Social media and reality

I recently read an article in the Independent regarding a survey that Nuffield Health performed. They report that a third of 18-35-year olds lacked the confidence to join a gym and that social media contributed to this self-consciousness. So, is social media insightful and helpful for those wanting to join a gym? or does it produce a layer of expectation that a certain physical appearance is necessary? I began thinking about this and when, in my past life, I was a fitness manager.

When I worked in the health and fitness industry, I would see people of all different shapes and sizes coming into the gym or to classes. Some would come with full make-up and not produce a bead of sweat – putting me who is very much a sweaty Betty to shame. Others would come in wearing super modern kit compared to maybe an old pair of shorts and once-white t-shirt. Some users would appear with huge baggy T-shirts, whilst others would be wearing a thong over skimpy shorts – yes in the late 90s that was a thing.

BUT the important consideration, regardless of appearance, is that each person has their own reasons for going to a gym. Whilst it is very easy to judge, I was fortunate enough to interact with many of our members and very often I would get to know their story. I learnt very quickly that appearances are very deceptive.

Surprisingly to many, when talking to a few of the ‘skinny’ girls, I would learn that she was wanting to lose weight because when she looked in the mirror, she saw a fat body. This is the very real pain of living with an eating disorder (for males and females). These particular users had to be managed very carefully as their energy expenditure far exceeded their calorific intake leading to potential fainting fits and subsequent injury. Additionally, I would learn that other members, ate, vomited and exercised (not necessarily in that order) – a vicious cycle of distress.

I would talk to friends and colleagues outside of work, they wanted to lose weight before joining the gym – yes, this is very common and many will associate with this concept that you need to lose weight before joining a gym. Of course, the truth be told, the gym will accelerate this progress and provide so many more benefits at the same time. The most difficult step, is that very first step into the gym.

Often sessions would be cancelled, this may be because on a particular day the gym user did not feel comfortable in their own skin, whilst others would spend much time doing their hair and make-up before a session. I would hear comments about people wearing make up to the gym, what is the point?  well there any many people that do this to improve their confidence – or as I think of it, put their public mask on.

Of course, then we have the body builders – yes, they should celebrate their bodies but they are mighty intimidating for the users that are not confident with weights. The cacophony of grunts and snorts as they push themselves to max! This is an important component of training for some, I know a guy that is a power lifter and in order to succeed in his competitions, he doesn’t care how much anyone else is lifting, he is breaking his own body limits today! Weight lifting generally is an essential component of general health and fitness but not everyone needs to max out on the weights, it depends on personal preference. So, to the person that wants to have a go but has been putting it off, approach a gym member and ask them to show you the correct technique. Just pick a few exercises to start with and then add a few more as your confidence builds.

I personally have been the user that got off the treadmill feeling hopeless and went home because I felt so slow next to the user next to me. I completely get it, but I also know that the sprinter was probably focusing on his breathing, desperate to complete this scheduled and gruelling training run – the 4th of the week. I reflect on how I let my own assumptions that I was a rubbish runner, make me throw the towel in that day!  Walk, jog, run – it is OK just move and get that heart pumping.

Some users would just come in, get their head down and power through a session so they could get home again, whilst others came in for the social element and a good catch up alongside a workout. All in all there are very many reasons for people to gym – including but not limited to: goal-specific training, general health and wellbeing, weight loss/maintenance/gain, mental health management (definitely me!), injury rehabilitation, recovery from a heart attack or management of other health conditions such as diabetes, to pass a military fitness test, improve flexibility, socialising, to stick two fingers up at the ex – always loved to work with those users – and of course, just for fun. Whatever the reason, embrace it and go for it because trust me – with time your self-confidence will improve!

So, personally I believe that if someone is feeling confident enough to put up a post on social media – applaud them and help them celebrate their achievement. Like the post, tell them how great they are doing, ask them about their routine. Their post is by no means a reflection of you so, how you let their post make you feel about yourself is your own responsibility. If it makes you feel bad, do something positive and regain control of your confidence. You may not be that amazing person in the picture – but you are you AND you are amazing too!

The Kite Dance

by Tracey Evans

Tickled by fingers of the wind

bouncing on the tide of warm air

a tender massage

from exhalations of breath.

 

Soaring and diving

dancing and waving

swishing and swaying

in tune with nature’s melody.

 

In harmony with leaves

synchronised with trees

to the sound of the beat

of Mother Earth’s heart.

 

In the final breath

a tender embrace

a grand gesture and bow

in thanks for the dance.

 

Book Magic

Books

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” – Stephen King

Do you grieve for a book that you have finished? lament over the life you lived during the turning of pages – the passion, the pain, the joy and the hope? This brief (perhaps) experience is sometimes the perfect salve from the drama of our own lives. Pick up a book and live the life you want through the turning of the pages and the exploration of another known or indeed, unknown world.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R.R. Martin

A ‘feel good’ romantic comedy may help soothe the soul; a classic, such as a Jane Austin, may leave us ladies sitting taller or behaving in a coyer manner whilst a Dan Brown book could leave us curious and pensive. The feeling will be based on your affinity with the book and should be cherished. A unique and personal relationship is developed with the characters and this lives on in us after the book has sung its final chapter.

Having read hundreds of books, some have long since been forgotten. A selection may be worthy of at least a second read and others best left at their place in time so as to avoid any marring of cherished memories. Whether to feed our spirit or to bathe in the art of relaxation, each book has a purpose and for that may we always truly love the magic brought to us with each turn of the page.

Ageing, Exercise and Neurodegeneration

by Tracey Evans 

Ageing is thought to be the highest risk factor for neurodegenerative conditions, such as dementia. Dementia is characterised by the progressive decline in cognitive functions and memory. WHO predicts that worldwide approximately 47 million people suffer with dementia, the most common form being Alzheimer’s disease and it is envisaged that this number is set to triple by 2030. In an era of increased longevity, what can we do to minimise the risk of developing dementia, a condition for which there is presently no cure?

Lifestyle choices are frequently cited as being a prerequisite for a number of neuronal and systemic disease processes. Lack of physical activity, dietary choices, alcohol consumption and smoking, each may singularly impart an increased mortality rate. Most likely the risk factors for dementia are multifarious and include factors other than lifestyle, such as genetics. However, any lifestyle choice that has an impact on the brain could potentially impact on the processes that accelerate neurodegeneration away from the normal ageing process.

Could exercise be a modifier of the ageing process by decreasing the risk of developing dementia and moderating the symptoms. It is already well established that moderate exercise has multiple benefits on our physiological and mental wellbeing. Growing evidence is now supporting a positive role for physical activity in both the ageing process and in a protective capacity in relation to dementia. Various studies have demonstrated that physical activity, in particular, aerobic exercise, may act to attenuate the risk of developing dementia and slow the process of cognitive decline. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease that exercise for one hour twice a week show a slower decline in activities of daily living (i.e. eating, bathing, dressing etc.) [1], walking in elderly men has been shown to reduce the risk of developing dementia [2] and finally, but importantly, those that exercised pre-diagnosis saw an increase in cognitive decline when they decreased their exercise levels when compared to those that maintained their physical activities [3].

Whether physical activity alone can alter the course of dementia progression or if other lifestyle factors also contribute, remains to be established. It is an intriguing concept that physical activity may either slow the development of cognitive changes associated with dementia, delaying the on-set of the disease or ultimately prevent the initiation of the pathology. In the meantime, exercise has many benefits that may protect the body during the advancing years and help alleviate some of the symptoms following diagnosis. Some of the benefits include:

  • Improved strength, core stability and flexibility
    • Strength and flexibility declines with age.
    • Falls and postural instability are observed in ageing and dementia-related conditions; strengthening and core exercise may temper this risk
  • Improved bone density due to weight bearing activities, such as walking and yoga
    • Bone density decreases with age, increasing the risk of fractures.
    • Reduces the risk of osteoarthritis.
  • The neurotransmitter release during exercise has a positive impact on our mental well being
    • Depression is often observed in conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
  • Exercise is important for cardiovascular health and prevention of other conditions such as type II diabetes and strokes.

 

Collectively, exercise leads to physiological, psychological and biochemical improvements. Exercise may not be a cure for dementia, but if followed during one’s lifetime it may ensure that the balance of a healthy lifestyle provides protection against some of the declines seen in ageing and the risk of developing a neurodegenerative condition. It cannot be excluded that there may be limitations in the ability to exercise due to pre-existing conditions or if the dementia is progressing the decline in cognitive function may preclude certain activities. In addition, there are still many unanswered questions and future research will establish the required duration, intensity and frequency required. In the meantime, I shall just tie up my laces and consider that I am keeping myself brain-fit as well as heart-fit.

 

  1. Rolland, Y., et al., Exercise program for nursing home residents with Alzheimer’s disease: a 1-year randomized, controlled trial. J Am Geriatr Soc, 2007. 55(2): p. 158-65.
  2. Abbott, R.D., et al., Walking and dementia in physically capable elderly men. JAMA, 2004. 292(12): p. 1447-1453.
  3. Soni, M., et al., Physical activity pre- and post-dementia: English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Aging Ment Health, 2017: p. 1-7.

 

Top tips for essay writing

Obtain as much information relating the subject area as possible and then plan the essay. A good review article will provide a wealth of references and whilst controversial, Wikipedia will also provide a basic understanding and some useful references to explore further.

Plagiarism is not cool and it is simply not worth taking the risk, reference all cited information that is provided by others.

An essay follows a structured format: the introduction, the main body of the text and a conclusion:

Introduction

The subject of the essay is introduced clearly and succinctly. You will state the key points that will be discussed to address the essay topic or question, giving the reader a brief but clear understanding of the subject area and how you will approach it.

The introduction is not always written first but this is a personal choice.

Main text

The main body of the text will be built from paragraphs that will form an argument and/or discussion based on a review of the literature/material available on the subject area. A careful balance between presenting facts, your interpretation of the facts and the interpretation of others is required. You must ensure that all cited factual statements are appropriately referenced. Your argument will be carefully considered and you will demonstrate a critical analysis of the literature rather than the ability to recall facts.

The use of transition words, will allow the sentences and paragraphs to knit together seamlessly. For example:  firstly, in addition, moreover, furthermore or similarly, likewise, equally. These provide a connection between ideas and paragraphs enabling the reader to follow a logical argument.

Conclusion

This is aimed at drawing the whole essay together. Do not introduce any new ideas in the conclusion, it is a brief summary enabling the reiteration of the key points raised and areas that require further explanation or research.

Remember to include your reference list/bibliography and finally, pay attention to detail before handing your work in.