer nations, where people walk much further in their daily lives. In Malawi, where the average wage is just $1.50 a day, a teacher who has to walk 6 miles to work and back (this is a real example) could earn 26 Bitwalking dollars a month, roughly doubling his or her wage. This could then be invested into more education, investment in a business idea or helping an elderly relative. Thus advertising revenues gathered in the western world can be earned by people walking in poorer countries.
“It’s a currency that can be earned by anyone regardless of who they are and where they live,” says Franky Imbesi, one of the co-founders.
“For some it will be a free cup of coffee a week perhaps offered by local businesses to encourage people to explore their local shops. For others it could be a game changer, transforming their lives by enabling them to earn and trade in the same way with the rest of the world”.
“And all while encouraging us to protect the planet and stay healthy.”
Women who are older but have strong legs will do better when it comes to ageing of the brain, shows a study of more than 300 twins.
Researchers at King’s College in London showed that leg strength is a good marker of whether a person is getting enough exercise. In turn these levels of exercise have a strong link to brain health.
The study, published in the journal Gerontology, suggests that exercise releases chemicals into the brain that help to boost cognitive power in the elderly. Scientists tracked the health of over 15o pairs of twins aged between 43 and 73 (at the beginning of the study). Leg power was measured at the start of the study using a specially adapted gym machine. Brain power was then assessed using computer-based tasks that tested both memory and mental processing skills.
10 years later at the end of the study, the brain tests were repeated. The twin with greater leg power (and thus an assumption of greater overall fitness) had better cognitive power than the weaker sibling, even with other lifestyle factors that might usually increase chances of dementia.
Alzheimer’s Society director of research Dr Doug Brown said the study added to the growing evidence that physical activity could help look after the brain as well as the body.
“However, we still don’t fully understand how this relationship works and how we can maximise the benefit,” he said.
Lead researcher Dr Claire Steves said: “When it came to cognitive ageing, leg strength was the strongest factor that had an impact in our study.
Not only was the 80s the best decade for music, white jackets with the sleeves rolled up and large, very stiff hair dos, but it was even harder to be overweight back then.
For reasons that remain unclear, it has become more difficult to stay slim. A study by the York University in Toronto has found that people today can eat and exercise the same as their 80s counterparts, but still be significantly fatter.
The study, led by Jennifer Kuk, shows that weight management is much more complex than energy in versus energy out, with many other factors playing a part.
Sleep, stress, working patterns, types of medications, exposure to man made pollution and a change in the make up of gut bacteria all play a part.
The study was based on the analysis of diet and exercise on 36,400 US adults, combined with the physical activity of 14,400 subjects. When the numbers were crunched the team found that a given person in 2006 consuming the same amount of calories, made up of the same ratio of carbohydrate, fat and protein, and exercising the same amount as a person of the same age in 1988 typically had a BMI 2.3 points higher.
Body builders and personal trainers have long known that it’s not just about energy in vs energy out. Many other factors play a part. To get a six-pack, for example, requires not just the correct amount of energy (including the right ratio of macro-nutrients) but also requires a lowering of stress, both exercise induced and lifestyle induced. It requires sleep. Lots of it. It requires hormonal balance. It also requires minimal interference from modern drugs and medications.
So it follows that even to stay fit and trim, these factors need to be managed correctly too.
Exercise is the best (in fact the only) way to get fit, is a proven preventative step against heart disease and stroke (Britain’s top 2 causes of death- ONS) and also makes you feel amazing. It can also help with weight loss, but there are a few things that you will need to be aware of for lasting success.
1 – Eating is king. When it comes to weight loss, although exercising for weight loss can help, the key factor is eating. This doesn’t just mean quantity either, but what you are eating, when you are eating it and what you are doing around the times that you eat. As any well qualified and experienced fitness professional will tell you, if you’re after a 6 pack, proper and accurate nutrition is 90% of the equation. Thus, go ahead and start your exercise regime, but at the same time start to make some changes to your eating. Remember to go for small changes at first; too much of a change will make it hard to sustain and may even make you fatter in the long run!
2 – Eat breakfast. This the most important meal of the day for those embarking on a weight loss quest. Skipping breakfast will lead to very low blood sugar levels, so that when you do finally eat, more insulin will be released so more of the energy taken in will be stored as fat. Mentally, skipping breakfast can also make healthy choices difficult later on in the day; in 2009 a study at Imperial college in London showed that those who skipped breakfast and were then presented with images of high calorie, sugary foods had much greater cravings than those who had eaten first thing.
3 – Don’t eat immediately before exercise. A study at the University of Birmingham showed that those who had eaten just before exercise did not burn as much fat during the session as those who ate a few hours before.
4 – But get the timing right. The key to exercising for weight loss is to increase the metabolic rate and keep insulin levels low. Exercise presents windows of opportunity when you can eat starchy carbohydrate and immediately metabolise it before insulin has to be released. This window of opportunity sits 2 hours either side of exercise. Just like a racing car, you need fuel when going fast. This fuel is used immediately to produce energy. But of you put fuel in when the car is going slowly, it just goes into the fuel tank as it’s not needed. For us, the fuel tank is made up of fat cells!
5 – Don’t over compensate. Many people start exercising for weight loss, but after every session they feel that they have earned a reward. Food. Indeed, as they have exercised, then their brain thinks that they can eat anything with no consequence. It’s important to be realistic when it comes to exercise calories. Give yourself only a few extra calories per exercise session.
6 – Don’t starve yourself and then exercise. Not only could this damage you, but as the demands on the body become too much the stress will lead to emergency fat storage and the breaking down of lean muscle for fuel. This is particularly damaging as we are relying on this lean muscle mass to keep our metabolic rate high!
7 – Strength train twice a week – minimum. As above, loss of muscle is disastrous for weight loss, particularly in the long term. A couple of focused strength training sessions a week will keep and build lean muscle mass; this will maintain and build the metabolic rate.
Although exercise has been proven to increase the immune system’s ability to fight infection, sleep is a key factor too, a new report says. People who sleep for less than 6 hours a night are four times as likely to catch a cold than those who manage 7 hours a night. Sleep was found to be more important in fighting off cold and viruses than smoking, stress, education or income, which are all know to impact general health.
“It didn’t matter how old people were, their stress levels, their race, education or income. It didn’t matter if they were a smoker. With all those things taken into account, statistically sleep still carried the day” said Dr Aric Prather, lead author of the study and professor of psychiatry at the University of California.
“Not getting [enough} sleep fundamentally affects your health”.
According to the sleep council more than 1/3 of people in the UK get less than 6 hours a night.
For the study, Dr Prather and the team monitored 164 volunteers for 2 months looking at their sleep patterns and other lifestyle factors. They were than administered a cold virus and monitored daily over a week. Those who slept for less than 6 hours a night were 4.2 times more likely to catch the cold than those who managed 7 hours or more.
These findings were in addition to a recent study by the University of Surrey that showed those who sleep less than 6 hours a night have changes to 700 different genes.
Both studies concluded that sleep was a fundamental pillar of good health.
Exercise has been proven to help sleep too, so if you are struggling to get enough done on your own you might want to consider enlisting the help of a well qualified personal trainer from Diets Don’t Work.
If you would like your children to eat their greens you really need to start early, says a study released last week by University College London. It shows how to make babies like vegetables – if they are fed them in the first 15 days of weaning. For the study, researchers asked mums to introduce their babies to a variety of vegetables (five a day) over the course of 15 days during weaning. Then, after a two week Hiatus with no vegetables, they were then fed an unfamiliar vegetable, artichoke puree. The artichoke puree was also fed to an opposing control group who’s babies had been weaned on baby rice.
When the scientists measured how much of the puree the babies had eaten, and asked the mums how keen their little ones were on the puree, on a scale of 1-9, they found that the veggie babies had eaten twice as much as those who had previously been on the baby rice. The mums of the vegetable group also said that their babies had “quite liked it”, with an average score of 6.7/9. Those in the other control group only scored their babies 4.3. So as soon as weaning starts, start the veg – this is how to make babies like vegetables
Many people will also agree that what you are given at a young age influences what foods you like when you grow up. So start them early, be patient, and you will reap the rewards!
Good news chocolate lovers. A new study by scientists at the University of Aberdeen shows that eating up to two chocolate bars a day could lower the risk of both heart disease and strokes. Cardiovascular disease was found to be 11% lower in chocolate eaters and the risk of associated death was reduced by a whopping 25%.
The study, whose results have just been published in the medical journal Heart, followed 25,000 people in Norfolk over a period of 12 years. During the study period, 14% of those studied suffered an episode of fatal or non-fatal heart disease or stroke. Those eating chocolate however were the least likely to suffer from either of the two diseases. Higher chocolate intake was also found to correlate to lower levels of inflammation, lower blood pressure and lower body mass index.
The researchers did comment that the results were”somewhat surprising”, especially as the good results were not just associated with those eating dark chocolate, but were a,so found in candidates who ate milk chocolate too, despite its high sugar content.