Driving forward habitual physical activity

If it in only took 30 seconds……..

 

One recent study suggested that it only takes a doctor 30 seconds to instigate behavioural change in someone who is overweight by using the word ‘fat’. Now if that were the case how come potentially life and death diseases such as lung cancer from smoking haven’t been enough to stop people smoking.

 

Arguably the smoking ban had more of an impact. These claims aren’t in anyway shape or form substantiated, these derive from my own observations. However they support my theory that culture is the real driver of lifestyle change and healthy behaviours.

 

I always like to use an analogy I devised years ago as a practicing health trainer and health improvement officer. It is to do with habits, and although very simplistic compared to the sea of academical studies and far more clever people than myself operating in this field it captures my point rather beautifully.

 

The vast majority of us brush our teeth. If you pose the question ‘why do you brush your teeth’, many people will probably look at you rather sarcastically and say to keep them clean and stop decay. Or ‘why wouldn’t I’? A habit instilled in us since childhood. A ‘normal’ ‘regular’ and ‘embedded’ routine.

 

Teeth of course are a great example. A part of the body ‘under the spotlight’, impressions are formed upon meeting people and teeth are highly visible – why wouldn’t you want to look after them?

 

Ask the same person why they don’t necessarily look after their ‘health’ the same way they look after their teeth and it sort of makes more sense to them. It makes them ask themselves ‘why don’t I? Making the intangible tangible.

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Of course what is ‘health’ – a term used to describe the status of your body’s functions in relation to how effectively they do their job? A clinical value given to ones ability to function efficiently? You catch my drift – it’s not tangible, it doesn’t really resonate with a lot of us tied up in our busy lives.

 

But habit doesn’t have to necessarily resonate with someone. Habits (bad and good) become routine. Take smoking – how hard is it to kick the habit? Not just the smoking, but the break at work, the social aspect etc. Breaking the routine. Now if we could embed a more physically active lifestyle into someone that then became a habit – job done. In theory.

 

However the big problem is we’ve arguable designed convenience and speed into our lives. It’s fast paced both on the work front and family front. Physical activity is hard to come by and our employment tasks have changed over the generations. 9-5 desk jobs are the norm. Sitting down is normal and standing up and moving is an inconvenience.

 

Not only that but physical activity becomes a chore. Gym bunny and lycra clad brigade images are conjured, exercise before work, or after work – the perception is time just isn’t there. But it is. Remember we have formed bad habits and routines, but these can be redesigned. Forward plan and use that bike to work if possible. Commute by public transport and walk more where you can.

 

Instead of walking and cycling becoming ‘alien’ concepts to children embed this in your routine as a family. See the built environment around you as a ‘mega gym’ with equipment free to use. Stairs, escalators, that round trip to the train station, hills – it becomes addictive.

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It certainly isn’t all about marathons and extreme pursuits. It’s about small changes that fit within our lives. We all have a responsibility to hand this advice to our children, families and friends. Lead by example, and although breaking the norm of ‘it’s not how we do things around here’ from peers and family members your actions will earn respect. Others will follow.

 

Word of mouth and leading by example are the driving forces of culture change. Wishful thinking is 30 seconds is enough to instil change into someone overweight – but it’s a start. Far more important is Community involvement – a key principle in embedding ‘healthier routines’ into people’s lives.

 

Another is the way we move and the barriers to that movement. Traffic, distance to work, income, how active we are dependant on where we live (yes this does have an impact), to the practicalities of cycling to work. Arriving sweaty on a bike or messy hair for women (not a stereotype but feedback). All barriers we need to address to engrain physical activity back into the fabric of our lives.

 

That’s the great ask of the City of Sheffield. To get the City the most active in the UK by 2020. A project I work in and not only are we looking at road design for active travel, parks, sports, activity groups and bringing everything together to play its part we are asking people to get involved.

 

Sedentary habits can be broken when the City of Sheffield has spoken.

 

Andrew Picken

 

 

 

 

Why our world is ‘inactive’.

It’s great to see Governments and World Health Organisations championing the benefits of physical activity. A lost part of our lives that has been swallowed up by time constraints, work and modern conveniences. The internet, automobile and built environments designed for mass transport. Not only that but physical activity has become, well just too much effort.

We have heard it all before but believe it or not we are designed to move. Even though sport is a great way to engage people it misses the more ‘general’ population. The part of society that has forgotten about physical activity, brought up in environments where outside play as a child has been stifled by the lure of ipads, tablets, the internet and sedentary based activities remain the challenge for World Governments.

As we progress through life our working environments have become more adept to convenience and less physical in nature. We need to adapt to this change, become creative in how we build more movement into our lives. Our unpredictable climate isn’t always conducive to exercising outdoors but there are many opportunities to become active.

Many Cities around the UK are trying to get their citizens more active, setting goals such as Sheffield’s ambition to become the most active City in the UK. But with these ambitious targets we need investment and ambitious ideas. Factors such as our built environment, family cultures, personal barriers should be acknowledged and addressed. Encouraging ‘low level’ physical activity opportunities is essential such as simply walking more.

Behavioural change prompts that make us stop and think placed around our suburban concrete jungles. Visual signs that encourage us to take the stairs instead of the lift.

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Signs around Cities and walking routes that display time to various key locations through walking rather than distance. We need to take a leaf out of the private sector and market physical activity so that it resonates and appeals to its intended audience.

Time is always an excuse to becoming more active. But what is time – we live and die by the clock with deadlines and constraints. By incorporating physical activity into our lives and seeing the World around us as full of opportunities to become more active – frees time. Work against the perception, sell the benefits.

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Then there is the ‘biggy’ of becoming more physically active which is often overlooked. The benefit to your mental health and sense of emotional wellbeing. That sense of fufilment or achievement by becoming more active. The endorphines – the body’s feel good chemical that lifts our mood.

I guarantee you by walking more in the Countryside, or enjoying the outdoors you will become more connected to nature. Time to breath, enjoyment of the space and the soaking up of the natural environment has huge benefits to us. I always take time to wind down using walking as not just exercise but as meditation. A break from the break neck speed of life.

So to become more active, doesn’t necessarily take sporting skills, just a splash of creativity and planning. Know that the little things make a difference – those few extra steps a day, stairs instead of lifts or walking those short journeys instead of using the car.

We have some great initiatives such as the newly launched ‘One You’ Campaign through Public Health England. An attempt to personalise health promotion messages and advice based on a health quiz you complete. It’s a great website and FREE – check it out here – PHE ONE YOU

But the NHS and Health Authorities can’t do it alone. They can support us, but to really turn the tide of obesity in the Western World we need to play our part. I participated in a half marathon last weekend. I had more respect for the participants I saw, who were clearly overweight, than us seasoned runners.

Of course we don’t need to all be running 10k’s, half marathons and marathons. But to some of us that purpose is the driving force for embracing change and keeping motivated. For others it maybe eating healthily with a treat day on a weekend for example. There are so many enjoyable family activities such as walking and cycling to get involved in.

So the real battle is changing the perception of exercise. If gyms are your thing thats fine, but they aren’t for everyone. To really get the nation moving we need clever health promotion campaigns aligned with businesses and public sector bodies working together to increase physical activity opportunities and eventually changing the culture of inactivity that has embedded itself within our society.

Andrew Picken

 

Workplace health – the resistance within….

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Workplace health – the resistance within….

 

In a world of social media and social sharing businesses all over the UK are increasingly aware of the need to embed workplace wellness strategies into their workforce. The trap that many Employers fall into is the ‘seeing to be doing good’ attitude with little thought about the practical considerations required to fully implement an effective Health and Wellbeing strategy across the business.

Not only is business looking at the long term health of their workforce they are interested in the message this conveys in the digital world. An Employer that attracts the best talent due to its unique approach to staff development and the benefits of choosing that particular employer over competitors should be central to any recruitment drive.

I am often asked by clients ‘to remove the barriers to staff engaging in health and wellbeing activities’. I often find the main barriers come about through internal resistance from process, key influencers not engaging with the H & W activities and a general reluctance to accept innovation. This is not true of all Companies but it often a common issue amongst my freelance clients I work with.

The key to unlocking this is a difficult one. First of all it depends where H & W fits within the Organisation. This is often in an HR or Health and Safety department, or traditionally it may sit within an Occupational function. The positioning of H & W is fundamental to its success, quite simply because where it is positioned in the business will send mixed messages to employees. Enforcement, surveillance or a little mistrust may be channelled from where the H & W function sits.

H & W relies on employee engagement to work. It needs its own identity otherwise it will get diluted within the regulatory processes of Health and Safety, the broad remit of Human Resources or the clinical nature of occupational health departments. But to the vast majority of businesses that at least have a Health and Wellbeing Function no matter where it sits, for now are leading the way in investing in it in the first place.

For now let’s forget the position of the H &W function and take a closer look at its conflicts with internal business processes. Just like public health programmes, workplace health programmes will have their detractors. May be from the very people it aims to engage. The importance of creating opportunities for involvement in H & W and incentive driven programmes, rather than forcing it – is crucial.

Employers also have to be careful not to be seen as medalling in peoples personal lives. For example the Government ‘Nanny state’ reputation actually helped to turn people off the health recommendations that were aiming to engage them! Business too has to take head of these pitfalls. By all means offer a H & w programme but keep it fun and keep it open. Reward and incentive based programmes will help to negate these misconceptions. Acknowledge some people will want to go to work, do their job and thats it. It won’t be for everyone.

However creativity must be embraced. Overall H &W needs to be fun. It needs breathing space to evolve and slowly change the culture of a business. Operating within squeezed business parameters creates a danger of it becoming too corporate and stifled of creativity. That way it becomes almost invisible to employees. It needs to be different, it needs to challenge boundaries (within reason), but overall to gain traction and credibility by senior management it needs to deliver results.

To deliver results it needs embracing from the top down. Some Businesses are pioneering some excellent projects. I work with businesses allowing time within the working day for staff to access nutrition and lifestyle advice run by an external organisation. This has proved a great way to deliver opportunities for staff to learn about healthy eating whilst at work.

A key component to the success of a H & W programme is to get people talking. May be surprising them with some visible prompts to take the stairs instead of the lift, or delivering education sessions based on topics based on employee feedback. Intrigue will create conversation and help spread the message by word of mouth – the ultimate form of marketing in my opinion.

The most successful H &W programmes benefit most from an employee led group or task force. That way a credible platform is created that can channel feedback into Management. H & W will then be seen as ‘tangible’ with members accessible to other staff and is an excellent way to collect feedback and suggestions through the workforce.

To bolster this I always suggest formalising the group with a ‘position paper’ or a ‘terms of reference’ document to give the H &W group an identity and brand. This will help to raise the profile of H &W across the business, but especially at senior managment level. The balance has to be struck to allow staff members to get involved in their H & W duties but being mindful that this is often additional time on top of their normal day to day job.

Challenging the detractors is harder. It is important not to create a one dimensional H & W programme based only on sport or physical activity. It must take into account lifestyle, sleep, stress and mental health which should be at the heart of any successful H & W programme. Overall health has many wider determinants that cannot be ignored.

Training sessions on emotional resilience, mindfulness and EAP programmes should be interlinked. An holistic approach will have far greater reach than a programme based on engaging the ‘fitties’ within an Organisation. Once that reputation has been created it will be very hard to change.

By its very nature results of an effective H &W programme can and will take time. This is not always aligned to the culture of a business where targets and outcomes are quantified in profit and sales for example. Capturing the benefits of a H & W programme and fighting against the ‘nice to have’ reputation will always remain a challenge.

But no matter how long it takes, any business taking the leap into H &W is making an investment into the future of their workforce. In a cut throat world where competition is tight any competitive edge can make a positive difference. Businesses that are both daring and pro-active in investing in their people now will surely reap the benefits of long term employee health. This will pay dividends when managing an aging workforce that future forecasts predict through delayed retirement patterns.

As well as been noted as a responsible and ethical employer it may also be the difference between business success and business failure. If you require support, advice or a H & W programme devised for your organisation contact andy@handywriter.co.uk , blog: https://andrewjamespicken.com/

Online portfolio: http://handywriterportfolio.webs.com/

 

 

 

NOT FOR PROFIT FUNDING TIPS

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a community group, charity, community interest company or social enterprise we are advised to look at full cost recovery. Becoming more business minded and planning our projects based on cash flow forecasts and revenue is after all good advice. Sustainability is key.

Whilst this is absolutely right, to a degree, it sometimes goes against the principles Charities, or more broadly speaking not for profits were founded upon. Let’s face it some Charity work or community projects are just not ‘sexy’ enough to ever provide an income – despite the excellent and vital contribution they make to society.

So by all means analyse your activities, streamline your outgoings and look at more efficient ways to run your operation, Charity or community group. And even though you shouldn’t rely solely on funding don’t remove it from your income raising strategy altogether.

Why still look at funding? Yes competition for funding is high, funding is limited over a certain period of time and the task of preparing the documentation and writing the funding bid is at best laborious. But funders will often resource projects that otherwise would not get off the ground at all. Read my blog here at http://www.andrew.jamespicken.com

So why does the timing of a funding application influence its chances of success and who knows what the assessment panel really goes for? Remember even knowing the funding criteria inside out you are writing to a group of people you don’t have the benefit of knowing. Write clearly, write your funding application on the assumption any funding assessment panel knows nothing about your area of expertise.

Demonstrate a good track record, if this is your first venture into funding, use examples of your personal experience working with your target group of people, project topic or the credentials of any volunteers you have working with you.

Identify your project benefits. Health, societal, young people, older people or geographically targeted. Research your target audience using consultations, neighbourhood statistics , or health related indicators from the health observatories

Do your research find out as much as you can about the funder, from what they have funded before, there new funding programmes, criteria and even research the people on the assessment panel if you can. There past times, background or interests will give you a head start. People promote there selves online – use this to your advantage it is in the public domain by consent.

So back to this timing lark. We are quickly coming up to the end of January. The 2015 / 16 financial year is nearly upon us. This inevitably means many budgets have disappeared within Local Authorities and grant funders. But this is not always the case. Pots will be lying underspent. Underspends get lost if they aren’t used – often by the 31st March. So be ready!

Ever had a chance of applying for funding in a ridiculous time scale of a few days before the end of March? Tried to cobble a project together without much thought to get the chance of funding? Had this turned down after all the time you put in and the mad dash? I know the feeling all too well.

Well drop the reactive approach, and plan a project with an idea of how to resource it ready for the funding that becomes available toward the end of the financial year. Write a project plan, some brief outputs and outcomes and think pro-actively. That way you will be caught on the front foot and not the back foot when tight deadlines for funding become available.

Think about costings, target group, objective (health, sport, education etc) and prepare a funding library (copies of constitution / memorandum / Charity number / accounts or income & expenditure / bank account details & signatories / committee or trustee names and contact details).

Once you have all this it will save an enormous amount of time when it comes to pulling everything together for that funding application. It is still worth doing anyway even if any funding doesn’t come along at the end of March.

Join your local Council for Voluntary service (CVS) that provide a wealth of useful information on funding and support. Conduct a quick google search to find your local CVS. Often when I work with clients writing funding applications I refer them to these Organisations for free advice.

Join J4B Grants, or Funders central. Copy and paste the funders listed in their directories to google to access their own websites free without having to subscribe to anything. Search local and regional funding newsletters and subscribe for free.

Don’t forget the smaller grant trusts that don’t appear in funding newsletters but may well have funds targeting your area. Run some internet searches to find out who may fund your project, or idea, or who has funded similar projects in the past. Some aren’t even online and application can even be by letter so keep your eyes open as often word of mouth is used to promote these funds.

Make sure your passion shines through any funding application you write. It’s so easy to get lost in buzz words and acronyms that you forget the very reason you are applying for this funding. The neighbourhood benefits, improving people’s lives or lessening the burden on the NHS by providing a preventative service. Remember the indirect benefits too.

So be prepared, get ready and do your homework. Good luck with your project and prepare now ready for the Mad March rush on those funding pots that are underspent and need to be allocated in quick time. If you follow the tips in this article you will be prepared, know where the funds are and maximise your chances for a successful funding application.

 

A bit about the Author

Andrew Picken, having over 10 years of community development and project experience in the voluntary community sector, Local Authority, Private sector and through freelance.

Around my 3 day employed work I offer project support to social media, funding and public health programmes.

I write on a variety of topics and aim to provide a light touch approach to heavy topics with a little humour and some hints and tips I have learnt throughout my employment journey. I work with www.funmefit.com providing social media support across sectors.

My real passion is in health and wellbeing and writing on such topics. I sometimes work from a motorhome with a full internet office and have worked for councils providing funding workshops from the motorhome and offering project support working from the motorhome.

I also, and rather unusually, work with boxing professionals and the sport of strongman organising Yorkshire’ strongest man 2014 and the Yorkshire Highland Games 2015.

I work with community projects and business to provide strongmen to provide publicity and be part of new service launches for example launching a new community bus service in Leeds with a Guinness World Record holding strongman pulling the bus.

Follow me on twitter @handywriter4u – Linkedin: Andrew Picken, or contact me andy@handywriter.co.uk

 

My health is none of your business?

 

Why your health and well-being is becoming the top priority for Employers

 

Employers seem to be really taking note of the H & W (health and wellbeing) of their workforce. Not from a big brother standpoint, or wanting to interfere – but to protect their number one business asset – that’s you!

You may feel slightly at odds with this, but think about it, even though you are free to do what you want outside work, your employer values you enough to make sure you are provided with the right information and opportunities to keep yourself in tip top condition. Nothing wrong with that right?

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Exercise, a good lifestyle and eating healthy will all contribute to make you a happier, more engaged and productive employee. Well that’s the theory, and of course life gets in the way with the ups and down it brings to us all, but all in all that’s not a bad theory for the employer to base a H & W strategy on.

Once the fluffy side of a business’s activities, H & W was once the staple diet of public relations officers, or hidden away in the corporate social responsibility agenda on top of the CEO’s filing cabinet.

A ‘nice to do’ activity, health and well-being is quite simply turning around into a ‘must do’. Not just for H & W benefits, but indirect benefits such as employee engagement, job fulfilment and knowing that potential employees not only look at the grade and job positions to attract them to the post, but the ‘add on’ benefits – ‘employer of choice’ , ‘health and well-being charter’, ‘investors in people’ etc.

My workplace is going through quite a change at the moment. Benefiting from my experience and with the backing of a supportive board of Directors a whole raft of health initiatives are being pushed through to enable employees to move more, eat better and feel more positive. This also fits into the City wide health vision for Sheffield.

But why should your employer be bothered about H & W? For example your employer gifting you half an hour to attend a nutritionist course is, after all, costing the company. Quite a strange tactic you may think, as you wonder what the catch is.

May be there isn’t a catch though and may be the employer is thinking long term here, knowing full well investing in such health initiatives will probably bode well for a healthier, more resilient and ultimately effective workforce.

Now if your employer is levelling this much importance on your health – can you afford not to be involved? Assuming most of us spend a large majority of our time at work it seems the only viable solution to tackling the health of a nation.

The very reason the NHS is rolling out a huge health promotion programme across its workforce to stem and reduce absence rates. It also provides a showcase to other industries of why such importance should be given to employee health and well-being.

As well as the business benefiting, the employee gets health opportunities presented to them they otherwise wouldn’t have thought of, or gone along to outside of work. It’s all packaged up in that nice and convenient ‘incorporating exercise within your working day’ lark.

Of course, some may feel participating with colleagues in exercise, nutrition sessions or mental health initiatives a little odd at work. But when we all throw every excuse and barrier at taking steps to improve our physical or mental health – the workplace could be the most time effective way to address such issues.

Of course this is not true in all cases, for example where the trigger of bad health may well be the workplace. However H & W is all about long term prevention so in many ways it should reduce the chances of cases where work is solely to blame for a deterioration in an employee’s health in the first place.

Understand why habits often win the battle of unhealthy vs healthy choices and how to use good habits to override the bad habits. Habits are formed on routine. Work is routine, so embedding more exercise, healthier food choices and becoming involved in H & W activities at work could be the best thing you could do to form good habits. Read my other blogs about how habit drives our unhealthy choices – http://www.andrewjamespicken.com

Not all of us may be lucky enough to have an employer who is buying in or embracing the H & W movement. Maybe you work for a SME, or a business that doesn’t have such a culture. But don’t let this stop you, champion H & W yourself and practice what you preach, walk more, use the stairs, eat better. Once someone takes the lead you will be surprised how it catches on.

Educate yourself on the simple health messages using the Change for life or the NHS Choices website. Relay these to your colleagues, or set up a little working group to coordinate healthy activities in your workplace.  This could be stop smoking for example where free 1-2-1 support can be given. Find out – click here to find your local  STOP SMOKING service.

Lastly, like it or not work plays a huge part in our lives. It gives us structure, it opens our social networks, can provide variety away from our personal lives, but most of all it can be a place where opportunities to engage in H & W activities could prove its worth in ‘weight’ not just to the employer but to the long term health of yourself.

Andrew Picken

Blog: www.andrewjamespicken.com8755041502_e1905aa4d8

Twitter: @handywriter4u

www.funmefit.com

andy@handywriter.co.uk

Digidisease – The ‘Sedentary Syndrome’

 

Why movement is the key to fighting the biggest public health problems in our world.

Technology. It’s quite simply amazing and I have to admit it has got me hooked. It is such a great tool, a communication channel like no other and the ‘digital’ age is fast moving, becoming crucial to the way we communicate, do business and socialise.

Like it or not it has changed things forever. Something I dare say would be deemed as witchcraft only a few decades ago!  Remember how primitive the ZX spectrum 128k was or the Atari Commodore personal computers?

OK may be I am taking that a little too far, but you catch my drift. Technology, the internet, the instant chats we can have through social media amaze me. I no longer have to get up and go to my colleague’s desk on the next floor. In fact the only time I move at work is to go to the toilet most days. Sound familiar?

Why go to the effort to walk to the shop when you can go online and purchase all your food. Even better you order more to accommodate those times when you are missing something from the cupboard or fridge and in turn eat more, move less and so on.

With new technologies come new habits. Technology is fast, it thrives on providing instant results and suddenly it makes us impatient. We want fast results in our consumer driven society that spills into our personal lives. Our goals become unrealistic as we battle time and resort to ridiculous diets, or 5000 crunches a day.

But what makes us like this? We know that a bad lifestyle has repercussions far from just being or feeling fat and overweight. There is a whole plethora of nasty health conditions out there related to the way we live our lives. Physical and mental conditions, social problems and diseases. I don’t need to list them I am sure most reading this know them off by heart.

But what about the disease preceding the disease? By this I mean ‘digidisease’. Too much of a good thing becomes bad – the fundamental principle of eating too much, exercising too much, spending too much – whatever you apply it too really. Is this an actual condition? Well no not really I have just coined it – but it is a habit. And as a habit I am going to call it ‘digidisease’.

So what is it? I think you may know. It is the easy way out, our digital world is no doubt fascinating and has so many benefits. But it has forgot the fundamental principles that make us human – the back to basics way. That’s doesn’t mean I think we should live in caves again and walk 15 miles to hunt a mammoth – let’s be honest Tesco is safer and easier (but every little helps) . But it may mean thinking a little like a ‘cave person’ and remembering that every little bit of movement helps!

So let’s delve into our roots. We have evolved and we are constantly changing as a species. We still (for the moment) have arms and legs – use them. I don’t want this to sound patronising, but we were built to move. It is something ‘digidisease’ deprives us of. Digidisease by no means forces us to be sedentary but makes it a highly attractive option. Rest is good right – but all the time?

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Digidisease makes us forget the benefits of moving, tricking us into thinking resting is what we need. Remember the previous paragraph – too much of a good thing becomes bad? So resting too much = bad?

Digidisease is quite a sneaky habit really. We need to wise up and realise its potential, but also its limitations, and what that means for us and our health. Yes it’s convenient and great to surf the net, but balance it out, make sure movement is in there somewhere. At work you should aim to move every 30 minutes – check out the latest research NHS STATS

If you let digidisease take a hold you could potentially have a lot to look forward to. According to research conducted by Loughborough University people who sat the longest had an increased risk of;

  • 112% increase in risk of diabetes
  • 147% increase in cardiovascular events
  • 90% increase in death caused by cardiovascular events
  • 49% increase in death from any cause

I bet that got you thinking. Even more surprisingly even if you exercise in the day and then sit the rest of the time you are still at risk. The key advice is to move regularly – it is what we are designed to do and what digidisease stops us from doing.

So now we have a diagnosis what is the treatment for digidisease? Well the answer quite simply at this stage is for the most of us walking. Yes that simple. The dose is 5 times a day, of 5 minutes, before or after food. Aim to increase this but just get moving to start with. You should take walking with plenty of water and include a lunch time stroll, taking the stairs instead of the lift and doing everything opposite to what digidisease offers you.

So in reality this means you should aim to move in your day, whether at work, home or in leisure time. Be aware that sitting for prolonged periods is not good. Remember your body is designed to move. Spend 9 minutes 18 seconds out of your day to watch this video called 23 and a half hours about inactivity and dosage levels of exercise required

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But don’t forget, the internet is fun. Technology is essential to work and an integral part of our lives. Schedule technology in around your active lifestyle and shift the balance of priority in favour of movement. Prioritise movement, don’t think gym, high intensity exercise just see movement as your regular dose of what is quite simply an amazing cure for digidisease. That way digidisease becomes ‘digidantastic’ . Use it but don’t abuse it.

Andrew Picken

Twitter @handywriter4u

andy@handywriter.co.uk

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FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE – Health by Stealth

 

 

American college of sports medicine UK Department of Health.DR OZ DR OZ

 

Those habits we all have are dam annoying right? I am talking about the bad ones we have, developed over years of routine without even realising. The ones that are negatively impacting on our health. The sugar hits, fast food convenience and lifestyles so busy exercise is yet another chore.

Habits are easy to recognise but hard to break. They are sneaky little things that embed themselves in our lifestyle. Slowly but surely creeping in. Suddenly these habits become comforting, something we look forward to at the end of the working day, or that 20 minute window of opportunity to indulge after the children have gone to bed.

You reach for the wine, a chilled can of lager, and none of these are quite complete without a bag of crisps or a bar of chocolate, and so the cycle continues. The habits have you hooked. You know about the healthy snacks, the health advice and exercise recommendations – but my god it’s hard work right?

Then there’s the latest food craze or exercise gizmo promising outlandish results with only 10 minutes of stomach crunches a day. Sounds easy. Even better press this button on your remote and it can be delivered to your door the next working day. It arrives, it gets used and then it gets stored away. The spiders love it as they spiral there web around your fitness equipment under the stairs!

That’s not forgetting the articles and sales pitches created to entice you to their sales landing page for a ‘breakthrough diet’ endorsed by a celebrity as you surf the web. Titles like ‘7 ways to transform your body 5 minutes a day’ etc etc. A vision packaged around fast results, convenience and images of beach bodies. But no, you don’t fall for that – but most of us do.

But we are all missing a trick here. Forget the diets. Diets are restrictive. They tend to follow the same journey for everyone. Does this feeling sound familiar? You gorge yourself on the last day before your start your new regime. You wake up and try hard to resist anything you like. At the end of the day you feel a little weak but proud that you have stuck to your diet. You convince yourself you feel better, but in reality you feel quite lousy.

Interestingly enough at the same time we do more exercise. The body is in a bit of a shock here. Think about it. The calories it has been used to are suddenly cut to a very low daily intake and then the demands for energy are increased beyond what it is normally used to. What the hell? A perfect storm for failure. It will not work. Your metabolism will slow, and your cravings will increase. Worst of all the experience is that bad you will never try and lead a healthier lifestyle again.

So the cycle continues for a full day – if you are really determined may be a few weeks. But inevitably you fall off the wagon. You crave your luxuries and quite rightly so, they are after all an enjoyable part of life. But this is the key – treat them as a luxury, reward or whatever you want to call it. Don’t kid yourself and deprive yourself of everything you like. That’s the pit fall of healthy lifestyles – boring. But they don’t have to be.

So here are my tips – for free! Not based on any magic formula, scientific trials, exercise equipment or super pill. Laughing in the face of all these gimmicks my tips are quite simply based on reality and all the barriers we have to improving our lifestyle. Yes the work demands, yes our wonderful children and family commitments and that dam thing called time we monitor consistently throughout the day.

I can’t pretend to say my advice is going to be easy. But I feel it is easier – and more importantly sustainable. That is using the very bad habits against themselves with good habits. Fight fire with fire. Yes habits are good. Habits give us structure and much the same as bad habits, if we can reverse these into ‘healthier habits’ over time these will embed in our routine. Things clicking into place?

Create the habit of ‘moving more’Housework-as-Exercise

So look around you. Without sounding patronising (although I know this may be to some) there is a thing called the great outdoors. The best ever gym, totally free, outside your front door and with a host of not just physical benefits but mental health benefits too.

Yes the weather can be a right pain, and not all of our living environments are as attractive as pretty countryside villages. But the name of the game here is open space in its many forms. Think of the Nike advert slogan ‘just do it’ as you prepare for a walk to get those steps in. Don’t procrastinate, focus on how you will feel after the walk not the feeling of stepping outside the front door on a typical UK winters evening.

Money permitting invest in some new footwear for walking and all weather clothes. Know that walking is probably the most natural form of exercise and is accessible to most of us. Create the habit of ‘moving more’.

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Eat well – avoid DIET

Remember Diet equals: Deprived, Impossible, Expensive, Trying. Why? Because often we go straight into our new healthy lifestyle avoiding everything we like and eating everything we know we should be, but simply aren’t enjoying it. Is this not a good thing? Of course eating healthy is great, but if you wanted to run a marathon you wouldn’t (and probably couldn’t) do 26.2 miles with no training plan straight away.

Treat diet like exercise – small steps. Train the body and mind to accept healthier alternatives at a gentle place. Introduce new foods slowly and concentrate on the taste and texture of these. A great tactic is to eat at a slower pace, something I have learned to do as I used to eat way faster than my brain was at sending me the signal that I was full.

If losing weight is your goal this way may not be as quick as sticking to a diet under 1000 calories a day, but I assure you once the weight is off you will have a much better chance of keeping it off, feeling more energetic and more importantly in the long ruin it will be easier.

1e104f75052c4d43a24615ed39af4cb8Just as bad eating habits are formed, good eating habits can be formed. You may have days where you eat more bad than good, but don’t use it as an excuse to think you have out done everything positive and give in. Tell yourself this is OK, schedule a treat day in a week to look forward to if that keeps you on track.

Combining all these simple tactics, and finding new ones that motivate and work for you is a sure way to beat the weight gain. Moving more and aiming to eat that elusive 5 – a – day fruit and vegetable target is a sustainable and natural way to change your body and just as importantly making you feel good about yourself.

Forget exercise fads and extremely restrictive diets that take more willpower than we can ever muster over a long term period and aim to build movement into everyday life, combined with approaching your meals (and treats) with a little common sense.

Remember treat and think of food like fuel for a car, we have heard the analogy so many times before but it is a good one. The same as a car when you move the car it consumes fuel. When you move your body, it burns your food (fuel). The more you move, the more you burn. Put the wrong fuel in a car, say diesel in a petrol, or dirty fuel in a car and the fuel lines will block up. Pretty much the same as sugar and fat deposits blocking the arteries in the heart causing a heart attack.

Therefore, with this in mind, and above all being realistic, one of the first and easiest steps to take is quite literally to increase your steps – by that I mean walking. See a short video from DR OZ for a brief explanation of the relationship between walking and weight loss. Learn that muscle (and I don’t mean the rippling 6 pack fraternity), is a key weapon in the fighting of weight gain – and walking is one way to build more muscle.

Aim to build walking into your everyday activity, everything counts, housework, going to the shops, parking in the furthest car parking space at work or getting off a bus stop early and walking the rest of the way. Check the American college of sports medicine website for further reading on the health benefits of walking.

It is quite surprising how creative you can be in incorporating walking into everyday life. Sure life can be busy but with a little planning, you can do it. If you think what can walking do in terms of burning calories check out the following tables from the UK Department of Health.

What a 60kg person burns in 30 minutes

  • strolling (2mph): 75 calories
  • walking (3mph): 99 calories
  • fast walking (4mph): 150 calories

Source: At least five a week, Department of Health, 2004

So who am I to make these claims – what do I know that Science doesn’t? Well here are a few notable points?

  1. I have University background and Degree, DIPHE and HND in Health and Leisure
  2. I have worked for the NHS and change for life programme for 8 years
  3. I currently work part time as a workforce Health and Wellbeing Advisor for a large private sector organisation.
  4. I work for myself in the health and fitness sector around social media, marketing and health promotion projects.
  5. BUT more important than any of that is an appreciation life is hard work. Time is limited, bad habits are easily formed and the advice I give is practised by myself. Success is based on consistency and sustainability – not 10 minutes of using an exercise gizmo or magic pill that quite literally has us bored by day one.

REMEMBER: Move more, eat well and above all enjoy the results that you are absolutely guaranteed to achieve over time that will cost you a lot less than a gym membership, diet plan or secret guide to weight loss. The choice is ultimately yours.

 

Andrew Picken

www.funmefit.com

Twitter@handywriter4u

Linkedin; https://www.linkedin.com/in/andy-picken-22a45a71?trk=hp-identity-name

Public Health – the ‘weight’ of a Nation upon its shoulders

We all that know that Public Health England (PHE) is creating some fantastic campaigns around encouraging people to take their health seriously. The Government and its think tanks know that the current evidence pointing toward an obesity epidemic in the UK and the worrying increase in poor mental health could pose a huge risk to an already over-stretched NHS.

That’s not forgetting diabetes, reduced life spans and the array of health conditions and diseases associated with our modern day lifestyles. The question is how can it be slowed down, or even better stopped? Prevention we know is better than the cure.

Good public health is a long term vision and demands sustained investment to produce results that are often not seen until years after the health programme or intervention has took place. This is the very reason cuts to public health budgets are made by Governments who don’t see the value in committing to a long term health strategy.

This short sighted approach to a long term problem will never yield results and inevitably costs more money. A long term approach with sustained investment is the key to producing measurable public health outcomes. Each elected Government acknowledges the problem associated with the Nation’s poor health, spends millions on departmental reshuffles, creates new structures and follows the same public health approach in a rebranded package. Fail.

This is often why such health programmes fail- Governments trying to measure the immeasurable whilst basing success on short terms goals or quick wins that can never change a culture of bad lifestyles developed over decades. It took quite a while for us to become an overweight Nation and thus to reverse this demands the same amount of time and consistency.

Even more importantly learning from past failings and developing new health approaches should be a key Government priority and at the heart of any new National Health Strategy.

Remember, the very nature of health programmes are based on behavioural change, breaking bad habits instilled in families over what is now generations. Investment in breaking this cycle relies on consistent funding by Government, PHE and local delivery partners across the Private, Public and the very important Third Sector. But there are still many questions.

How do you reach this audience of people and support them to achieving their health goals? At one end of the spectrum you have clever advertising campaigns used by corporate business to push their ‘fast food’ ‘high sugar’ products onto consumers. It’s disguised as fun, convenient and is seen by many as a treat, but not a balanced treat a overindulged treat.

Then we have the boring health advice – the fun police knocking at our door – ‘eat 5 a day’, exercise for 30 minutes 5 times a week, all things that take our time. Can we really be bothered?

Can you see where it is going wrong? Where is the fun and convenience? The sexy, sweet and sugar hitting chocolate bar, or that strange looking ginger root that looks almost alien sat on a cold market stall in the middle of town? Then there’s fitting in that 30 minutes of physical activity, but not before picking the children up. Before you know it it’s bed time!

You see where health campaigns are going wrong? They need to be fun, not aimed at already sporty types but involvement that resonates with as many people as possible and fits in with our lifestyles. The Change4life programme is a good example of what can be achieved. Simplicity is key.

Locally there are great health projects going on across our towns and cities. But often these are fragmented across our regions and based upon local decision makers. Best practice isn’t necessarily shared as it should be against a solid National health strategy that Local partners deliver against. This would ensure a more joined up approach.

I have worked in many public health programmes with families on a 1-2-1 basis and often people really want to change and become healthier, but despite all the advice and support out there, they don’t know where to start. If their concern is weight, often they feel too embarrassed to even be seen walking in their area.

Those on low incomes don’t have access to a car and struggle to travel out of their area to access such activities. Fruit and vegetables are more expensive than the equivalent unhealthy snack. It doesn’t appeal, it’s boring and time consuming to adopt this healthier lifestyle.

And so the spiral begins, embarrassment brings about isolation, comfort is sourced in poor food, weight increases and confidence drains away leading to all sorts of mental and physical health conditions. This is by no means a definite pattern, but I have seen this with many different families I have worked with. So what can public health campaigns do better to help break this cycle?

One of the answers lies in the branding of such health programmes. Pinching the best bits from the private Corporations that have done such a good job of influencing people’s choices to consume / purchase their products over the years. Public Health programmes need to wise up. Change4life has led the way with its fun characters, funky colours and its simple messages around eating well and moving more. But more needs to be done.

Physical activity needs to involve strands that are not just sports based, or portraying images of Lycra clad ‘fit’ individuals exercising. Nor are the images of overweight people particularly helpful. The everyday person is the audience. The couple balancing work with childcare responsibilities, the person dealing with the care of elderly parents, the unemployed person struggling with confidence and the isolation it can bring. The ‘real’ wider determinants of health.

The often ‘juggling’ nature of our lives is a major barrier. Often people are well aware of how they can improve their health. I have spoken to many clients who have had a comparable knowledge to me in terms of nutrition, physical activity and how to practice good mental health. Information alone isn’t enough – it’s the practical implementation of it in our lives that matters and more importantly how to sustain it.

So back to the solutions. Habitual physical activity. A simple and clever approach that enables public health campaigns to target the selling points of their advice to people. Wrap health advice around a fun brand, focus on the personal benefits to adopting health advice, and much like ‘selling’ tactics by companies – use a clear call of action to make people act.

Investment in our built environment. We have heard it all before. Make using the stairs funky. This could be multi-coloured stairs, stairs that light up as you tread on them, or have simple messages on each step i.e. 0.5 kcal burned on each step etc. Just ideas. In my current workplace I am launching an innovative project to gauge encouraging staff to use the stairs through a completely different approach to previous ones in a three storey building.

Other solutions could be ‘walking’ meetings at work, better cycle and walk infrastructure for those willing to try active travel, or shopping centres using painted trails in malls detailing distance, or steps taken whilst shopping. Stealth Health is the name of the game here.

What are the benefits to the individual around adopting a healthy lifestyle? Not just the health benefits of changing to a more active lifestyle but the time saved to spend on other past times, or the money saved by dropping a bad habit such as alcohol or smoking. Better sleep, more energy to play with the kids etc.

Advice such as taking the steps instead of the lift, parking in the furthest car parking space away from the supermarket or getting off the bus a stop earlier may sound ridiculous to some, but are the very first steps to changing behaviours. Behaviours shaped by the convenient lifestyle we now lead due to transport choices, the built environment around convenience and the ‘sit down’ technology we have access to.

I think of these small changes in the same context as saving pennies and loose change in a money jar. What is the value of 1 pence on its own? Pretty pointless huh. However a collective amount of 1 pence, 20 pence and 50 pence’s over a year adds up. Exactly the same as those extra steps in the car park, or using the stairs instead of the lift – the long term benefits accumulate. It isn’t just about the gym – that’s further down the line for most of us and is a choice. It isn’t for everyone.

Even better these small changes will become part of peoples thinking and can take place in their day – no extra time required to go to the gym, or join a class just a little alternative thinking and creativity. Health strategy take note.

Ask yourself this – why do most of us brush our teeth? Quite obviously to prevent tooth decay right? Most of us have a routine last thing at night and first thing in the morning. If exercise can achieve the same level of importance in people’s lives as brushing teeth– problem very much solved. The critics will point out that brushing teeth is a couple of minutes as opposed to 30 minutes of exercise and so on. But the principle remains the same. Embed a different thought pattern and exercise could become part of a routine.

Exercise is by no means the answer to all the Nation’s problems, but it provides a foundation. Once people see the visible benefits of their increased physical activity, they take more note of how they are feeding themselves. Suddenly new thoughts on what nutrition or food could improve their 30 minutes of walking or using the stairs start to materialise. Could I improve they ask – suddenly it becomes quite addictive.

Then comes the confidence, feeling more energetic, that lower dress or waist size or the compliments from friends and family. More importantly this healthy lifestyle is being adopted by the individual, not the doctor dictating advice but their own goals whatever that may be. That feeling of self – worth and feeling good helps negate negative thought patterns associated with low level anxiety or depression. Big societal benefits.

So indeed the weight of the Nation on the NHS, PHE and Government could be relieved by key figures making some smart decisions on how to approach a major National challenge in terms of our citizen’s health. Decisions based on a long term strategy, focusing on realistic changes that acknowledge peoples busy lives.

A Nationwide commitment to deliver programmes based on learning and an evolving programme that resonate with the everyday person. Programmes that learn from the corporate giants and promote health brands based on the same elements. Fight fire with fire.

So it could be with a National strategy and joined up approach light work could be made of a heavy burden.

 

Andrew Picken