General Health Friday April 22, 2016

Can you run for your bus? Apparently not...

The health of British men and women is not glowing. 'Could Try Harder' should be scribbled our health reports because a new survey conducted by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has found that 48% of women (the heels don't help) and 42% of men believe they'd be out of breath when running for public transport.

The BHF also uncovered more horrors. Are you one of the 47% who think they could only run a mile or the one in five that think they could only manage 100 metres?

It appears we don't like the gym either, or we have a distorted view of who exercise is for, because 38% of us don't feel fit enough to join a gym and 28% think running is for those who are already fit.

Clearly these statistics are 'A Bad Thing'; A senior cardiac nurse at the BHF said with understatement that the statistics were 'concerning.'

Why Is This 'A Bad Thing'?

The BHF warns that heart disease and circulatory problems are responsible for 155,000 deaths in the UK each year and that seven million of us are affected by it.

All this because we're unfit! Well, not solely, but it's a huge contributing factor apparently. And what makes it worse is that many deaths could have been prevented with different lifestyle choices such as your diet, a bit of exercise and reducing stress.

Sedentary Brits

It doesn't help that we are living a sedentary lifestyle. A lot of office environments require a good deal of desk work, commutes require a lengthy car, bus or train journey, and the internet, particularly funny GIFs of cats, can be blamed for distracting us from physical hobbies. We also work long hours that often involves a lot of brainpower. By the time we get home, the last thing we want to be doing is exercise.

Our eating habits are also declining. Hands up who learned to cook in school? Not many. This is a big change from decades ago when children learned HOW to cook a meal, not just the importance of healthy eating. Those that did have cookery classes learnt bizarre recipes such as pineapple upside down cake, cookies and one time I made a tuna toastie, kid you not. Theory and practical are not the same thing and our children need to learn how to steam veggies.

Here are some of the illnesses caused by our sedentary lifestyle - just as some motivation to kick-start that fitness regime.


Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which your blood sugar level becomes too high. The NHS say approximately 3.9 million people in the UK live with diabetes. It's associated with obesity and is, unfortunately, a lifelong condition. There's no going back once you develop diabetes.


Obesity is linked to breast and stomach cancers.

Cancer Research stats show that around one in every 20 cancer diagnoses are linked to weight. This includes bowel cancer, breast cancer and stomach cancers (as mentioned), womb cancer, pancreatic cancer, kidney cancer, liver cancer and gallbladder cancer. This is the more prominent cancers, but other lessen known cancers such as oesophagus can be caused by obesity as well.

Like smoking, it is highly preventable.

High Blood Pressure

This is also associated with obesity. Too much pressure in your blood vessels puts strain on your arteries and heart. Your blood pressure should ideally be 120/80 or lower. High blood pressure can lead to serious conditions including:


A stroke happens when the brain's blood supply is cut off. This is usually a burst blood vessel or blockage in an artery. Strokes can result in disability and death.

Symptoms are:

  • Inability to speak
  • Inability to raise arms
  • Face drooping / crooked smile

Heart Attack

Caused in much the same way as a stroke, but it's the heart that isn't receiving enough blood. Heart attacks can also result in disability and death.

Symptoms are:

  • Chest pain – pressure or squeezing sensation or sometimes minimal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling weak and/or lightheaded
  • Overwhelming feeling of anxiety

How To Improve Matters

We all already know these sort of things, but let's take another look...


A diet high in fat, salt and sugar will make you overweight. Many processed foods contain huge amounts of the evil trinity. You really shouldn't eat processed ready meal every day. Snack foods such as crisps, chocolates, cakes and fizzy drinks all add extra calories. Before you know it, you're overweight and pushing obese. Obesity is a gradual process, and it can be difficult to shed the extra pounds once they've attached themselves.

Don't let those pounds creep on. If you're already overweight, make some changes to your diet. Replace unhealthy foods with bran, vegetables, fruits, unsalted nuts, low sugar yoghurts and cereal. Try to drink more water too, as a lot of us are dehydrated and mistaking this for hunger.


Physical exercise is one of the best ways to improve cardiac health according to the British Heart Foundation. We shouldn't ignore the benefits of exercise no matter how busy we are, or how boring we find it.

In response to the horrifying state of our public transport sprints, the BHF have launched a fundraising campaign called My Marathon. They're urging us to run 26.2 miles in a month. It's starting in May and all proceeds go to BHF research.

You don't need to run a marathon, but any exercise you do will help you lose weight, improve your heart and make you feel happier. Many people find it hard to fit in exercise (that's me) so let's look at how this can be slotted into an already packed-out daily routine.

  • The old chestnut of taking the stairs at work or when out shopping is a good start.
  • Keep low level weights or a resistance band near your work desk to relieve tired arms and backs. You'll no doubt be the trailblazer - but others will join you.
  • Try to walk on your lunch break, but not to McDonalds.
  • Walk the school run because rain does not harm you. Or at least park further away and walk the remainder.
  • On the weekends, try healthy free activities like walking, cycling, gardening or even cleaning (I'm so sorry).
  • Drag your family into it by cleverly disguising exercise as fun. Cycling, swimming, walking, dancing, team sports or even kicking a football around the park burns calories and improves heart health. It'll also help you spend some quality time together.

The NHS say that obesity affects one in four adults and one in every five children aged 10-11, so it's no wonder the British Heart Foundation found we can't chase down a bus. For the sake of our collective health, let's eat something fresh and go for a brisk walk. Then you'll have no problems hunting down that bus and leaping on board - just like the T-1000 chasing John Connor.

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