Category Archives: Exercise

Can 3 minutes of exercise a day make children fitter?


In a recent module of study for the ISSN diploma in sports nutrition, I came across some really interesting research into how effective High Intensity Training can be for training adults to improve their aerobic fitness. Basically you sprint really hard for a short period and you rest for a while before repeating the process a number of times. Research has shown that people can get really fit as a result. It is very effective for people short on time and whilst hard, it can be fun to participate in.

It got me thinking; maybe I could do something similar in school. As I am a primary school teacher based in the north inner city of Dublin, l thought why not use the poor children as test guinea pigs! Irish teachers have very busy schedules trying to accommodate the many subject areas into the week but I figured I could manage to fit the experiment into the timetable as it was not very time intensive.

My 5th class boys were delighted to engage in this science project with them as the test subjects.

Our objective was to see if we could improve fitness levels in the space of four weeks by exercising for only three minutes a day, five days a week. This amounted to only 15 minutes a week and 60 minutes in total.

The Test

Initially we needed to get a baseline measure for our aerobic fitness levels. I decided to do a beep test. Children had to run 20m shuttles whilst listening to a beep. The children should have reached the line before the beep. When they pulled out or failed to hit the line before the beep, their score was recorded. I also weighed each student just to see if the daily exercise had any effect on their weight. The children were also asked to give up drinking fizzy drinks as part of the challenge. Parents were encouraged to monitor this and initial a record sheet as they attempted to resist the lure of the sugary beverage. As part of the challenge, they were allowed one day off per week to enjoy an occasional treat and to encourage compliance!

To validate the test, I needed a control group. Another class were summoned to fulfil his role. They were the going to do the pre and post-test but would not do any of the training or dietary measures.

We did the fitness tests on the 7th of January, on the first week after Christmas. The results varied greatly. Some of the scores in the test were scary as they were shockingly low. Many of the kids languished in the lowest category for their own age group and if they were pitted against the norms for 65 year olds or older, amazingly a few were still in the ‘least fit’ for that age group. It was clearly obvious that the children with the most sedentary lives were displaying the dangerous low levels of aerobic fitness. This would obviously potentially pose huge problems to their health as they get older.

The Training

We started the training on Monday the 11th of January

Every morning for four weeks at 10.05 we would go down to the yard. The boys would run up and down for 30 seconds and then take a break for 30 seconds. Six bouts of 30 second running were completed each day. The effort was varied. Some boys loved the challenge whilst others found it very difficult.

After a few days, the boys were saying how they felt better after they ran and ‘felt faster’ and ‘fitter’. They still found it difficult as the mornings were quite cold but they persevered. They were getting a break from the class room and were happy to get their extra exercise on yard.

On the 8th February we did the retest. We did the same protocol as before. The boys did the beep test and we measured their weight. I also did the test on the other class to see how they performed compared to their initial test.

The Results

Training group: improved their aerobic fitness by 19%.

Control group: improved their aerobic fitness by 12%.

Training group: average weight reduced by 0.01 kg

Control group: average weight increased by 0.6 kg


Both groups hugely increased their fitness levels, but the training group improved by a massive 19% due in many respects to the 3 minutes of exercise a day. The 12% increase seen by the control group was also quite a jump with no ‘formal training’. This is probably due to the fact that the initial test was done immediately post-Christmas. Both groups would probably not have done much activity over this period and were naturally going to be more active in the January period (resuming football training, walking to school etc), thus an increase was always likely.

The weight loss seen by the training group was interesting also. It was good to see that the short amounts of exercise and an emphasis on drinking water and milk resulted in slight weight loss. The objective was not to see if we could lose a lot of weight as the children are growing and increasing weight naturally but it was good to see that some of the kids who were a bit overweight for their height managed to lose some all the same.

Overall, the challenge was a great success. We clearly saw that with only three minutes of exercise a day for four weeks, the children’s fitness levels improved by 7% over the control group. Imagine what each child could do in a few months.

The important message is that short bursts of intense exercise can make a massive impact on aerobic fitness and health levels. Never use lack of time as a reason not to exercise. This applies also to adults as well as children.

I hope to continue and refine this training protocol so I look forward to see how I can improve the training regime and ensure that it is as fun as possible as well as being an effective training tool.

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Filed under Disease prevention, Exercise, Nutrition, Obesity, Uncategorized

Habits + Pen + Paper = Long Term Success

It’s the weekend, you are heading out for the night to your friends birthday party.

You look in the wardrobe and pull out you favourite pair of jeans. Pulling them on you notice your thighs are a little bit snugger than they used to be. ‘They must have shrunk in the wash’, you think. You zip them up and struggle at the last button. Twirling around (as you do when nobody is looking) you view from all angles the apparent new tightness, your sense of unease grows. ‘No worries’, you figure as you pull out your favourite shirt, ‘I have only worn it a few times and it is always a winner’ you reassure yourself. Buttoning it up, a feeling of fear and dread takes hold as you realise the shirt is also extremely tight.

You are stunned and embarrassed all in one.

Suddenly at that moment, like a bolt of lightning, you decide you must do something radical to reverse this trend. Monday can’t come quick enough to start your new healthy life.

When we start a new exercise plan or a healthy diet, we are generally full of enthusiasm and vigour. The ‘trigger’ to start this new way of life can be very powerful and can be full of heart felt emotion. We may jump head first into all manner of crazy low calorie juice diets and ultra exercise plans. We punish ourselves for getting into the situation we found ourselves in the first place and believe the all or nothing game plan is the only method to bring success.

After a week or two of hard graft, we may have fallen off the wagon somewhat, the juice diet is replaced by the normal pattern of eating and after missing a session or two of the extreme exercise, you decide to return to the safe haven of the couch.

Feeling a sense of defeat, you console yourself with that piece of chocolate you have been depriving yourself and think that you gave a good shot anyway.

Unfortunately without an actual long term plan many people will be doomed to failure every time they get determined to make a change.

Meaningful change requires a change of HABITS


woman sitting with her legs crossed on bed and writing in a journal

No matter how string our intent, will power is only so strong and we will eventually return to our normal ways.

Without changing our habits we are just setting ourselves up for a fall. Becoming healthier, losing weight and getting fitter is a long term life project. It should not be a something we do for four weeks and expect to see amazing results.

If you try to run a marathon by sprinting at the start, you might make great progress initially but it is unsustainable. You will burn yourself out and may have to pull out due to overexertion or injury. If you start slowly, you will make slower progress, but you will quickly gain confidence, the miles fly without too much effort as you reach towards your goal. You are far more likely to get to the end.

What the hell does this mean in our lives?

Gung ho approaches to our fitness and health can work for some but not for all. Most people work better with small, sustainable changes over a long period of time.

Pick one aspect you want to target with your Diet, Exercise for this month.

Pick something so simple, that it will be impossible for you to fail. This is crucial, people think that picking something easy is a waste of time but the confidence that you get from achieving something, no matter how small can be dramatic. When these positive changes add up over a period of time, this is where the magic happens.

Get a diary and write down your two goals for the month.

Work on them solely for the month and forget the rest. When you achieve them, pick something else for the next month but make sure you retain the first habits you tried to develop.

As we are at different stages in our journey, we will all have different goals and expectations. Everyone can pick their own goals but examples could be…

  1. Diet – Eat two different vegetables with dinner. Eat two/three pieces of fruit a day. Reduce alcohol to 10 units per week. Eat protein with breakfast. Drink 2/3 litres of water every day. Consume take away foods only once a fortnight. Eat ‘healthy food x’ instead of ‘unhealthy food y’. Will refuse all cakes and chocolate in work.
  2. Exercise – Walk for 30 minutes four/five days a week.  Every Saturday morning, go for an hour cycle. Do a body weight circuit or a dumbbell workout twice/three times per week. Use the bike to go to work on a Monday and Friday instead of using the car. Use the stairs instead of the elevator whenever the opportunity arises. Get over 6000 steps every day on your pedometer.

Now get a pen and paper and write down your monthly targets. You will be glad you started in a few months time.

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Filed under Exercise, Fat loss, Health

12 ‘to do’ Checklist for Today

1. Get 30 minutes exercise. It doesn’t matter what it is, run, walk, trampoline, cage fighting, just do your heart and lungs a favour and move a bit.

2. Eat vegetables for lunch and dinner. Seriously stop acting like an 8 year old and just do it. Opt for a salad or soup for lunch instead of the sandwich, eat a lot of colourful veg for the dinner and less spuds, pasta or rice. Bonus points for breakfast veggies.

3. Go to bed half an hour earlier than usual. I’m sure whatever is on tv isn’t that good anyway. You can record it if you really want.

4. Eat a hand sized portion of protein at each meal. Men can have two. 3 eggs, meat, fish, 3 tbsp of Greek yogurt, scoop of protein powder, cup of beans/nuts will all do the job as a portion.

5. Drink lots of water. Hardly groundbreaking stuff and I’ll not sell a book on the back of that recommendation but just do it anyway.

6. Call your parents (if you are lucky enough to still have them) and ask them about their day.

7. Get outside for 30 minutes. I’m not talking about doing yoga along the babbling stream or anything, just get out, get some fresh air and plug yourself out for a while.

8. Give three people genuine compliments. ‘That frock you are wearing is lovely’ ‘you’re hair is looking so clean this week’ are not good examples. Please think of better ones.

9. Laugh at something. Share a joke or have the craic with your buddies. Alternatively watch this.

10. Do one thing that has been on your mind for ages. Something that you have been meaning to do for a long time. It will be a great weight off your shoulders even if it’s just a small thing. I certainly have a long list that I can immediately tackle.

11. Give yourself a challenge to target. Aim to do 10 full press ups by January. Do a 5k race by the end of the year. Run a marathon in 2016. Climb Kilimamjaro during lunch. Whatever, it doesn’t matter. Nothing focuses the mind like a challenge with a deadline.

12. Eat a few pieces of fruit. Go mad and try something different like a kiwi, a melon or a peach.

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Filed under Disease prevention, Exercise, Health

FAQ about the PH Fitness Class

corrie 2x2ft (1)

A hypotetical conversation with Claire (35) from Stoneybatter. (Yes, I made up a person and made up a conversation)

Hi Philip, I just saw this flyer about your class and I was wondering who the class is catered towards?

Well Claire, it’s nice to meet you. We cater for men and women who aren’t happy with how they currently look and feel. Most of our clients are female between 25 and 40 who want to lose some weight, tone up and feel better about their fitness and health. We can provide a road map to help them get from where they currently are to where they would like to be. The class environment is great for people as it provides a social outlet as well as a fitness class.

Oh right that’s great. Unfortunately though I haven’t done much exercise recently, will the class be too hard for me?

We cater for all fitness levels. All exercises have regressions and progressions that allow people with different abilities to get a great workout. Many members have started with no experience of resistance training but have quickly learned the basics and are progressing at a great rate.

What is resistance training? That sounds hard?

No need to worry, resistance training is a super form of exercise. It means using resistance to challenge the muscles to get stronger and develop shape. It can take many forms such as bodyweight exercises, lifting weights, cable pulls etc. We try to concentrate on the main human movements such as push, pull, hinge and squat.

Won’t that make me big and bulky? I want to lose weight!

No, it absolutely won’t make you big and bulky Claire. That is a major myth amongst many women. Resistance training is the most effective training method to help women and men improve body composition. By building muscle, your body does many wonderful things that help turn you into a fat burning machine. Your metabolism increases, you burn more calories at rest and your new found strength will catapult your fitness and health to new levels.

Also women cannot build as much muscle as men because of hormonal differences so instead of having big bulky body, you are more likely to achieve toned and slender physique.

Great, sounds like just what I need. But what type of class can I expect?

It is a class that emphasises strength through a variety of basic human movements. Stand-alone strength exercises are followed by a resistance circuit that will really work the heart and lungs giving a strong cardio hit. We want our clients to be the strongest version of themselves.

We place a strong emphasis on learning proper form and technique. We also pay particular attention to mobility, if a person has restricted movement, we will make sure they perform various exercises throughout the session that will tackle particular issues.


I’m tired just hearing all that, are you sure that won’t kill me! Did I mention I haven’t done any exercise in ages?

There is no need to fear Claire, we are well aware some people may have absolutely no experience in doing any exercise or have done very little in many years like yourself. It takes courage to start a new regime. Everyone will work at a level that is suitable for them. Your body may be sore after the first few sessions as you adapt to the new stresses but our intention is not to flog people with incredibly tough workouts. We hope that everyone works from a level where they feel challenged to improve and progress in a sustained and fun environment.

Cool, that’s reassuring, thanks Philip, is there anything else that I will need to know before I sign up? 

Yes, there is a strong nutrition component. I encourage all clients to keep a food diary. Research has shown that people who keep regular food diaries are far more successful at maintaining healthy body weight or losing weight in the first place. We also give people nutrition advice and a template to help them improve their lifestyle habits to ensure progress can be achieved.

Remind me again, where and when do the classes take place? 

Oh yes, the classes are run in the hall in St Paul’s CBS primary school. It is located on North Brunswick Street around the corner from Smithfield square. They currently run every Monday and Wednesday at 7pm.

How much are the classes?

It’s ten euro for a pay as you go class and 50 euro for a block of four weeks. People can sign up whenever they like.

Don’t forget, the first class is free of charge so you can come and try out before you buy a four week block.

Brilliant, do the classes run the whole year? 

There will be some breaks, classes will not run on bank holiday Mondays, over the Christmas, Easter holidays and during August. We find that people like this break and are away on holidays at these times of the year. We follow the primary school calendar to some degree.

Ok thanks Philip for all that information. I am really looking forward to getting started. Do I need to bring anything for my first class on Monday?

Just come wearing comfortable workout gear but bring a bottle of water and a can do attitude. The first class is free of charge so if you want to join you can pay starting from next Monday on.

Super, I’ll be there, I look forward to it.

Cheers, will see you then Claire.

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Filed under Bootcamp, Exercise, Fat loss, Health, Nutrition, weight training

Interval Running Workout

Running Intervals

Running is a great mode of exercise for most people. It is free, requires little equipment and is super for body and mind.

If are new to exercise, just getting outside in the fresh air for a walk or a jog will do you wonders.

For those who have been running for quite a while, maybe it is time to take things up a notch. Over time your body will adapt to a particular training stimulus so it is important that you change the intensity, distance, speed etc.

Interval type running is a great way to get an excellent workout in a short space of time. Short intense bursts have been shown to be effective in increasing metabolic rate thus helping with the fat loss process, improving health markers and increasing fitness levels.

So have a look at the picture provided, pick a new workout and give it a go!

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8 Week Fat Loss Project

You are fed up with not achieving the results you deserve.

You don’t know what to believe and who to trust in the murky world of fitness media.

You want that healthy routine of exercise and nutrition which is sustainable, enjoyable and challenging but most importantly, will produce real world fat loss results.

As part of the 8 Week Fat Loss Project, we are looking for positive, enthusiastic and energetic people to come on board to work together on this shared goal. Your current fitness level or perceived ability to exercise is not a concern, but having the right attitude and a can do approach though is what we are looking for.

Is this for you?

Is losing weight something you would like to achieve right now?

Are you prepared to make some changes in your routine so that you can properly prepare nutritious food and complete an exercise routine a few times a week?

Are you truly interested in learning the knowledge that will help you master your own body weight so that nutrition and exercise becomes a fun and enjoyable part of your life rather than a ball and chain around your neck dragging you down and causing you distress.

Are you willing to identify and tackle some negative, lifestyle habits that you may have and learn how to replace them with constructive ones which will help you achieve your goals rather than sabotage them.

Do you want to be part of a group of hard working, genuine and like minded people who are on a similar path that may be tough in parts but will be thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile.

If you answered YES to the above statements, then this course may just be the one you were looking for.

Unfortunately this course is definitely not for everyone.

It is not for you if…

You want to put on weight or get mega big – You might build some muscle on this course and that is a good thing to help you achieve the shape you desire, but the main goal is fat loss and body composition improvement.

You want to do exercise but aren’t bothered with nutrition – The nutrition aspect is key, for improving health and body composition. You cannot out exercise a bad diet.

You drink a lot of alcohol – If drinking a few times a week is a habit you can’t shift, then your priorities lie somewhere else instead of health and fat loss goals.

You can’t put aside a few minutes every day to record, plan and prepare food – People live busy lives. I totally understand this but if you cannot make time to buy healthy food, prepare the food for breakfast, lunch and dinner and record what you are eating, then maybe this is not a good time to be doing this project right now.

Ok so you think you’re a good match and want to get involved, here are the finer details.

Location: St Paul’s CBS Hall, North Brunswick Street, Dublin 7 (2 minute walk from Smithfield Square)

Map Brunner

When: Monday and Wednesday 7-8 pm

Dates: Monday 31st of August until Wednesday 21st October

Cost: 160 euros

What you get: Nutrition Seminar and individual dietary guidelines, 16 Exercise Classes, Online Forum and a Detailed Assessment Guide to monitor body changes, food intake and overall progress.

I am passionate about providing the best service possible. If you participate and are not happy with the quality of this product I will happily refund the money.

Reserve your spot by emailing

If you need any information, don’t hesitate to call or text me on 0879613012

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Beginner Resistance Training

One of the best things one can do to improve their body composition is to do some resistance training.

So if you are new to this game of fitness, you might not be totally familiar with what resistance training is. Resistance training is a form of physical activity that is designed to improve muscular fitness by exercising a muscle or a muscle group against external resistance.

This could take the shape of body weight exercises, lifting weights, pulling and pushing bands and cables etc.

This type of activity has tonnes of benefits and I mean loads!

It will improve the strength of the muscle thus making you better at lifting stuff and better at performing any physical task you can think of. Playing sport, carrying multiple bags of shopping, grappling with crocodiles, throwing bales of hay etc

It will make you look better. Who doesn’t want a strong toned lean physique? Resistance training is the numero uno go-to training modality for any body looking to shed pounds, lean up and just change the shape of their body. If you have just 3 hours per week and want to maximize your training to help change your shape, you need to be working those muscles.

Strong people are harder to kill than weak people. Regular resistance training can decrease the risk of heart disease by lowering body fat, decreasing blood pressure, improving cholesterol, and lowering the stress placed on the heart while lifting a particular load. Improving muscular fitness is very important for enhancing the quality of life. Also if you stumble on the side of a cliff and are hanging off the edge, that weak lad is heading for the sharks but the strong lad has a chance of salvation!

Anyway you get the idea, resistance training is good stuff for both men and women.

So where does one start in making progress into the deep enchanted woods of resistance training.

You don’t need any equipment, just your own body and an open space.

Here is a basic guide for anyone who wants to get started with resistance training but doesn’t know where to start.

Warm Up: Gentle pulse raiser to increase blood flow and increase heart rate, mobility type exercises to open up the joints and push them through a wide range of motion.

5 minutes: Marching on the spot, jogging on the spot, jumping jacks, swinging arms forward/back, circles with hips

Main Circuit

Perform as a circuit and work on each exercise for 30 seconds. (20 seconds to make it easier and 40 seconds to make it harder). Do 3 to 5 repetitions of the circuit depending on your fitness level.

Exercise 1: Forward Plank

Exercise 2: Bodyweight Squat

Exercise 3: Press Up

Exercise 4: Split Squat Lunge (Left)

Exercise 5: Split Squat Lunge (Right)

Exercise 6: Hip Lift

Cool down and stretch

It is important to cool down after exercise and stretch properly. Shake out the arms and legs, move around and gradually let the heart rate fall down. Stretch the main muscles in the leg, the hamstrings, the calf and the quadriceps.

There you have it. Get started and no excuses!

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10 Weight Training Tips

These tips are designed for anyone who wants feel comfortable lifting some weights in a safe and productive fashion.

Lifting weights has many benefits for our health, fitness and body composition. Women should not fear doing weights. Many women think they will get big and bulky if they lift anything more than pink fluffy dumb bells. This is just a pure myth. It’s akin to fearing that you may get selected for the Olympics because you did a few 10k runs! Women just don’t possess the hormones in their bodies to easily grow substantial level of muscle. Those that do manage to acquire high levels of muscle must do colossal training and eat an exceptionally strict diet whilst taking particular dodgy ‘supplements’.

Rather weights or resistance training will give you that toned, lean and slim physique that most women desire. Men are easier sold on the weights training road and are generally easier to convince of its merits.

Building muscle is also every beneficial for increasing your metabolic rate. Muscle burns more calories at rest than fat so if you have more muscle you, not only do you look better but you also burn more calories than someone with less muscle.

Other benefits include improved bone density, reduced risk of injury and improved strength (why be weak when you can be strong!)

So those are some reasons why should not fear some weights, here are some ways to do it effectively.

1. Warm up.
The purpose of a warm up is to increase your body temperature and increase blood flow, put your limbs through a full range of motion and stimulate muscle fibres for action. This ensure you reduce your likelihood of injury.
A warm up should replicate some of the exercises that will be done during the main exercise. Some dynamic stretches can be used in the warm up to improve mobility and range of motion.

2. Start off gradually.
If you are new to using weights then you will need to start off easy for the first few weeks. Your muscles will not be used to this new stimulus and will need some time to adapt.

3. Practice perfect form
Regardless of whether you are a novice or have been lifting weights a few years, you should never compromise on form. Your technique should always be spot on. There is nothing worse than seeing some young lad trying to impress his buddies by doing bicep curls whilst swinging his back to and fro to help lift the weight. Not only is he failing to work his biceps but he is also risking injury. He may also be failing to put the muscle through a full range of motion meaning only half the muscle is getting worked
If you are new to lifting weights and are not sure of your form, get a trainer who can help you or check out some videos on youtube. You are better off lifting a lighter weight with perfect form than risking an injury by lifting a big weight just to boost your ego.

4. Master your own bodyweight
Can you do full body press ups? Can you hold a plank for 30 seconds? Can you perform a number of body weight squats whilst maintaining a straight back? Can you do a chin up?
If the answer is no, then you need to become better at the basics.
These moves should form the basis of your programme if you are new to resistance training.

5. Balance muscle groups
Some people are vain and do weights to look good. Unfortunately when they look in the mirror, they fail to realise that their poor back needs to be developed too. Therefore many men will have well developed chests and biceps and poorly developed backs. This will cause poor posture with a curved rounded forward tilt because of the excessive pull from their stronger chest muscles.
It is very important to balance muscle groups. If you work your bicep, you must work your tricep. Agonist and antagonist.
When thinking about the arms, it is easier to think about pushing and pulling. Pushing exercises would be press up, bench press, shoulder press and pulling exercises would be chin up and varieties of a row.
With the legs we must try and balance hip dominant (glute and hamstring) exercises such as a dead lift with knee dominant (quads) exercise such as the squat.
If you keep this in mind when working in the gym, you will be less likely to have muscle imbalances and get injured.

6. Write everything down
As you progress, you need to keep a record of how many reps and sets you are completing. This enables you to see if you are actually making any progress or whether you are just doing the same as we did at the start. You should always be trying to beat old times and reps and to constantly improve. Get a notebook and pens and jot down every exercise you do and the volume of exercise.

7. Have a plan
We have all done it…you come to the gym and have a look around. You have a drink of water, you survey the free machines. Eventually you decide to jump on the bike for a few minutes . You then get chatting to some lad you know for 10 minutes and maybe decide to do a few weights, a few reps of this and that. You might check your phone a few times and decide ‘ah feck it, that’ll do me!’ And head off home having done very little.
The moral of the story here is that you must come with a plan. Aim to do certain exercises. Record your sets and reps and know exactly what you plan to do. Otherwise you are only shooting in the dark and it will be impossible to track progress.

8. Eat well
This doesn’t apply in the gym but it would be remiss of me not to mention food. If you are exercising hard your body will need the proper nutrients to refuel and regenerate. You will need sufficient protein to stimulate muscle and tissue growth, carbohydrate and fat to fuel the efforts. You need a vast array to micro nutrients and minerals from fruit and vegetables to preserve and improve health and vitality. Without adhering to a sensible, healthy,nutrition plan, any efforts in the gym not be maximised.

9. Rest and recover
Sleep, sleep and more sleep. Aim to be in bed by 11 and seven hours should be a minimum target. Our muscle and tissues regenerate as we sleep and growth is stimulated during this time. If we neglect sleep, our gym efforts again will suffer as a result.

10. Foam roll and stretch
Over the years our bodies may become used to various positions such as sitting at a computer or driving in the car. Unfortunately these positions tend to create a hunched bent over posture which can be difficult to fix. This causes various muscles such as the hip flexors to tighten up and shorten because of lack of use. We tend to think of a lack of mobility with older people but with many people spending hours everyday in sedentary desk jobs, it is becoming more prevalent issue for people a lot younger.

We should set aside 10-15 minutes every day to foam roll and stretch. This will not only help our ability to do the exercises better but will improve our how we move and perform in our everyday lives.

Check out the link for a guide to foam rolling.


This lassie here you can be sure wasn’t afraid of a few weights!

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Filed under Exercise, weight training

5 simple steps to a healthier life

1. Go to bed earlier.
The closer to 10 o clock you can go to sleep, the better for your body. Human as mammals are programmed to sleep according to the cycle of the sun, it is our natural circadian rhythm. If we decide to ignore this, we feck up our hormones , disrupt our immunity and generally mess us up.
Tip: Turn off the tv, put away the phone and get to bed early!

2. Eat more vegetables
We all know vegetables are very important for us. Yet we don’t eat enough of them. Stop fussing over whether you should put chia seeds or goji berries into your yogurt and get things into perspective by doing the basics. A simple way to boost your health, performance and immunity to illness is just to eat more vegetables every day.
Tip: Include a variety vegetables in every meal.

3. Positivity is key
“There are two kinds of people, those who think they can and those who think they can’t, they are both right” Henry Ford.

We all know people who are constantly negative, they are non stop complaining about their bad luck and their misfortune. The world is against them and they never get a fair chance. ‘I won’t fail if I don’t make an effort so I’ll stay where I am’ is their motto.
There are other people who seem to get their fair share of breaks, they are not afraid of making mistakes and see every situation in a positive light, even the bad ones. They just use them as a learning curve. These people will give everything a go and see every failure as a stepping stone to success.

Tip: What type of person do you want to be? The person who can or the person who can’t.


4. Don’t stress the small stuff
We are exposed to a lot of stress in our daily lives. Some stress is good, it focuses us mentally and physically for a particular task and we can do it more efficiently. Other long term stress can be severely debilitating for the body and cause us huge problems.
The hormone cortisol is released in the body when we feel stressed. This fight or flight hormone channels all our blood into dealing with this stressful situation. Our body does not distinguish between fighting a lion, being late for a meeting or playing an important football match. This elevated cortisol helps us in all these situations. Our heart rate rises, adrenalin is released and blood moves to our limbs readied for action. If we manage to kill the lion (or run away!), get to the meeting in time or play well in the match, it has served its purpose. Soon the stressful situation has been removed, our rest and recovery mechanisms can kick in again.
Unfortunately many of us live our lives in this constant state of high stress where our body thinks we are fighting lions all day long and churning out buckets of cortisol. Too much cortisol can reduce immunity, cause fatigue, cause weight gain and accelerate ageing.

What can we do? Although we can’t avoid stressful situations altogether, we can change the way we perceive them. Don’t worry about the small stuff, getting angry in a traffic jam is not going to get you there any quicker!
Tip : Don’t sweat the small stuff
For a full list of ways to cool the stress levels check out here…

5. Get on your dancing(exercise, hiking, football, gym) shoes
Get some exercise! Whatever exercise you like doing, just do it. The merits of exercise are all well established and it’s many benefits to our health.
The key is sometimes finding an exercise that we like doing and just sticking to it. Whether it is dancing, running, cycling, taekwando, squash, bog snorkelling, etc it doesn’t really matter. There are hundreds of clubs around the country offering a variety of different options. Also there has been a massive upsurge of people taking part in adventure races and triathlons in recent times. Get some mates, pick a race, do a bit of training in the lead up and make a weekend of it. A full list of races for the adventure types can be viewed here.

Tip: Get off the couch and get out exercising. Your mind and body will thank you for it.

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Childhood Obesity – Who is to blame?

Obesity is a huge fat problem in Ireland today. With 40% of all adults overweight and 25% classified as obese. Using your maths skills you would have worked out that around 2 out of every 3 Irish adults are above their correct weight!
Alarm bells should be ringing in your head I hope!!…this is not good. This trend is getting worse and has increased considerably since the 1990s.
How are children fairing out? Well not so good. According to the ‘Growing up in Ireland study’ 20 per cent of 9 year olds were overweight in 2011 and a further 7 per cent are obese. Again we see that 1 in every 4 children have a weight issue.

This will obviously lead to a poorer quality of life and a higher likelihood of illness and sickness.

So who is to blame?

This is a hot topic in the media at the moment, people are looking for scapegoats to pin the responsibility on. Here we look at the possible candidates.

1. Parents: the primary provider for the child. They are the ones feeding the child the food, surely it is their fault that the child is overweight? They create the environment around the child which determines how much exercise they do. Do parents do enough or take responsibility for this role? Are they limited by lack of education, certain financial strain or a particular environmental or social situation?
Could they possibly be the ones making their child obese? Can we fathom a situation where parents are knowingly poisoning their children with harmful foods by making them obese or do they just not know the difference between foods that nourish and foods that harm?
Maybe it is not just the parents fault, maybe they are just shaped by their environment and are just pawns in the bigger picture that they are struggling to control?

>cereal killers

2. Food Companies: Big Corporate food companies. McDonalds, Dominos, Coca Cola, Mars etc. etc.
Are the majority of us obese because of the big money making globo-conglomerate monsters that are everywhere in society today? The food they provide tastes good and sure if its a ‘treat’ then isn’t it fine once in a while!? Our shops and society are laden with these processed, sugar filled foods which are highly addictive. We are being constantly bombarded with flashy advertisements directed at our youth with happy people eating these shiny tasty food! Parents are told some of these foods are low in salt, low in fat, low in calories, are fortified with this that and the other and ‘should be eaten as part of a balanced diet’. Are we being brainwashed by the these companies into thinking that these foods are just part and parcel of modern life? Are we supposed to eat cereal for breakfast? Do we have to drink coke and eat popcorn at the cinema? Do we really need to drink sugar bomb sports drinks before/during/after exercise to fuel our bodies? This what the advertisements say, surely they can’t be wrong, can they?
3. Government The Government of our country.
Could they possibly be responsible for the obesity epidemic which is taking place at this current time. Is it not in their interests to have a have a healthy strong workforce of people instead of a group that fat and sick? One would think so. Most governments in the world endorse the food pyramid. We all know what it looks like, it has been drilled into us for years. We see it in school books, we see it in medical documents and on government websites. It basically says eat loads of grains and don’t eat much fats. If we were to jump into a time machine and travel back 10,000 years ago (prior to the agricultural revolution, when we started cultivating grains) into human history, we would see that humans did not eat many grains. We obviously survived for millions of years and became the strongest race on the planet without eating them but now they are considered the ‘staple’ according to our government guidelines. Our DNA has not changed that much in the last 40,000 years. At that time we ate a diet full of protein, fats, nuts and vegetables whilst now we are being told by our government to eat a diet with a predominance of refined carbohydrates in the form of pasta, rice, potatoes and bread. Why are we being told to eat these grains? Who decided that they are good for us? How did people do before Government guidelines came in? Read my blog here on traditional diets

Broccoli child
4. The Child The child themselves.
The children of our country. Are they at fault? Are they responsible for their own declining health?
Those extra sweets and chocolates they ate at the party, surely they should have shown restraint? Did they not realise that they were very bad for them !
Why didn’t they ask for a bike for Christmas instead of a Playstation 4, did they not realise that the extra exercise they could have done would have been better for their health instead of sitting inside watching a screen!
Surely they should have kicked up a fuss looking for green vegetables as they wandered the stalls in the supermarket with their mother as she was doing the shopping. Then the child would have had something better to eat for dinner!
The children today are not to blame as you may have noted from the tone of my sarcasm above. They are products of their environment. Unfortunately the environment that many children grow up in is not very conducive to health or for alleviating obesity and they are suffering as a result.

Vending machine
5. Our Environment Is the environment to blame?
We live in a world where convenience and speed has become so important. We want everything now and get aggrieved if we have to spend time working for it. The same thinking has evolved with our relationship to food. With our hectic lifestyles and busy jobs, eating has become a secondary concept. We eat to alleviate the symptoms of hunger as opposed to eating to keep us healthy and nourished. Our world has sped up and the quality of food and attention to our food has declined as a result. Some people would rather sleep in an extra half hour rather than getting up to prepare a healthy breakfast. At lunch we grab a sandwich rather than preparing a healthier alternative in advance. For dinner we may eat whatever the local chipper has to offer or get a ready meal for the microwave to cook.
Also for children the options are pretty desperate if they were looking for something to eat. At schools there may be a vending machine full of sugary food or the local chipper. The shop may have some healthy food such as fruit but the child will be instantly drawn to the tasty treats that line the counter.
We live in a society where it is acceptable to be overweight. We are normalised by the customs and habits of the people that we typically spend our time with. If all your friends eat take away, smoke cigarettes, drink fizzy drinks etc. then you will be conditioned to think that everyone does it and that it is fine. Whereas if your friends eat well, exercise, then you will judge yourself based on them. The same applies with our weight and our children’s weight. If the majority of children in our society are overweight, we tend to look at a typical overweight child as the ‘norm’, just average and therefore consider it ok and pass no heed on it. Unfortunately the ‘norm’ weight has been increasing for many years.
Child computers

6. Sedentary Lifestyle– Is an inactive lifestyle to blame?
When I was a young lad growing up, I regularly built massive big tree houses with loads of rooms, played football for a minimum of eight hours every day during the summer, wore a groove 3 inches deep in the road with all the cycling and mowed so many lawns that the mound of grass was the size of a small house!
I think we all look back at our childhood with some degree of rose tinted glass syndrome regarding our own activity levels but I think it is quite clear that children today are not exposed to or engaged in the same levels of exercise and activity that children were years ago. As a primary school teacher I regularly see children who struggle to run for a short period of time or have difficulty walking up a few flights of stairs without bursting into a sweat. I am aware that many parents have concerns for safety in their neighbourhoods and children are not free to roam as they were years ago, but does that mean that they should just leave them inside watching the television?
Although many children regularly participate in sports clubs, the research suggests that only 3 in 10 children get the recommended 1 hour of physical activity per day. Televisions, phones, computers are becoming increasingly more integral part of children’s lives and parents are allowing this to happen. Schools also are restricted in the time they can give to exercise. The curriculum guidelines suggest 1 hour of exercise per week. This will not make much dent in the 7 hours recommended per week!
Where will our children get more exercise? Is it the parents fault? Is it our society and our schools that is to blame?

So who really is to blame???

As you may have read, I think there are a combination of reasons why obesity is rising especially amongst children but realistically the parents must shoulder the responsibility. Parents have the power to change their children’s lives for the better. They are in charge of what the child eats, what the child does on a daily basis and must have the courage and conviction to make the correct decisions to enable their children lives their lives free from disease and obesity.
Unfortunately if 2/3 of adults are overweight themselves, can we realistically expect these people to be effective role models and instruct their children to make right decisions when they seem to be incapable of doing so themselves?
Lets hope so but it’s important that they know what they are doing.
Education is the key thing and although most parents want the best for their child, some are unwittingly doing damage without realising it. In part 2, I hope to present some simple steps parents can use in their lives which will help themselves and their children get back to full health and escape the dangers of obesity.

Note: I’m not a parent and I don’t pretend to suggest parenting is an easy job. This post is not intended to criticise parents but help them see how they can help their children!

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Filed under Disease prevention, Exercise, Health, Nutrition