Why Classing Obesity As A Disease Might Be A Good Idea

Figures that show the scale of the obesity problem in the UK make for very grim reading. A World Health Organisation study in 2014 found that 28% of adults were classed as obese and 62% were overweight or obese, based on BMI measurements. Then there are the stats on children in the UK, more than a third of whom leave primary school classed as overweight or obese. On top of the problems it can cause individuals, obesity costs the NHS billions of pounds a year – and the situation is only expected to get worse.

The growing scale of the problem is an indictment of how the UK currently responds to obesity. A new report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group On Obesity has found that on both a personal and organisational level the response to obesity is lacking. According to the report, nine out of ten obese people have suffered abuse, criticism or stigmatisation because of their obesity, and the NHS is failing people with obesity by not offering enough treatment and prevention services.

There is no magic bullet for solving the obesity crisis in the UK, but steps clearly need to be taken. Coach spoke to John Wass, a professor of endocrinology at Oxford University, about what can be done to combat growing obesity rates, starting with the suggestion for government to ensure that a long, hard look at classing obesity as a disease and the effect this would have.

How would classing obesity as a disease help?

It would be really important that people who have an obesity problem are less stigmatised. We used to have a stigma with HIV – we don’t any more. Journalists, the general public and even the medical profession stigmatise people who have a weight problem, and don’t treat them like everybody else. I think if it was a disease people would not think it was their own fault.

I think if you get cancer of the lung, it’s a disease. If you get cancer of the pancreas, it’s a disease. You don’t blame yourself for it. If you have obesity and it’s a disease, you don’t blame yourself and give yourself a hard time. The fact is that genetics are a hugely important aspect of this. If you have an appetite that is above normal or you don’t feel full so quickly as some, you’ll eat more. Those two things are genetically determined.

But self-control also plays a role in obesity?

Obviously there are other things, like the availability of food or the amount of exercise people are taking. It’s not just one thing and I think that’s important too, but unless we begin to tackle things one by one, then we won’t get control of the problem. Our country has the highest levels of obesity in western Europe, some of the highest in the world, and it’s costing the NHS billions of pounds.

Do other places classify obesity as a disease?

In Holland, Portugal, Canada and America it’s classified as a disease. And we know that it has helped in America – it’s helped to destigmatise it and it’s helped to get people treated more readily. There are lots of aspects of making it a disease that will help people that already have a problem.

How else do you tackle the obesity problem?

There are lots of different things you need to do, but you’ve got to get going. You prevent it, that’s very important, but also treat it. You need to do both of those things.

What should be the first steps?

One of the first steps is to set up obesity services in every hospital in the country. A multidisciplinary team – a physician, a specialist nurse, somebody who can actually help people exercise, a dietitian – all of those things are important. Then people would have somewhere to go when they have a weight problem where they can get treatment. Treatment has been shown to be very effective.

Is the NHS not adequately supporting people now?

Only 50% of the country have access to obesity services, which is nowhere near enough.

Would stopping the advertising of certain foods help?

That’s a preventative measure which is important. Stopping advertising to children before nine in the evening has been shown to decrease the intake of junk foods. Advertising junk food before nine makes the obesity problem worse in children. A fifth of them go into primary school overweight, and a third of them come out of primary school [overweight], so there’s a huge issue there with people putting on weight during their schooling years.

It’s a preventative step that will carry over to when they are adults?

Yes. If a child is overweight they will carry it on as an adult, and they get more incidence of cancer, obviously diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

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Frank Bruno Is The Face Of Matalan’s New Gymwear Line

Getting the right workout gear can help motivate you to be a bit more active, but moving stories can be even more inspiring. Matalan is offering both with its new sportswear line, fronted by British sporting icon and former boxing world champion Frank Bruno.

Bruno knows how tough it can be to stay physically and mentally healthy. He won the WBC heavyweight championship in 1995, but within a few years he was hospitalised with psychological problems and diagnosed with bipolar disorder. As the campaign video reveals, Bruno used movement to manage his condition. “It brings out the endorphins in you, it’s a beautiful feeling,” says Bruno, who also recommends that “there are 24 hours in a day, so give yourself at least one hour to invest in your body, mind and soul.” Amen to that.

Now a successful charity marathon runner and a high-profile spokesperson on mental health issues, Bruno has endorsed the Souluxe collection, which is designed to inspire people to stay active throughout their life. It includes panelled leggings, double-layer running vests, shorts, T-shirts and showerproof lightweight jackets. Here are a few of our faves.

Souluxe Ombre Gym T-Shirt

We know, we were sold by the blended blue and white design, too. But the material also has a touch of stretch to help you move freely and antibacterial qualities to stop you stinking the place up. £10, buy on matalan.co.uk

Souluxe Half Zip Sports Sweatshirt

That grey with an orange accent on the arms makes this top as stylish as it is affordable. We think it’s a great choice for chilly morning runs. The thumb holes will keep your hands snug enough to leave the gloves at home, while the zip will let you keep you cool as the day warms up. £14, buy on matalan.co.uk

Souluxe Baseball Hoodie

Now this is a piece that epitomises athleisure. Wear this sleek, fitted but stretchy number as a warm-up top and down the pub afterwards. £16, buy on matalan.co.uk

The Fastest Vegetarian Stir-Fry Recipe We’ve Ever Come Across

Cooking a healthy dinner from scratch doesn’t have to mean spending hours in the kitchen. In fact, it doesn’t even need to mean spending half an hour in there if you use this super-fast vegetarian stir-fry recipe from Waitrose which takes less than 15 minutes to make.

A third of that time is spent chopping and assembling the various parts of the dish, so anyone who’s a wizard with a kitchen knife might be done in nearer to ten minutes than 15. Then it’s simply a case of chucking it all in the frying pan for a few minutes. If you’re a fast eater and a demon when it comes to washing up, you might be out of the kitchen having cooked, demolished and cleaned up all trace of your meal within 30 minutes. Barely longer than if you’d gone for a microwave ready-meal, and cooking this dish is a far tastier and healthier option than doing that.

The recipe can be cooked as a pure veg and mushroom combo, or if you want some extra protein in the dish, add in your favourite veggie meat alternative like Quorn. Or if you’re not veggie at all, add in some meat (just add a couple of minutes’ cooking time before you add the mushrooms in step 1). And if you’re not interested in upping the protein content but want more food, you can always just increase the amount of vegetables and mushrooms you throw into the mix. It’s a stir-fry – go wild. With the sesame oil, teriyaki sauce and rice wine combo you’ll be using, this will taste great whatever else you throw in.

Ingredients (Serves Two)

  • 1tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 125g chestnut mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 300g stir-fry vegetables (eg cabbage, baby sweetcorn, red onion, carrots), sliced
  • 4 salad onions, sliced
  • 2tbsp teriyaki sauce
  • 2tbsp rice wine
  • 275g wholewheat straight-to-wok noodles
  • Optional: 200g protein-rich meat alternative such as Quorn pieces

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan and fry the meat alternative (if using) and mushrooms for one minute. Add the stir-fry vegetables and cook for three minutes.
  2. Stir in the salad onions, teriyaki sauce, rice wine, 2tbsp water and noodles, and stir-fry for two minutes before serving.

Recipe and image via of Waitrose.com

Fiit Workout App Review – The Best Way To Bring Fitness Classes InTo Your Front Room

The app market is laden with fantastic free health and fitness apps, which means that a subscription app that offers pre-recorded fitness classes to follow at home has to offer something pretty special to tempt people into parting with their hard-earned cash. Fortunately, Fiit is pretty special, and it’s worth checking out if you’re a big fan of classes at boutique gyms (or would be if it wasn’t for their high prices).

Fiit’s ever-expanding range of classes is divided into three sections – Strength, Cardio and Rebalance, with the latter offering yoga and Pilates sessions. There are 25-minute and 40-minute classes available across the board as well as beginner, intermediate and advanced options for each. The catalogue of classes is also searchable by the part of the body you want to work on, or the type of music that will play in the background. And if you think one of the trainers is particularly good, you can easily find all the classes they instruct on Fiit.

Once you pick your class, you select the screen you want it played on – TV, phone or tablet – and then the app connects with the heart rate chest strap that’s provided with your membership. This is a Fiit-branded Wahoo Tickr X, and, as well as being accurate and easy to use, it’s able to count reps for certain exercises, a feature that’s used in the Strength classes on Fiit.

There are an awful lot of apps out there that also offer this 21st-century fitness DVD experience, but Fiit offers the best user experience of those I’ve tried for several reasons. It starts with the app design itself, which is slick and intuitive, and runs through the whole process of using Fiit.

The videos are all well produced and Fiit has rounded up an excellent group of trainers to lead the classes, who all give clear instructions. That’s handy in all the classes but essential in the yoga and Pilates sessions. I have very little experience of either but I was able to follow the beginner classes on a phone screen and be reasonably confident that I was in the right positions.

Your heart rate and reps are displayed on screen and these stats are used to motivate you in Cardio and Strength classes. Strength workouts challenge you to beat your rep totals for certain exercises within a class and the next time you try the class. The heart rate is used in the Cardio classes to evaluate how hard you’re working and if you are pushing yourself enough. The heart rate zone you should be in is displayed on screen and you earn more Fiit points for being in the right zone, the goal being to beat your tally next time.

I found the heart rate more useful than the rep counting, and having to build workouts entirely around exercises that involve enough movement for the chest strap to count reps might prove restrictive in the long run. However, I didn’t notice too much repetition of exercises in my time with Fiit and the rep counting worked perfectly. For example, when I tried just doing squats when I was meant to be doing jump squats, I got zero credit for those reps.

If your main aim is to bulk up and you want to use weights, Fiit doesn’t cater to you right now. I did grab a kettlebell that was hand and use it for some exercises during Strength classes, but all the workouts are designed to use your bodyweight only.

Although I got on fine with Fiit on my phone, it is a far better experience on a big screen and the pending addition of Chromecast to the app will be a major improvement. The HDMI cable connection was the only unreliable part of my experience with the app, and often I’d give up and just use the phone itself (Fiit is also available for tablets, but not on my venerable iPad 2, which isn’t up to date enough).

The Fiit experience gets a big thumbs up, but whether it justifies the cost is another matter. The monthly rate of £20 is pushing it, but the £45 per quarter is more reasonable and an annual subscription of £120 is undoubtedly good value for money, especially considering that most fitness classes are £20 a pop. There is enough in Fiit that you can use it several times a week, and that’s true even if the classes are not your main activity – I run regularly and would mainly use Fiit for a bit of strength training and Pilates to support that.

Splashing out £120 in advance is a big commitment, but there is currently a deal available where you get your money back after trying ten classes if you then decide it’s not for you. There’s no joining fee either, and membership includes the chest strap tracker (which you can use for other things – the Wahoo Tickr X is a great tracker).

Fiit does offer value then, but that doesn’t change the fact that part of the appeal of fitness classes is doing them with other people you can see and interact with (even if that’s just trying to outperform or keep up with them). Fiit can’t offer that, but it can provide everything else you get from fitness classes in a convenient and well-presented form, so if you’re not going to classes to make friends, save yourself the money and get Fiit instead.

Fiit is currently available for iOS devices on the App Store (a version for Android devices is forthcoming), fiit.tv

The Six-Pack Workout That Challenges Your Upper, Lower And Side Abs

To develop any muscle to its fullest growth potential, you need to move through a variety of angles and use different rep ranges – and your abs are no exception. Yes, you first must shift that spare tyre for them to show, but simply getting lean doesn’t mean you’ll have a solid and sculpted six-pack. For that you need to train your upper, lower and side abs both hard and smart, which is what this circuit session will do.

The first move of each tri-set works your upper abs, the second your lower abs, and the third your side abs (or obliques) to sculpt more defined muscles across your entire abdominal region. Focus on good form throughout and keep those abs engaged for the maximum muscle return.

How to do the workout

This session is made up of six moves, split into three tri-sets, which are mini circuits containing three different exercises. That means you’ll do moves 1A, 1B and 1C in order, sticking to the reps detailed and only resting after all the reps of the move 1C. You’ll do three circuits of the first tri-set, then move on to the second tri-set, in which you’ll repeat this pattern with moves 2A, 2B and 2C.

To help ensure you sculpt a hard six-pack faster, engage your abs before you start the first rep of each set. Starting with your target muscles activated means you’ll maintain better form during the set and so work your muscles harder.

Tri-Set 1

1A Knees-up crunch

Sets 3 Reps 12 Rest 0sec

Lie on your back with your fingers at your temples, your knees bent and your feet up. Engage your upper abs to raise your torso off the ground, then crunch up to meet your knees. Lower slowly back to the start, keeping tension on your abs throughout.

1B Reverse crunch

Sets 3 Reps 12 Rest 0sec

Lie flat on your back with your arms flat on the floor and knees bent. Use your lower abs to draw your knees in towards your chest, then raise your hips off the ground, Lower slowly back to the start, keeping your entire core engaged.

1C Diagonal mountain climber

Sets 3 Reps 12 each side Rest 2min

Start in a press-up position. Without letting your hips sag, draw one knee in and bring it across towards the opposite elbow. Return to the start, then repeat with your other leg. Keep reps fast but controlled.

Tri-Set 2

2A Gym ball dumbbell crunch reach

Sets 3 Reps 12 Rest 0sec

Lie on a gym ball holding a dumbbell in both hands with your arms straight. Engage your abs to raise your torso, then squeeze your upper abs to raise the weight higher. Pause, then lower back to the start.

2B Gym ball upper body Russian twist

Sets 3 Reps 12 each side Rest 0sec

Lie on a gym ball with your palms together and arms straight. Engage your core, then rotate your torso to one side, back to the start, then to the other. Make it harder by holding a dumbbell in both hands.

2C Gym ball decline plank with toe taps

Sets 3 Reps 12 each side Rest 2min

Start in a plank position with your feet on a gym ball. Keeping your core engaged and your hips up, lift one foot off the ball and lower it to touch the floor. Reverse the movement, then repeat with the other foot.

How To Optimise Your Work Environment

Keep the greenery

If you can keep it alive, of course. Research suggests that keeping a plant at your desk can boost well-being at work, while being around the colour green can improve creativity. If you’re looking for something low-maintenance that will grow with minimal light, think peace lily or philodendron – they’ll also offer you more of a screen from snack-hoovering colleagues.

Lose your ‘stuff’ pile

Unless there’s a pressing need for you to have it to hand, file it – it’ll only distract you, and research published by the American Psychological Association suggests that “task switching”, or rapidly shuffling from one job to another, can make you up to 40% less efficient. If you’ve got several projects on, break up your time into 30- to 60-minute chunks so you work on one thing, then another.

Keep Post-it notes

Feeling stressed? A to-do list will work: willpower researcher Roy Baumeister reports that simply writing down goals can reduce the cognitive stress of unfinished tasks. Keep it short, but focused: “emails” or “pitches” isn’t effective, but to-do lists that focus on concrete, achievable tasks to tick off will allow you to ride the momentum of a few easily-achieved tasks and stay productive throughout the day.

Lose the laptop

Yes, it’s OK to be the only one in the morning meeting who doesn’t haul in a shiny MacBook Pro. In a 2016 study published in Psychological Science, researchers found that test subjects retained material better when they took notes by hand – probably because they were more likely to summarise and paraphrase than try to get everything down verbatim. By “encoding”, you’re more likely to remember what was said.

What Ultra-Explorer Ben Saunders Has Learned About The World

Britain has some form with producing polar explorers – and of that impressive lineage, Ben Saunders is the current flag-bearer. The youngest man in history to reach the North Pole alone and on foot – he did it at 27 – he also led the first ever return journey to the South Pole via the route that Ernest Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott took in their attempts. As well as sheer grit, he owes much of his success to a brutal work ethic, using deadlifts, tyre flips and sled drags as well as more traditional training to build strength alongside endurance.

What’s the adventure you’re most proud of?

The Scott Expedition. Between October 2013 and February 2014 my team-mate Tarka L’Herpiniere and I made a 2,888km round-trip to the South Pole on foot. It was a 105-day journey, the longest ever polar journey on foot, and the first time that this journey – the same route that defeated Ernest Shackleton and killed Captain Scott and his team – has been completed.

And what was the toughest physical challenge you’ve faced?

See above! We were dragging 200kg each at the start of the expedition, and we covered 69 back-to-back marathons in the coldest, windiest, driest, highest-altitude continent on Earth.

What was the most dangerous situation you’ve found yourself in – and how did you get out of it?
We were attacked by a polar bear on my first major expedition, back in 2001. My companion on that trip, Pen Hadow, was carrying a Russian shotgun, which jammed five times before he was able to fire shots into the air to scare it away.

What would you say is the biggest thing you’ve learned about yourself during your adventures?

That I have an extraordinary capacity for endurance. I’m definitely not superhuman, however, and I have internal battles with laziness, self-doubt and procrastination like anyone else.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about the world?

The sheer scale of Antarctica was the thing that surprised me most. I’d been churning out this glib line about it in years of drumming up sponsorship – that it was nearly twice the size of Australia, or the same as China and India put together – but it was only after it took us three days to fly across it in October 2013, in order to reach the start point of our expedition, that it really sank in.

What’s your advice to an average guy who wants to inject some adventure into their lives?

Don’t overthink it! The hardest part of any adventure, or indeed of most training sessions, is getting out of the front door.

For more on Saunders, visit bensaunders.com

This Healthy Chicken Recipe Is Set To Be The Star Of Your Summer

You know what’s really underrated? Marinating food, and marinating chicken especially. It takes only slightly more planning than usual and little extra work, but the payback for your tastebuds is massive. After your chicken’s spent a day sitting in fridge absorbing the myriad flavours of your marinade, it’s basically impossible to cook it in a way that isn’t delicious. Also when you whip out your marinated chicken at a dinner party in a manner reminiscent of a perfectly prepared Blue Peter presenter (try and say that five times quickly), people are going to be absolutely wowed.

Convinced? Of course you are, so plan on making this recipe from Fresh Fitness Food, a food delivery service that sends you pre-made meals and snacks designed to help you hit your fitness goals – whether that’s lose weight, become leaner, bulk up, or anything else.

The zingy, zesty marinade in this recipe adds oodles of flavour to the chicken, which you can barbecue or cook in the oven depending on how the British summer turns out. Once you’ve made the chicken we recommend pairing it with some fresh vegetables and brown rice or, even better, using it in this Mexican jumble recipe in place of the poached and shredded chicken.

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken breasts

For the marinade:

  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup coriander leaves
  • 1tsp lime zest
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • ¾tsp oregano
  • 1tsp cumin powder
  • 1½tbsp fresh mint leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1tsp salt
  • ½tsp black pepper

Method

  1. Place the ingredients for the marinade in a food processor. Whizz until the coriander is finely chopped.
  2. In a large bowl, pour the marinade over the chicken breasts. Cover with cling film and leave for 12 to 36 hours in the fridge.
  3. Chargrill the chicken breasts on a barbecue or griddle pan to add colour, then place in the oven at 200°C/gas 6 to cook through, which will take approximately ten minutes.
  4. Once the chicken breasts are cooked the whole way through (or reach 75°C, if you have a meat thermometer), take them out and leave them to rest for a few minutes. Slice and serve.

Try This Cycling Recovery Routine After Your Next Long Ride

Every keen cyclist knows that they should commit some time to recovery work after a long ride, but it’s fair to say that most skimp in this area. It’s understandable – after a few hours in the saddle, taking another 15-30 minutes to stretch and foam roll your aching muscles feels like a big commitment when you could be lounging on the sofa instead.

However, your muscles really won’t thank you for skipping recovery work and you’re liable to feel twice as tight the next day, as well as putting yourself at greater risk of injury over the course of a tough training regime. We spoke to Phil Burt, former head physiotherapist at British Cycling, about the importance of stretching and other recovery work, and asked him for a simple routine to do after your long rides.

Why is it important to stretch after a ride?

“You’ve got tight muscles, and as you try and move them towards their full length you either meet resistance or pain. That’s why we stretch – so we have more muscle length available to us that’s restriction-free. That’s especially true after a long ride, because it’s a forced postural position set by the parameters of your bike set-up.”

How long should you spend on your recovery work?

“Everybody is time-poor – even athletes. I remember Bradley Wiggins coming up to me once in 2007 or so. He’d been assessed by a California outfit and they gave him 26 different exercise and stretches to do each day. He said, ‘I did these yesterday and I didn’t have any time to ride my bike.’ Every one of those stretches was valid, but what I preach is golden bullet exercises, where you’re stretching different things at the same time.

“Do the exercises [recommended below] three to five times, for 30 to 60 seconds. If you get to 60 seconds you know you’re getting a good stretch, but you might find that too hard to do at first, so do it for 30 seconds and build up to a minute, knowing you’re doing it well.”

When should you stretch?

“I don’t think anyone needs to do it before a ride – unless they have specific reasons to, like an injury or restriction – but after the ride it’s very important. Nutrition is key in the first hour, so sort that, shower and clean yourself up, then ideally do the stretches straight after you’ve showered, when you’re still warm. Do it then and again later on that evening if you want to.”

Post-Ride Recovery Routine

You’ll need a trigger point massage ball and a foam roller for this routine, which Burt has designed to target all of the areas of the body most likely to be stiff after a long cycle.

Rectus femoris, hip flexors and lower back

“The rectus femoris is the middle quad muscle and it’s really important in cycling. If that gets tight then it glues down your hip and your kneecap, and it can be the muscle responsible for kneecap pain when cycling. You don’t use the hip flexors in cycling unless it’s an all-out sprint, but they are important because they connect to your lumbar spine. So when you stand up they pull your back into an extended and maybe painful position.

“You can stretch your rectus femoris and hip flexors with a modified Bulgarian stretch. Stand on one leg with the other behind you on a chair. Squeeze your glutes as tight as you can and push through your hips, and then squat down on the standing leg.

“For people who have very poor flexibility through the pelvis and lower back, the modified Bulgarian means your pelvis can move where it wants to and it decreases the load on your lumbar spine. If I asked you to touch the floor now and I blocked your pelvis you’d have to do it all through your lumbar spine, so you’d feel more of stretch there and maybe some pain. It’s the same on a bike – you want your hips, pelvis and lower back sharing the workload.”

Glutes

“Glute stretches are great but I suggest using a trigger-point ball on your glutes. Get the ball up against a wall and lean right into it around your glutes. It’s really easy to get a good release on your glutes. You’ll feel great afterwards!”

Iliotibial band (ITB)

“Cyclists’ ITBs can get very tight because of the forces the knee has to deal with from pedalling, and this can be a major cause of knee pain. Foam roll the ITB [which runs down the outside of the thigh], because it’s very hard to stretch. All I can say to you is that whatever the foam roller actually does, and there is controversy about the mechanism, it works! It’s eye-wateringly painful, but if you do it every day for two weeks, three minutes each side, it stops hurting. Vibrating foam rollers are really good for this, because they make it less painful.”

Thoracic spine

“When cycling, the thoracic spine [the upper part of the spine] is in a similar position to when you’re looking at the ceiling when you’re painting it. Foam rolling the thoracic spine will pay big dividends in your neck and decrease the workload for your lumbar spine. Often people don’t feel like the thoracic spine is painful, but foam rolling that area can help with problems in your neck and lower back.”

Lats

“Problems arise here because you’re holding the handlebars for ages. The lats come all the way from your neck down to the bottom of your spine. They’re a big stabilising muscle. Put a trigger-point ball against your armpit to roll them, either lying on your side or against a wall. This can really help your thoracic spine to move, and therefore your lumbar spine and neck. Again it’s a muscle that itself isn’t painful but if restricted will cause aches, pains and restrictions elsewhere.”

Phil Burt, former head physiotherapist at British Cycling, has launched Phil Burt Innovation, offering a range of services including cycling-specific injury assessment, treatment and bike fitting. For more information visit philburtinnovation.co.uk