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Motivation is the key to success

This week's post is a guest post, from Holly Barry, who has written a great piece for us all about motivation, especially when sticking to those New Years goals.


New Year always grants us with new resolutions which primarily focus on shifting that winter weight. But, a healthy lifestyle offers so much more than weight loss. By feeling rejuvenated, you will feel more inclined to persevere with the gym or exercise you have chosen, and stick to eating those colourful foods which will be sure to boost your general health, mental health, appearance and self-esteem. Here are some reasons to adopt healthy habits to help get you motivated for making small, healthy changes.

1: Eat better = feel better

Adopting some simple lifestyle changes in terms of what we eat and how much exercise we take can have a really positive impact on our overall health and wellbeing. Our diet and activity levels can affect muscle strength, coordination, stamina and concentration levels, and even simple changes can have a dramatic effect.

Cutting down on sugary snacks and foods that are high in processed fats is a simple way to improve your diet. Going cold turkey is unlikely to be successful over the longer term, so instead, try to replace sweet treats with nuts and fruit, and try to adopt an 80/20 approach to what you eat. If 80% of your food intake is healthy, there’s room in the remaining 20% for the occasional sweet treat or indulgence.

It pays to approach exercise in a gentle way too, gradually building up the length of time you spend exercising and the intensity of the exercise itself. That way, you build your strength up and stay motivated.

2: Looking after your heart health

Making a resolution to lose weight and eat more healthily will have an impact on your overall health, particularly your heart. Maintaining an optimum body weight and taking regular exercise can both help reduce the risks of developing cardiovascular disease.

The British Heart Foundation and the NHS recommend that adults try to achieve 150 active minutes a week, which is less than 25 minutes a day. For time to count as ‘active’, your activity needs to warm you up and make you feel a little out of breath. You don’t have to sign up for a gym membership though, as simple things like brisk walking, dancing or exercising at home can all count towards that target of 150 minutes of activity.

As winter is the busiest time for the NHS, with resources stretched to the limit, there’s even more of an incentive at this time of the year to get fit and stay healthy.

3: Healthier Skin

Our skin is perhaps the most visible sign of Christmas over-indulgence and harsh winter weather. If you want your skin to look fresh and healthy, you need to pay attention to the foods you eat, as healthy eating can provide long-lasting benefits. All that processed food you ate over Christmas means that your skin has been starved of the minerals and nutrients it really needs. Crash diets won’t help restore your skin’s vitality, as they rarely offer a balanced intake of nutrients. Instead, concentrate on eating your five-a-day, making sure you get plenty of food that is rich in vitamins and minerals, such as spinach, sweet potatoes, blueberries and tomatoes.

Healthy skin also needs plenty of moisture, as without it, skin will quickly look dry, pale and taut. Ensure you drink lots of fresh water, and try to avoid sugary, fizzy drinks and alcohol. Keeping a bottle of mineral water with you at all times is a great way to stay hydrated throughout the day.

Healthy eating and regular exercise play such a vital role in keeping us in shape, both mentally and physically. We literally are what we eat, and bad habits can have an effect on our entire bodies inside and out. Trying to eat well and exercise regularly is more than just a New Year’s resolution - it’s a lifestyle change that we should all strive for, and one that will repay us every day for the rest of our lives.

4: Shiny Hair

We all know only too well how much damage the winter months can do to our skin, but we often forget about our hair at this time of year. Hair can suffer just as much during the winter - whether from lack of nutrition caused by poor diets over the festive season, or from cold, wet weather and the effects of constant central heating.

There are plenty of things you can do though, to boost your hair’s health. Healthy eating can play a vital role in helping you achieve great-looking hair, with some foods providing essential nutrients and minerals to really strengthen your hair and make it shine. By identifying which foods can boost hair health, you can easily incorporate them into your healthy eating regime, for visible and long-lasting benefits.



Just how important is diet and exercise to improve your heart?

Good morning and Happy Wednesday! I hope you've had a great week so far. We've had a busy week here at Clinical Exercise - lots of new enquiries, lots of fab chat over on our Healthy Hearties Facebook group, a HUGE batch cooking session on Monday (fish pie, fish chowder and fish cakes - yes a lot of fish this week!) and an old client has returned from overseas and is getting restarted on his exercise programme.

This week I'm talking all about Heart Health - obviously I'm always talking about heart health but I wanted to really focus on what you can do to ensure you are reducing your risk of having future heart problems.  This is particularly relevant if you have a history of heart problems in the family or if you are recovering from a heart event or currently have a heart condition.

There are so many do's and don'ts to look after your heart - below are the top 5 things you should be doing to ensure your heart is in tip top condition.

Also, this week I have a simple exercise that you can do any time of day to tone up the back of your arms - easy!


Looking after your heart

Cardiovascular disease (heart disease) is the world’s biggest killer, causing over 17 million deaths a year and many of these deaths are preventable through lifestyle changes.

Most people know someone or have themselves been directly affected by heart disease and a lot of times it is avoidable by changing lifestyle habits. If you've had heart problems in the past it's never to late to make improvements to improve your health for the future.

Simple changes in diet by reducing your salt intake and eliminating processed foods from your diet and trying to get a couple of hours of exercise a day can make a huge difference.
A healthy diet reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and prevents weight gain which puts pressure on your heart, the introduction of a healthy diet also helps to prevent further worsening of existing heart disease and it’s not too late to start eating healthily.
To help prevent heart disease here are five ways to change your lifestyle and take better care of your heart.

1. Follow the Mediterranean diet

A 2013 study showed the Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of coronary heart disease by 30% and prevents weight gain which puts pressure on your heart, the diet also helps to prevent further worsening of existing heart disease and it’s NEVER too late to start eating healthily. Recent attention has been drawn to the benefits of the Mediterranean diet by cardiologist Aseem Malhotra who has recently filmed the ‘Cereal Killers Movie’ about his quest to find out the secret to a long life in the Mediterranean. Check it out here.

2.  Reduce salt
Too much salt can cause high blood pressure, which increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease. Reduce your consumption of crisps, take aways, packaged snack foods and processed sauces. As a cardiac nurse this is one of the biggest misconceptions people have – they think if they don’t add salt to their food then their diet is low in salt.  However salt is hidden in so many things you wouldn’t even think – cans of tuna, ham, tomato paste and roasted peanuts.  Always check the label – if a serving size contains more than 10% of your daily recommended intake, avoid or reduce the amount you have.

3.  Say no to processed foods
There are lots of hidden saturated fats, sugars and salts in processed food, fast food and ready meals.  Even foods that may appear ‘healthy’ traditional meals such as lasagne are usually made with cheap ingredients and are laden with salt. I would strongly advise people to check the content of the ingredients of any food they buy and start cooking from scratch together – it’s more fun too!

4.  Quit smoking
Smokers are twice as likely as non-smokers to have heart disease with all the health issues it causes it is the most important thing you can do for your heart. Try a nicotine replacement to reduce your cravings – electronic cigarettes, patches, gum or lozenges are a great help when you’re quitting.

5.  Exercise more

The heart is the most important muscle and just a small amount of exercise will keep it functioning properly. Exercising for as little as ten minutes a day can make a huge difference. If you haven’t exercised for some time start out with gentle walking and build up – we should be aiming for a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise 5 days per week.

Aim to improve in one of the above areas each week and you’ll soon be on your way to a healthy heart.

Let me know if you have any specific questions at all!

Exercise of the week - Tricep Dips

1.  Sit up straight on the long edge of a stable, heavy chair or a bench. Your legs should be slightly extended, with your feet flat on the floor.
2. Place your hands on both sides of the bench just outside your thighs. Your palms should be down, fingertips pointing towards the floor.
3. Without moving your legs, bring your bottom forward off the bench.
4. Steadily lower yourself. Beginners: Bend your elbows 1-2 inches and push yourself back up. Advanced: When your elbows form 90˚ angles, push yourself back up to starting position.
5. Repeat up to 10 reps, rest and then repeat up to 2-3 times.

Some people find that this exercise is too much on their wrist joints. If so, you may need to change the exercise to triceps kickbacks, which we will cover in the next couple of weeks.

Do let me know if you have any questions at all!



Exercising safely with a heart condition

I can't believe it's the end of January already. How did the first month go for you? Did you have a look at setting some goals (not NY resolutions, but long term goals for the whole year)? Even if it feels like your goals are so far away from where you are right now, you'll be surprised how much you will achieve over the course of a year.

Some ideas for goals are:

  • Double the distance that I can currently walk in 3 months eg if you can walk 5000 steps per day without feeling too tired, aim to be doing 10000 in 3 months time.
  • Go down 1-2 belt notches in 2 months time.
  • Do my 15 minute exercise routine at home every day.
  • Stop using technology in bed so that my sleep improves.
  • Eat more vegetables with every meal.
  • Say no to sugary desserts 9 times out of 10 (you're allowed some treats every now and then!).

What are your goals?

Don't forget to join my Health Hearties Facebook group here - we now have over 160 members who give helpful tips and advice about all things heart related including exercise, medications, diet and more. Come join us!

Heart tip of the week

There is almost no disease that exercise doesn't benefit from regular exercise. As such, if you've had a heart attack, have heart failure, an arrhythmia or other heart disease, doesn't mean that you can't do regular exercise (even if you don't feel like it right now!). In fact, with regular exercise (greater than 150 minutes a week), you can improve your recovery, improve heart function and even get off of some of the medications you're on.

Cardiovascular benefits of exercise include:

  • Strengthening your heart and cardiovascular system
  • Improving your circulation and helping your body use oxygen better
  • Improving heart failure symptoms
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Improving cholesterol levels

Make sure that you get the "OK" and some guidelines from your doctor before you start.

Important things to know about exercising with a heart condition

  • Avoid isometric exercises such as pushups and sit-ups. Isometric exercises involve straining muscles against other muscles or an immovable object and often causes you to hold your breath, which increases your blood pressure.
  • Avoid exercises that involve pushing heavy weights above your heard eg shoulder press. This causes an increase in thoracic pressure and can increase your blood pressure.
  • Don't exercise outdoors when it is extremely cold, hot or humid without checking with your doctor first. High humidity may cause you to tire more quickly and become dehydrated. Extreme temperatures can interfere with circulation, make breathing difficult and cause chest pain. Better choices are indoor activities such as a circuit or using a treadmill.

  • Make sure you stay hydrated. It is important to drink water even before you feel thirsty, aiming for around 500ml per hour of exercise. But, be careful not to drink too much water if you have heart failure - check with your doctor if you should be limiting the amount you drink.

  • If your exercise program has been interrupted for more than a few days (for example, due to illness, holiday or bad weather), make sure you ease back into the routine. Start with a reduced level of activity, and gradually increase it until you are back where you started.

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  • Do not exercise if you are not feeling well or were very recently ill. You should wait a few days after all symptoms disappear before restarting the exercise program. If uncertain, check with your doctor first.
  • Don't exercise if you have very high blood pressure - it needs to be under control/treated first.
  • Don't exercise if you have unstable angina or are waiting for test results or treatment.
  • Reduce the intensity of the exercise, slow down or stop and rest if you become overly fatigued or short of breath. Discuss the symptoms with your doctor if they have become worse than previously.
  • If you have persistent shortness of breath, rest and call your doctor. The doctor may make changes in medications, diet or fluid restrictions.
  • Slow down or stop the exercise if you develop a rapid or irregular heartbeat. Check your pulse after you have rested for 15 minutes. If it remains above 120 beats per minute at rest, call your doctor. If you have an arrhythmia, it is safe to exercise however aim to work at an intensity just below where you start to feel breathless.
  • If you experience pain, don't ignore it. If you have chest pain or pain anywhere else in the body, slow down and then stop the exercise. If you have a GTN spray, use it and wait 5 mins. If the pain subsides, you can resume the exercise if you feel able. If the chest pain continues, take up to 3 doses of GTN spray and if chest pain persists call an ambulance.

Exercises to include

  • Walking - build it up gradually. Get a step counter/activity tracker to keep track of how much you are doing so that you can see an improvement. Aim to add around 10% extra each week. E.g if you currently can do 2500 steps per day, aim for 2750 per day next week. Here is an easy step counter you can use, or use the free app on your iphone, or if you want something more high tech, the new Fitbit looks good: check it out here.
  • Create an indoor circuit. Aim to do each exercise for 30 seconds. To make things easier, start by doing the exercises seated. To make them harder, add in hand weights (use food cans to begin with and then you could buy a set of small weights, these ones are good). Choose from:
    • Marching on the spot
    • Heel raises
    • Sit to stand or squat
    • Bicep curl
    • Arm raises out to the side
    • High knees
    • Wall press up
    • Tricep kickbacks
  • See if there is a phase 4 cardiac rehab class in your area that you can join in. Search for one here:

Let me know if you have any questions at all!


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Running with a heart condition

Good morning and happy Wednesday! I can't believe we are more than half way through November already. Oh and apparently there are only 5 Mondays until Christmas. Who's counting! There are a few problems with this:

A) I haven't bought any presents yet
B) I have no idea what to buy
C) When I did attempt to go shopping the other day I wandered aimlessly not having any inspiration at all.

There must be something to be said about last minute shopping panic mode - it forces you to get your act together! Anyway I'm off tonight for a special 20% off sale at a big department store nearby - let's hope there's hardly anyone there and I don't end up simply buying things for myself.....Fat chance of either happening?!

I digress. This week I want to talk all about running. As you may know, I love running. Having done a few marathons, a lot of trots down the river and back and a few ParkRuns(check it out if you haven't heard of it - BRILLIANT free run every Saturday morning all around the world!).

Running when you have a heart condition can be scary, overwhelming and something that you may think can never happen again. However this isn't the case. If you have been given the ok from your consultant to exercise again, there is no reason that you can't safely build up your fitness (both body and heart) to be able to jog/run again. So you may not be the fastest anymore (who needs to be) but if it's what you enjoy, then let's try to get back out there!

The below also applies if you haven't exercised for a while and would like to ease back into running.

By the way, don't forget to join my brand new group - Healthy Hearties! It has tips/advice/feedback from others who have a heart or health condition. We've almost got 100 members already in just 2 weeks! 

Below I've put the key things to focus on when getting back into running with a heart condition. Remember to always check with your doctor to find out what level of exercise is safe for you.

The following tips are relevant to anyone who would like to improve their running, for those who do and don't have a heart condition. After all, training smarter can definitely help us all!

The below focuses on an aerobic workout. This means that you body is able to use oxygen as it's fuel source. This allows enough oxygen to get to your muscles without reducing the oxygen available to the heart (our main priority).

If you feel out of breath, have any sensation of pain or feel uncomfortable, please slow down, rest and either try another time or see your doctor for more advice.

1.  Always perform a warm up - this applies to walking as an exercise as well as running. To do a proper warm up:

  • Allow at least 10-15 minutes at the beginning of your workout.
  • Start out at a slow walking pace - slower than your normal walking speed (or start by marching on the spot).
  • After about 5 minutes, bring the speed up to your normal (comfortable) walking speed.
  • After 10 minutes, begin to walk at a faster pace, slighter faster than before.
  • After 15 minutes, walk at a faster speed and swing your arms in exaggerated movements by your sides.  You are now ready to begin the jogging section (or stick with the faster walking speed until you feel ready to add some jogging in).

2.  Watch your intensity. You can do this in a few ways:

  • Do the talk test - at the beginning of your warm up you should be able to talk in full sentences.
  • By the end of your warm up, you should still be able to have a conversation and be able to say 7-8 words at a time without pausing for breath.
  • For the jogging component you should be able to say at least 5-6 words without pausing for breath (we are focusing on aerobic exercise so will not be pushing it any harder than this). If you are alone try singing to make sure you aren't working too hard!
  • Get a heart rate monitor. These can act as a great tool to monitor the intensity of your workout. Your individual heart rate is based on your age, medications and genetics so I can't give you the exact heart rate to target. As a rough guide, your heart rate at the end of your warm up, when you are feeling like you are working fairly hard but can still say at least 5-6 words, is about 60% (6/10 effort) of your maximum heart rate zone. Ideally you wouldn't go above 70% (7/10 effort) when you are working aerobically as this starts to reduce the oxygen available. Here is the one that I use with all of my one to one clients: Polar FT7 or Polar FT4. If you want one that does the distance travelled it will need to have a GPS and thus becomes more expensive. Here is a Garmin one that is highly rated.

3.   Build up the jogging gradually. If you haven't run for a while, you will need to start with a walk/jog/walk method. Here's how:

  • Complete your 15 minute warm up.
  • When you feel ready, start your first jog. It doesn't matter how fast it is, just pick the feet up and move a bit quicker than your walk. It is better to start out slow than to sprint and run out of energy. You are aiming to work at about 6-7/10 (10 being an all out sprint).
  • Aim for 20-30 seconds of jogging.
  • Slow back down to a walk and recover until you feel ready to jog again. This may take a few minutes, so take as long as you need.
  • Repeat. For your first few jogs, you may want to stick with 2 or 3 jogging sets. Build it up gradually over the weeks.
  • Eventually, you will feel more comfortable to increase the amount of time jogging and reduce the amount of time walking in between. There is no rush to do this, only when you feel ready.
  • Your goal is to complete slightly more each week, unless you are feeling unwell, tired etc. In which case it is better to complete the exercise walking and get some rest, coming back out when you feel better.
  • For some their goal may be to be able to jog for 5 minutes without stopping. Others may want to build up to running 5km, 10km etc. It is all dependent on your personal goals and how able your heart is to cope with the increased demands. For some their fitness will increase very gradually, other may see an improvement quite quickly.

4.  Stay close to home. This means that if you get tired you are never too far away. Also, tell someone what your plans are and what route you plan to go.

5.  Always cool down. Take at least 10-15 minutes to reverse the warm up - start by walking briskly at the end of your jogging, gradually slowing the pace until you are walking very slowly by the time you finish. This is a crucial step that is often overlooked. It is essential to ensure that blood in the muscles is returned to the circulation, waste products created from the muscles are moved into the lymph to be cleared and to return the heart rate towards its resting rate gradually, helping to prevent arrhythmias. 

6.  Stretch!!!  Often forgotten, never should be. Stretching helps to release the muscle fibres that have tightened whilst you were exercising. This helps to reduce muscle soreness and prevent injury the next time you exercise.

Don't exercise if you:

  1. Feel unwell
  2. Have a fever
  3. Have very high blood pressure - it needs to be under control/treated first
  4. Have unstable angina
  5. Are waiting for test results or treatment

All of the above is based on an average. Please do get in touch if you'd like more information specific to you. Don't forget to ask your doctor for clearance before starting any new exercise programme.

Kind regards,

Angela Hartley

Cardiac Specialist Nurse, Exercise Coach

Please note that the information provided is a guide only and does not take into account your individual circumstances. Please seek advice from a medical professional before commencing any exercise programme or new diet.

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Week 3 & 4 of Mike's journey - let's catch up with him!

First - a set back. Last week Mike had a follow up appointment with the Electrophysiologist who performed his ablation. Mike was worried that he was still having several runs of atrial fibrillation (AF). His consultant confirmed from Mike's AliveCor readings (a nifty little gadget you can use at home to measure your heart rate) that he was having several runs of AF every week.

Read more about Mike's journey up until now - Week 1, Week 2.

The good news - this is normal in the weeks after an ablation. Often the heart takes several weeks to settle down and may in fact never stay in sinus rhythm completely. The difficulty with AF is the unpredictability of it - some patients have no symptoms at all, some feel rubbish.

Mike doesn't feel rubbish for our exercise sessions - he's motivated to just 'get on with it'. We start this week with a longer warm up - when you are in AF exercise can feel more difficult and thus a long warm up can help the heart to prepare for exercise much better.  Keeping an eye on Mike's breathing, we were able to complete 9 different exercises - a combination of lower body and upper body. By alternating between an arm and a leg exercise, it means we don't need to rest as much as legs rest whilst the arms are working and vice versa.

This week Mike completed over 40 minutes of exercise without stopping and without feeling breathless. Add this to his homework that he's been sticking to - walking every day and a couple of games of golf last month and he is getting on track to improving his fitness.

Next week we will aim to increase the amount of cardio that Mike completes in one go - our end target is 30 minutes so each week we will add a few minutes until he is able to sustain 30 minutes of continuous cardio work.

Mike thought he couldn't exercise again - he's proven himself wrong week after week. Although it seems like a long road, after 4 weeks he is already doing 40 minutes of exercise in one go - way more than he thought possible!

Follow/Like us on Facebook to get regular updates on Mike's progress! 

Yours in health,

Angela Hartley

Team Leader of the Healthy Hearties!

Read more about our programmes here.



Eggsellent breakfast ideas!

Good morning and Happy Wednesday! I hope you are having a great week so far.

I'm keeping this week's email short and sweet - I've just read some statistics that Wednesdays are the most productive of the week and you are all busy with heads down on a Wednesday! Apparently the least productive day is a Monday morning (obvious!) followed by Thursday and Friday afternoons. Let me know if that's true for you too!

If I can get organised enough then next week's email should be hitting you on a Monday morning :)

Food of the week

This week’s ‘Food of the Week’ is the humble egg.  Now, eggs have received a bad rep over the last few years – often overlooked for their fat content and deemed as bad for the cholesterol, people often shy away from eating eggs.

It was previously thought that eggs raised blood cholesterol levels - one of the main causes of heart disease. The yolk in a single large egg contains five grams of fat, so it was only natural for nutritionists to assume that eggs clogged up people's arteries, especially since they also contain dietary cholesterol. 
However, evidence is now showing that eating a lot of dietary cholesterol doesn't increase blood cholesterol.  A 25-year study revealed that people who consume two eggs each day with low-fat diets do not show signs of increased blood cholesterol levels.
So what does raise blood cholesterol? One of the main theories is that saturated fat does.  Of the three types of fat (saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated), saturated fat raises blood cholesterol and LDL (bad cholesterol) levels.  It so happens that eggs contain mostly polyunsaturated fat, which can actually lower blood cholesterol if one replaces food containing saturated fat with eggs.
Other benefits of eating eggs are below:

  • Eggs are great for the eyes.  According to recent studies, an egg a day may prevent macular degeneration and cataracts due to the carotenoid content, specifically and zeaxanthin.  Both nutrients are more readily available to our bodies from eggs than from other sources.
  • One egg contains 6 grams of high-quality protein and all 9 essential amino acids
  • According to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health, regular consumption of eggs may help prevent blood clots, stroke and heart attack.
  • Eggs are a good source of choline, which is an important nutrient that helps regulate the brain, nervous system, and cardiovascular system.
  • Eggs contain the right kind of fat.  One egg contains just 5 grams of fat and only 1.5 grams of that is saturated fat.  One egg (including yolk) contains 90 calories – a hardboiled egg is the perfect snack!
  • Eggs are one of the only foods that contain naturally occurring vitamin D, something most of us are deficient in if we don't get enough sunlight
  • Eggs promote healthy hair and nails because of their high sulphur content and wide array of vitamins and minerals.  Many people find their hair growing faster after adding eggs to their diet, especially if they were previously deficient in foods containing sulphur or B12. 

Having eggs for breakfast once or twice a week, a hard boiled egg for a mid morning snack regularly and having an omelette for dinner once a week is a way of bringing more eggs into your diet.  Having them as part of a full English breakfast is not what I'm promoting!

Try the following tasty breakfasts:

  • 2 eggs scrambled with one large slice smoked salmon and 1/4 avocado
  • 2 poached eggs on 1 piece rye bread
  • 2 eggs whisked with a splash of milk - pour into a medium heat pan with some melted coconut oil, sprinkle over some chopped veg - spinach,peppers, mushroom etc. Cook until bottom is set and top is still runny, then place under grill for 2-3 minutes until top is also cooked. Easy omlette!

Let me know any other ideas you have.

Have a wonderful week and see you soon!




Tea on the green...

Good morning and Happy Wednesday!

I hope you are having a great week so far. Did you watch the US Presidential Debate? What did you think? Staying up until 3am watching it was certainly different to my usual choice of television (Grey's Anatomy, Home and Away, Location Location Location). Yes guilty of watching rubbish so thought I'd try to understand more about the Presidential race. I still don't understand it! Seems to have become a media race to see who has more 'pizazz' more than anything. Let me know if you predict Trump to win and what you predict will happen if he does! To use some of Trump's fabulous words - I'm not trying to be Bragalicious but I'm getting really busy! Do speak to me if you'd like some extra support with your exercise or nutrition. I'd love to help you in a Bigly way. Isn't he just great for entertainment value?!

This week's I am talking all about green tea and it's benefits. I've also put in a great exercise for your arms and of course the Heart Fact of the Week.

Have a fab week and keep sending me your ideas please!


Food of the week

Green tea

This week's 'Food of the Week' is actually a drink – Green Tea.

All types of tea come from the camellia sinensis plant.  The differences stem from the way the leaves are dried and processed.  The key active ingredients in green tea leaves are called flavonoids; they belong to the catechin family, which is a powerful antioxidant.     

In some tests, catechins were found to be more powerful than vitamins C and E in halting oxidative damage to cells and appear to have other disease-fighting properties.  

Additional benefits include:

  1. May bring down your heart disease and cancer risk: Green tea’s powerful antioxidants have been found to reduce some types of lung cancer, prostate cancer, skin cancer, stroke and heart attack risks. To add an extra boost, squeeze in a lemon — the vitamin C helps your body absorb more of the antioxidants.
  2. Lower your cholesterol and blood pressure: Three cups a day has been shown to help bring down blood pressure and cholesterol when used in combination with a healthy diet.
  3. Help you lose weight faster. Drink a cup before your workout and you might boost your fat burn. Studies suggest that the caffeine frees fatty acids so you can burn fat more easily. The tea’s antioxidants might also work together with the caffeine to help you burn more calories.
  4. Prevent arthritis. Imbibing green tea daily might help keep your joints healthy, preliminary research suggests.
  5. Keep allergies at bay. Japanese researchers found that the compound EGCG (the same one that might fight hepatitis C) found in green tea may help stop your body from reacting to allergens like pollen, pet dander and dust.
  6. Less caffeine than coffee:  One cup of green tea contains around 25mg of caffeine compared to 100-150mg per cup of coffee.

In all of the studies on green tea, the tea-drinking group were consuming 3-5 cups per day.  This may be difficult to achieve, so start with one cup per day and work up to replacing a few teas or coffees with green tea throughout the week.  If you aren't sure about the taste, try adding a squeeze of lemon.

A note about medications:

Blood Thinning Medications (Including Aspirin) -- People who take warfarin, a blood thinning medication, should not drink green tea. Since green tea contains vitamin K, it can make warfarin less effective. Meanwhile, you should not mix green tea and aspirin because they both prevent platelets from clotting. Using the two together may increase your risk of bleeding.


Exercise of the Week

Seated Row

The seated row is one of the most effective exercises for targeting your back muscles.  Because this exercise is a compound exercise, involving more than one joint, it also activates several other muscles as well.  The main muscles you will activate include your erector spinae in your lower back, your middle and lower trapezius in your upper back, your rhomboids and latissimus dorsi in your middle back and your teres major in your outer back. You will also strengthen your shoulder muscles, your biceps and your chest.

How to perform:

  1. Sit on a chair or bench with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.  Use either a resistance band around a pole (or have someone hold the middle of the band for you) or a cable machine if you have access to a gym.
  2. Keep your back straight and hold one handle in each hand with your palms facing each other and thumbs wrapped around the handles. Your armsshould be straight and your shoulders pulled back and down.
  3. Engage your core and abdominal muscles. Keep the spine as tall and straight as possible.
  4. Pull the handles towards you, bending at the elbows until the handles reach your sides. Keep your elbows close to your body. Do not lean back from the hips, arch your back or shrug your shoulders during your pull.
  5. Squeeze the shoulder blades together at the end of the movement.
  6. Slowly straighten your elbows to return to starting position. Do not allow your torso to round or your shoulders to shift forward.
  7. Repeat 10-12 times and perform 3 sets.

et me know if you have any questions at all.

Have a great week!



Week 2 with Mike!

His heart approves!

His heart approves!

Welcome to our Week 2 update all about Mike, who has started his new exercise regime and has a new bounce in his step after just one week. That's what more confidence can do for you and I'm so happy that he's feeling much more positive this week.

If you missed week 1 and want to know more about why Mike has started training with me (he has AF) and what the Week 1 assessment looked like, click HERE to read all about it.

Last week's homework for Mike was pretty straightforward, all he had to do was wear a step counter every day for a week and then I would take a look at what his 'everyday' activity levels looked like. This is the step counter I always recommend as it's cheap, the battery lasts for ages and it stores 7 days worth of steps.

The steps that Mike had done over the last week really varied. On sunday when it rained all day, he did 2000 steps, however on Tuesday which was a beautiful day, he hit 11,000! The average over the entire week was 7000, which is a great start and means that Mike is actually much more active than he thought. Mike's target to hit over the coming weeks is a daily average of 10,000. It is different for every person, however I believe that 10,000 is a realistic target based on what he's already doing.

For this week's session, we didn't need to do any big assessments or lots of talking - although there is always lots of questions from me throughout! We did a quick blood pressure and heart rate check and I looked at Mike's AliveCor readings for the last week. AliveCor is a fabulous little machine that you stick to your iphone and it can tell you what your heart rhythm is doing and whether you are in AF. They are a nifty little device and I alway recommend people with rhythm problems, particularly AF, to get one. You can buy them cheaply here.

Unfortunately the AliveCor showed that Mike has still been having regular bouts of AF. He could tell when he was in AF as he felt more tired and had less motivation to do things. This is one of the common complaints of AF - as the heart has to work harder to pump blood around the body, and the heart rate is higher than normal, it makes you feel more tired, like you've been running a marathon all day!For Mike his AF spontaneously came and went. We looked at some common triggers (alcohol, caffeine, stress) however he couldn't say one particular thing set it off.

Mike was in AF during our session. This means that he can still exercise, however the most important thing is we keep an eye out for his energy levels, his breathing and his blood pressure. It is safe to exercise when in AF and in fact, just walking around doing your every day activity is exercise, so don't lose hope that you can do more!

We started out slowly, getting warmed up for 10 minutes before moving on to some great exercises for the lower body. The legs have the biggest muscles in the body, so by building leg muscle, it helps to burn more body fat, supports the whole body, gives you more energy when out walking and makes the body feel stronger and improves your posture.

During the session, if Mike became uncomfortable with his breathing, we slowed things down without stopping. This meant that he could catch his breath, feel more comfortable and then increase again. We aimed to build up to working at an intensity of 6 out of 10, with 10 being the maximum effort he could imagine. A 6 should feel like you are working but comfortable. 

I always encourage people to leave some 'fuel in the tank' and so we never aim to finish a session exhausted. It's important that they can get on with their day and complete their normal every day activities without feeling wiped out.

This week's homework is to replicate the session we did once over the next week, as well as aiming to walk an average of 7500 steps every day. I've reminded Mike that if he feels tired, he should always choose rest over pushing himself and can always do something the following day. 

Next week: we aim to build up to 35 minutes of exercise and will add in some upper body exercises that he can do without any equipment at home.

Making exercise realistic is all part of the fun, there's no point having fancy equipment if you hate using it!

Making exercise realistic is all part of the fun, there's no point having fancy equipment if you hate using it!



An easy morning detox for your liver and energy levels

Good morning and Happy Wednesday! I hope you are having a great week so far. I've had lots of requests for future newsletters this week - which milk is best? Is cheese ok to eat? What is AF? Are e-cigarettes bad for you? Keep the ideas coming as that's how I get my ideas to do research for each newsletter.

This week is all about an easy morning detox routine you can start and all about what Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is.

Enjoy! Keep you suggestions and questions coming.

p.s If you want daily updates about the latest in health and fitness, as well as up to date facts about the heart, follow us on Facebook HERE (click Like to get our updates).

Food of the week
Apple cider vinegar

For years my friend has been taking apple cider vinegar regularly and as I was visiting this week I noticed it again in her kitchen.  She swears it has helped improve her skin as well as reduced her knee pain so this week I have been looking into how and why it may help.
Apple cider vinegar contains several minerals including magnesiumphosphorus,calcium and potassium.  

It has been found that mineral deficiency can worsen joint pain, so a diet rich in essential minerals is an important step to relieving the pain of arthritis. The potassium in cider vinegar may be especially beneficial because it works to prevent acid build-up in the joints, which is linked to joint stiffness.
Apple cider vinegar is also rich in beneficial enzymes and acids that improve digestive health. Taking a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar before a meal will encourage proper digestion of food and absorption of nutrients. This is vitally important for those with arthritis or any digestion issues, as poor digestion can lead to deficiencies in minerals and other nutrients. These nutrients are crucial for joint health, so it is imperative that the body be capable of absorbing and using them. With apple cider vinegar, this is made possible even if you have arthritis.
Studies suggest that joint pain and arthritis may be linked to toxins accumulating in the joints, since metabolic waste is often stored in connective tissues. At the same time, people with joint pain tend to shun activities that might trigger more pain, and the lack of movement may cause toxins to build-up even more. The pectin in apple cider vinegar helps absorb toxins and move them out of the system, while the acids in cider vinegar work to purify and detoxify the entire body.
Unfortunately there has been no concrete scientific research that proves apple cider vinegar helps with joint pain however most doctors conclude that it will not cause any harm and may have a placebo effect. So why not!


This is the one that I use - I bought it from a health food shop.

This is the one that I use - I bought it from a health food shop.

How to Use Apple Cider

All of the benefits of apple cider vinegar can only be achieved with vinegar that is organic, raw, unfiltered and unprocessed. Your apple cider vinegar should be ruddy-colored with a noticeable amount of residue floating around in the bottle. This is the natural accumulation of beneficial enzymes and nutrients.
The simplest way to incorporate apple cider vinegar into your diet is to mix 1-3 teaspoons in a glass of water three times per day, preferably just before meals. You can sweeten the drink with a small amount of honey if you like. 

I'll be honest, the taste isn't amazing, but it tastes....healthy! Mix it with a bit of water and down it like a shot - gets it out of the way!


Interactions to be aware of

Apple cider vinegar interacts with the following medications in large doses so be cautious if you take the following:
Digoxin, insulin, diuretics.



Stress and your heart health - what you need to know


Stress and the Monday morning heart attack

You’re more likely to have a heart attack on a Monday morning than at any other time of the week.


Because levels of a stress hormone called cortisol peak early in the day. When this happens, plaque that has built up in the arteries of the heart can rupture and block the flow of blood to the heart. Add this to the rise in blood pressure and increased heart rate from the stress of returning to work after the weekend, combined with the body working hard to get rid of the weekend excesses and you have the perfect recipe for a Monday morning heart attack.

That’s why it’s important to reduce your stress levels as much as you can, avoid binge drinking and get enough sleep. Practice yoga, exercise, laugh more and spend more quality time doing the things you love - all of these help to reduce your stress levels and make for a chilled out body. 

Now, what if you're thinking, 'now I'm more stressed by knowing that my stress could be harming me!'? Don't panic - it often takes years of chronic stress for damage to occur to the arteries. The key thing is that every now, take 5 or 6 long, deep breaths, slow your breathing, stop what you are doing and just close your eyes for 10 seconds. Even doing this just a few times a day can dramatically reduce the amount of adrenaline and cortisol running through you and make you feel instantly calmer. Make a note of doing it at certain checkpoints like every traffic light, every tube stop etc. Try it now!

Read more here: