30 Dec 2010

Making it stick

Hi folks,

I don't think you'd appreciate me giving you another list of health tips right now, we're still enjoying all the Christmas left-overs & cranking up for new year! So here's a little help on how to make those new years resolutions stick (most resolutions fail in the first two weeks);

  1. Think about all the positive accomplishments you made in 2010
  2. Pick a resolution that really matters to you, then think about where it stems from.
  3. Make this 'origin' of your resolution your Actual new years resolution.
  4. Make sure its realistic & attainable
  5. Break it down in to short term goals 
  6. Aim but don't expect to blitz every goal, have a strong back-up plan
  7. Reward yourself in different ways when you're doing well
  8. Tell people at home & work your goals so they can encourage & help keep you on track.
So that's my recommended checklist, hopefully your resolution ticks all the boxes. Enjoy the festive period & ave a fantastic new year!!


24 Dec 2010

Give yourself permission

Hi folks,

You know those mornings were your brain is already going a million miles an hour, planning every hour with jobs before you've even got out of bed? It is Christmas eve so i wont give you anything extra to think about this week, just to say do all the things you want to do this Christmas.

Most of us are health conscious & will feel guilty eating & drinking this next week. Yes it may add a few calories, but if it helps you unwind & enjoy the time off then that's important too. So my message this week is to make the most of time with friends & family, & enjoy all the festive treats - you've earned it.

Merry Christmas


16 Dec 2010

Don't forget to empty your bins!

Hi folks,

Over this last week I have learnt about the importance of our lymphatic system. I am aware that most people have heard of this bodily function, but do not know any details & I feel it really is worth knowing about.

To keep it brief, plasma which is present in our blood is squeezed out of our circulatory system & passes between our cells. These cells take up nutrients & expel waste back in to the plasma. Our bodies now need to get rid of this waste & is ultimately transported upwards to the lymph nodes where lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) consume it.

The lymphatic system doesn't have its own 'pump' & so we can help the process manually through massage. This is just one of the big benefits of massage, here are some others:

  • Increases blood flow (containing oxygen & nutrients)
  • Increases recovery rate from exercise & injury
  • Decreases tension & micro-spasms (occur in muscle tissue that can result in pain / trauma)
  • Decreases blood pressure
  • Stimulates organ function & relaxation

What it would be like if the dustbin men go on strike next week? This accumulation of rubbish can be what's happening inside us right now. Much of the waste that needs to be got rid of are toxins created through everyday elements such as general metabolism, poor nutrition, stress, & even exercise! So if you want healthier organs, skin complexion, emotions, & energy levels etc then massage may be able to help your body work more efficiently.

Contact me for more information or to arrange an appointment (as I am now sports massage trained) - you may need it if you're frantically hitting the shops this weekend, stressed out at work, festively over indulging, or just stuck for that last present idea!


10 Dec 2010

'Ask the audience'

Hi folks,

This week I took the opportunity to chat with a chiropractor (Jackie), I've not had the chance to meet a chiropractor before so we got chatting. With us both being passionate about health and well-being our conversation inevitably got more complex.

Through my previous research of muscular-skeletal disorders I had formed the belief that many of the body's issues could be traced back to problems with our foundations - foot function (seeing as everything is stacked vertically on top of our feet, and we don't really look after our feet properly in our culture). After chatting with Jackie I learnt that my theory was often true but more importantly that I was overlooking strong movement pattern imbalances in the upper body that could also 'pull' the spine & pelvis out of alignment to cause pain. 

Two things you may take away with you:

1. I may have introduced those of you who are already body-aware and know a little anatomy to a deeper understanding of our bio mechanics and can apply this thinking to yourselves / your workforce.

2. Everyone can learn valuable lessons from not only swapping ideas with associates within your industry but from those in seemingly unrelated industries. This week I have discovered that developing my own lines-of-thinking leads to progress, but sometimes taking the 'blinkers' off and liaising with other professional opinions light up other paths offering a potential for greater progress.

Those of you completing a project or developing an idea, ask yourself "do I work in tunnel vision all the time?" if so then why not try getting a second opinion?

Have a great weekend!


3 Dec 2010

Do things right - intead of 'not wrong'

Hi folks,

I know its late in the day & you just want to start your long trip home through Narnia so I'll keep this one reletively short. Us Brits, with our sarcastic sense of humour always seem to expect the worst or worry about 'not doing things wrong'. How about we focus on how to not just do things right - but brilliantly!

When faced with a new or challenging task we often steer it by trying to avoid the pit-falls, or things going typically wrong or failing altogether. This can be amplified by pressure from your boss & yourself, causing emotional stress to manifest in to our nemesis - muscle tension! Well if we're too busy stressing out about the obstacles, who's concentrating on the way forward?

Think of me on my snowboard. If I'm tackling a piste & I focus on a rock up ahead, what's going to happen? - yep....sore bum! Where as if I'm aware of it but focus on the direction I want to go, then I sail by it in style.

So what I'm saying is visualise your goal being a success then take the next step to achieving it. By all means plan ahead & acknowledge the dangers but stay focused on absolute success.

More workplace health tips next week!


26 Nov 2010

A breath of fresh air!

Hi folks,

Everyone does it, it occurs 24/7, & its essential for staying alive - breathing! Our lungs can hold up to 6 litres of air, up to 500ml of this air is pushed in & out with every breath. However due to postural constraints, low levels of health & fitness or complacency, we fall in to a shallow breathing pattern. This is fine when we're asleep as our brain & muscles don't need much oxygen then, but in our waking hours this can affect alertness, energy levels, & concentration etc. So in other words, if we practice the breathing exercises below as couple of times a day we are not only keeping our lungs healthy but improving our workplace health & performance - right?

 Simple deep breathing:
  1. From a relaxed position (standing, seated or lying) breathe out slowly through your nose counting to 5 seconds. While doing so tense your stomach muscles to draw in your diaphragm which helps your lungs deflate.
  2. As the lungs feel like they have emptied, pause for 2 seconds, then inhale slowly for 5 seconds. Push your stomach out to help this.
  3. Repeat 5 - 10 times, closing your eyes if this helps.
Result: you feel relaxed, you have optimum blood oxygen saturation, & you're ready to carry on working but more productively.

How many times a day do you yawn? A yawn is our body's response to low oxygen saturation levels in the blood (hence the body feeling tired / shallow breathing). By showing the world our tonsils & making a caveman sound, we are taking in a greater amount of oxygen & exchanging it with the existing air in our lungs.

Today it is a cold crisp day so its perfect for giving deep breathing a go. Especially if you're sat in a traffic jam, a stuffy office or walking for your lunch.

Take care today & enjoy the festive weather!

18 Nov 2010

Why not try something new?

Complimentary therapies are hands-on sessions that stimulate & work with the body’s natural healing processes. There are many different disciplines & can be used either as an alternative to conventional medicine, or to assist it. Many such practices originate in the depths of history but have been revised and modified over time for use today.

So why are more & more people choosing complimentary therapies over medication these days & how could they impact your workforce? This is because they can have less severe side effects, are holistic (treat the body as a whole), & you learn more about your body - becoming more ‘body aware.’ 

Types that we are most likely to come across are massage, reflexology, acupuncture, reiki, Indian head massage, Bowen therapy, kinesiology, & osteopathy. Rather than describe each therapy, I'm going to mention the two main ways in which they work.

1) By stimulating the nervous system we can get muscles to 'let go' of undetected tension. This then allows nutrient rich blood in to repair any damaged tissues & we can re-educate the body in its natural movement patterns / reflexes.

2) Many therapies work with the body's own energy balance, or meridian channels. If we become stressed or injured, this blocks or distorts our energy channels. Practitioners work to re-balance these which then help the body to recover to full health again. 

 If any theories of complimentary treatments sound a little 'out-there', then the only way to see if they really work is to try them for yourself! You don't have to be in poor health to be treated, many people go every so often for the relaxation benefits. Lets think about it - if they didn't work, would they still be around after all this time? Ask the local chemist or GP surgery for your closest registered practitioners & treat someone to a Christmas present with a difference this year!

12 Nov 2010

Be fit & healthy - no gym required!

We are all continuously advised to do exercise to stay healthy by the media, our GP, our friends, our partners, & by our own conscience. Gyms are great if you can use them effectively but in my experience only a certain proportion of people get results from gym work. Others don't stick at it, usually because they do not enjoy it or cannot commit the time.

It would be advantageous to us all if we include as much non-gym exercise as possible, living an active lifestyle. I'm not just talking about 'taking the stairs' here but a whole range of other options:

  1. Walking the dog for 20min over varied terrain in the mornings & evenings.
  2. Walking or cycling to work.
  3. Being as active in your tasks at work as possible.
  4. Walking out to buy / eat lunch rather than staying at work.
  5. Involve your children & partner in physical activities on evenings / weekends such as walking around local tourist attractions, parks & riversides.
  6. Grab someone to walk to the local shops with so you can carry your bags home.
  7. Invite friends for social activities like bowling, ice skating, a kick-around, a day out shopping, & of course nights out usually involve a good few hours of dancing!

These are all easy to fit in but how many of these do you currently do? Challenge yourself & plan now to fit them all in next week. They're much more enjoyable than a sedentary lifestyle, can cost very little compared to pricey gym memberships, & often 'kill two birds with one stone'.

So while we still have a few days of nice weather left, lets make the most of them starting this weekend!

5 Nov 2010

5 Great sleeping tips

Hi folks,

Every day we put pressure on ourselves / others to work harder, be more efficient, perform better or be more productive. The one thing that usually ends up suffering is our sleep which in my opinion, a good 7-8hrs of per 24hrs, is the most productive thing we can possibly do! During sleep our bodies go through stages to recover & rebuild both physically & mentally. If they are not getting chance to do this properly then we cannot expect to then be at our best. 

Top sleeping tips:
  1. Make sure your sleep covers 2am - 5am.
  2. Go to bed & get up at the same time each 24hr period if possible (including weekends).
  3. Develop a 'winding down' routine & stick to it. e.g. reading, chill out music, warm bath, chatting etc.
  4. Only use your bedroom for sleep, not working, exercise or watching TV etc. 
  5. Complex carbohydrate rich food can help increase sleep quality, where as protein rich food make us more alert. Use them strategically to help your routine.

Quality sleep has a huge influence on our hours spent awake. Watch this space in the future for tips on effective napping & find out why we were born to do it.

Enjoy your weekend!

29 Oct 2010

Simple Mobility is the Secret!

Hi all,

In this blog entry I am going to give you a basic snippet of what forms the core of some of my Occupational Fitness workshops. After much research & liaising with other health professionals, it is clear that most muscular-skeletal disorders may be prevented by regularly moving our body through its full range of movement.

Some examples of mobility exercises are:
  1. Neck rotations
  2. Reverse shoulder rolls
  3. Spinal rotations
There are many more of these covering the whole body. The measures we take depends upon our daily activities:

Sedentary jobs / lifestyles require mobility exercises to maintain full joint range of motion & stretches to lengthen muscles that shortened as a result of our static position.

Active jobs / lifestyles require mobility as this also stimulates a fluid release in the joint that helps maintain our cartilage. Stretches are important here too as they will ease tension in the muscles that are constantly being used.

Try analysing your own lifestyle in light of the sedentary & active elements then decide what measures you can take. You can significantly increase your functional health & decrease your risk of muscular-skeletal disorders.

To learn more & see how this type of work can benefit your company by increasing the health & performance of your workforce please visit www.occupational-fitness.com, viewing our products and topics. Plus discover how we can help you overcome the huge problem of lower back pain.

21 Oct 2010

Efficiency Vs an active lifestyle - can we have both?

Hi all,

 Let me give you two scenarios of active lifestyles, see if any aspects sound familiar:

1) Sarah - Works in an office environment, pressured by targets and deadlines and so organises her daily tasks to be as time efficient as possible, e.g. combining meetings, visits to other departments / offices, errands and 'printer runs' in the morning, then blocking all desk based work together for that afternoon. Most nights after work Sarah stops off at the local gym before driving on home.

2) Lauren - Also works in an office environment with a similar job to Sarah. However she deliberately organises her day to be as active as possible, e.g. cycling to work, taking the stairs, mixing desk-work periods up with meetings, visits, 'printer runs', breaks, all over the course of the day. She also goes out for a walk to her favourite deli every lunch time. Lauren also stops at the gym on they way home but not as often as Sarah, and so has this time to relax at home.

So.. which lifestlye is best?  Both women get their jobs and get exercise done but in different ways. For people who don't like the gyms and are beginners looking to increase and maintain general health, fitness and good posture, then perhaps Lauren's lifestyle is the most effective. If you are training in a specific way or of an advanced fitness level aswell as being more methodical in your work, then your day may be similar to Sarah's.

Can both styles co-exist, well try to think of three ways that you can realisitcally increase your general health (inc posture & nutrition) tomorrow at work that won't take too much time. The implementation of these obviously depends on your job role and the amount of freedom you have with it, however you may just find these techniques increase your work perfomance as well as your health!

15 Oct 2010

Be more efficient........ stop!

Hi all,

I'd like to introduce you to the ‘Inhibition concept’, it is part of the Alexander Technique & can apply to anything, anywhere. It’s all about pausing just before we would have done something that we wouldn’t have otherwise had to think about. This could be bending over to put the washing in, adjusting your car / office seat or even signing off that paperwork - something that would have come as ‘second nature’.

Our bodies consist of a series of inbuilt reflexes that co-ordinate our muscles & joints to move in the most energy efficient & healthiest way; lets call this ‘first nature’. Through various activities & postures these reflexes can become suppressed and ‘bad habits’ become our norm or...wait for it....'second nature’. By developing the presence of mind to sometimes stop before we move (like the way a cat pauses or a toddler crawls intermittently), we can perhaps then proceed with a better option that doesn’t put as much stress on the body. It is likely that this action will match one of our suppressed reflexes, so in fact we are not developing a new behaviour but re-learning an old one.

The Inhibition concept isn’t just limited to physical movements; many senior mangers involve its principles when making important decisions. In roles that involve a lot of responsibility or pressure it can be very useful to stop and look at your work patterns & behaviour. Think of it like a personal risk assessment, ask yourself ‘do I always follow the same methods?’ ‘How could I address this differently?’ or ‘do I always get the same outcomes?’  Hopefully you will conclude that you are already operating in the best way in light of everything concerned, but others may find they are able to make a small change that improves their health & productivity.

Hopefully you found this blog entry slightly thought provoking, & if you did – nice work, that was your first recognised instance of inhibition! Remember to ‘inhibit’ all different parts of your lifestyle on a periodic or rolling basis.

Have a great weekend!

8 Oct 2010

Improve your sight with these quick techniques!

Hi folks,

Its Friday afternoon (I can hear your cheers now!) & this text looks a little fuzzy because you've been staring at a computer screen or the road all week long then try these simple eye exercises. They relax, condition, & are thought to even strengthen your eyes.

1) Changing focus
Hold a book as close to your eyes as possible without the print becoming blurred. Focus on the words for 15 seconds. Then, look at an object at least 10 feet away and focus on that. Repeat this five times. This exercise helps build stamina so you don’t experience eye fatigue as often when working on close tasks.
2) Eye “push-ups”
Hold a pencil at arm’s length in front of your face. Slowly move it toward your nose, holding your focus at the same spot on the pencil. The objective is to bring the pencil to the tip of your nose before you see a double image of the pencil. This exercise strengthens your the “convergence ability” of your eyes (that is, the ability of both eyes to aim at the same task), which helps prevent eye-strain and may eliminate the “floating print” that can occur when your eyes are tired.
Just like the muscles in our body, our eye focusing muscles become fatigued with constant use. The above exercises help re-train the muscles that may otherwise easily 'glaze over'. Obviously you won't notice an instant difference but if performed regularly (perhaps twice a day) you may see an improvement after a week. Think of the difference it could make to your health & work performance, just don't burn a hole in that paper or pencil in the process!

1 Oct 2010

Save time and money with your nutrition!

Everyone would like to eat healthier but most of us don't have the time, resources or knowledge to do so for every meal. Do you struggle to eat properly at work and just end up grabbing the usual butty from the local shop or settle for second best at the canteen? If we're in a rush this will probably be the case and then we'll get cravings for 'bad foods' later on. Well here's the answer - Bulk cook! Simple I know, and I'm sure many of you are aware of its benefits, if so treat this blog as a reminder or inspiration.

It's pouring down outside as I'm writing this so I know we will soon be in the mood for some tasty winter warming food. There are plenty of healthy cook books out there along with balanced recipes on the Internet, so there's no excuse for not getting a big pot of casserole on the go this Sunday afternoon. Use raw and fresh ingredients, slow cooking them to let the flavours infuse. Separate into portion bags and allow to cool for freezing before you enjoy a hot serving for your trouble.

As long as food is fresh, freezing it maintains most of its nutritious value. The time and effort you put in goes towards your 5-10 a-day, each day. All you have to do is defrost it overnight / in your bag and / or chuck it in the microwave it's ready to eat!

other tasty and very quick meal ideas are:
  • Chili con'carne
  • Spaghetti bolognese
  • Beef / vegetable stew
  • Tuna pasta bake
  • Fish / Shepard's pie
  • Vegetable hash
Such foods may be available from your canteens and  ready meals but you know exactly what goes in to the ones you've made!

16 Sept 2010

Use your breaks to boost performance!

Whether you've recently returned from your holidays & are frantically trying to beat that heap of awaiting paperwork or maybe you work in education & are grafting overtime to be ready for the next academic year, here's how you can use breaks as your secret weapon!

1) When? - identify when to take breaks. If your 'in the zone' then there is no sense in stopping here, take a break if your finding a piece of work stressful, physically demanding or you struggle to concentrate.

2) Where? - even if you feel comfortable at your work station, you will work so much better on return if you temporarily change your environment. Go to the staff room, catch up with colleagues in another dept or best yet go for a wonder & get some fresh air. Often the most effective breaks are those spent in environments opposite to our working environment: E.g. If you're sat down indoors - get up & walk outdoors, if you do active work out side - sit down in the warmth with a cuppa & chat.

3) How long? obviously don't 'milk it' otherwise you're boss will probably give you a longer break than you wanted. Just a 5 minute break can be extremely effective. If you don't have the freedom to take your own breaks or really feel you don't have time then try changing tasks for a short while instead as this can have a similar effect.

4) Why? our mind & body work best when sufficiently stimulated. If we have a sedentary or repetitive job then we easily start to switch off & not produce our best work. The more restricted we are in our job, the more important it is to stimulate our senses by changing our environment, even just changing the layout / lighting / colour of your office can have a beneficial affect.

How many of you have your lunch at your desk? - yeah me too. Lets just try it out today & see if it makes a difference, we have nothing to lose & perhaps a lot to gain!

P.S. struggling to concentrate can often be caused by dehydration so grab a glass of water on your walk about too.

9 Sept 2010

Letting your workforce off the leash!

Put down your bagels folks because this week while further researching performance enhancing techniques, I came across some very intriguing methods you may find useful.

This alternative line of thinking is that by sticking to 'best practice' and adhering to a truck load of processes and procedures, we are not giving ourselves / our employees the opportunity to excel, but only ever achieving average results. Yes, various protocols and SOPs are needed for guidance and to ensure a good job, but these days doesn't there seem to be too much control, always having to do things the long way round? By keeping your employees challenged, acknowledged and in 'the loop' instead of suppressing them, you may just unveil the employees with those great ideas or that extra level of service capable of giving your company the edge.

The reason I have become a geeky fan of this type of management is not just because it helps companies progress, it also is much more psychologically and therefore physically healthy for the individual. It engages them raising their job satisfaction, increasing productivity and decreasing sickness absence.

Think about your job role and the effect such an approach would have on you. You may just be able to see over your in-tray!

3 Sept 2010

Addressing your basic priorities!

If I asked you to list your life's top 5 possessions would you put your car, designer sunglasses or laptop before your mattress & footwear? In a high-street survey I would expect so.

Lets think about this for a second, surely the things that we do most often are therefore the things that have greatest potential to affect our daily health & performance. We spend about 2/3rds of our life in a pair of shoes and the other 1/3rd lying on a mattress, so it makes perfect sense that they are good quality and fit for purpose in order to promote our well-being.

Shoes: Now, if as your reading this your conscience is screaming then don't worry, I'm going to help you. Lots of money can be spent on desirable footwear but lets save those for special occasions. At work they may be out of sight anyway under your desk, driving your car, or 1/2 hidden by your trouser leg so why not make them comfy and functional instead. Choose shoes that fit the natural shape of your foot (they don't restrict the foots movement when walking), go for flat or low-heel options with support & cushioning where you need it while allowing the foot to move naturally. This is especially important if you are stood for long periods of time!

Mattresses: It's not always necessary to splash out on a slab of 'space-age foam' mattress, good quality conventional ones can be just as good. My main message here is 'try before you buy'. Rather than just jumping on it in the showroom, ask for a 5-7 night trial (most retailers offer this). This way you can truly test it as you will fully relax when semi-conscious in sleep. Ultimately go with what feels most comfortable to you, for most of us this will be medium-firm. If your current mattress sags - change it! A good nights sleep = a healthy and productive days work.

Further workforce advice on these and related topics is available in our courses and workshops.

26 Aug 2010

Wetter is better!

We all know that we are supposed to drink around 2.5 litres (8-10 glasses) per day, but most of us are way off this quota. So why is water so important? what positive affect does it have on our day? - here are just 4 of the key ones:
  1. It makes us more alert.
  2. It helps us concentrate on tasks.
  3. It can make make us feel more energetic.
  4. Sometimes we can mistake being thirsty as 'hunger cravings'.
These are all factors that will impact directly on our jobs! From personal experience I know that if I am dehydrated (from sleep or exercise) I feel tired and am unproductive until I rehydrate. It only takes about 20 minutes for water to digest so this problem can be quickly resolved having a valuable impact on my days work. Pass these benefits on to your colleagues to help them perform at thier best!

(Oh, and dont gulp it all down at once otherwise you'll see more of the bathroom than your workstation. Regular sips until your wee turns pale is the key.)

24 Aug 2010

Occupational Fitness blog launch - Tips-blitz

Welcome to our first blog post. Through this weekly blog we will supply you with valuable tips and techniques that you can use in the workplace, discuss the latest research and recommendations, and keep you up to date with our company activities. By subscribing to this blog, it can become a valuable resource for you and your company!