Insurers are Bleeding $2.4 Trillion in Claims: or why insurers need digital health.

Insurers are Bleeding $2.4 Trillion in Claims: or why insurers need digital health.

Insurers are bleeding $2.4 Trillion in Claims, roughly 60% of premiums on preventable chronic conditions such as obesity and diabetes. Conditions caused by diet and lifestyle patterns. With ageing members and rapidly increasing incidence of chronic conditions, insurers are under growing pressure to attract & retain high-value healthy members to cover the cost of the sick members, and improve the health of those at-risk. Digital health can help with these challenges providing radically cheap, massively scalable, highly effective preventative health programs for a fraction of the cost of traditional health programs. 

Wearables at Work: how biosensors are changing the workplace.

It’s 7 pm and Jim Brynt, a manager at an energy company, has done 8173 steps, walked 5.77 km and burned 1,902 calories. He still has time to go for a walk and get that pleasant buzz from the activity tracker on his wrist when he gets to 10,000 steps in a day. The companion mobile health app shows him his health data and gives him suggestions about how to improve his health. This data is shared with his employer who rewards him and his team for achieving their individual and group health targets. Jim is also waiting for a new wearable to arrive that will measure his breathing and tell him when he’s relaxed or feeling stressed. His health insurer will cover the cost, and in return he will share his personal health data with them.

This might sound like a distant future, but for 20,000 BP America employees this was the new normal last year.

Jim was happy because he lost 6kg. His wife was happy as Jim’s risk of an early heart attack was seriously reduced. BP was happy as employee engagement with the program was high and the overall health risk for their employees declined by 8.6%. Thus lowering BP’s health care premiums and bringing down overall health care spending by 3.5% — with a ROI of $3:1. BP’s insurer was happy because their members were more engaged and healthier leading to lower claims.

The Current State of Wearables

Wearables are in or on-body accessories and clothing such as activity trackers, smart watches, sensors, pedometers and patches. They incorporate small electronic biosensors to detect activities, such as steps, respiration, brain waves, blood glucose, pupil dilation or heart rate. There are hundreds of different brands and devices, all using sensors to capture millions of data points every day measuring an ever increasing range of biometric signals. Most wearables range in price from $50 to $600 depending on the brand and what you want to track.

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Research by PWC in 2014 showed that over 20% of Americans have used a wearable, with possibly a slightly higher adoption rate in Australia. The first wave of wearable users were consumers trying to improve their health and fitness, however there is an increasing take up by corporates including healthcare providers improving post op care, health and life insurers providing incentives to improve the health of members, large scale corporate wellness programs, remote monitoring in the aged-care space and advanced bio-tracking for professional athletes.

Wearables are being used in a wide range of industries including: healthcare, military, transport, mining & resources, manufacturing and of course professional athletes. Two of the main industries to adopt wearables are health insurers and corporate wellness providers.

 

Insurance

Within the USA and UK health insurance companies are providing incentives to their members, such as reduced premiums, to achieve daily health targets. Members also get incentives purely for the exchange of personal health data from biosensors. In Australia Medibank is offering Coles Flybuy points in exchange for Fitbit data and the achievement of specific health targets, and NIB and Qantas just teamed up to launch an innovative health insurance product that rewards healthy activity, Qantas Assure. We also recently worked with HBF to collect wearable data. HBF donated money to charity on behalf of participants in the Run for a Reason marathon-training program, that achieved certain milestones in their training program. The program used an app and wearable data to track progress and had high engagement rates.

Corporate Health

Around 90% of companies in America offer wellness programs, many now encourage employees to use wearables to measure the track and improve their health and wellness. Given the cost of absenteeism and presenteeism (staying at work while sick) is estimated to be between 3–5% of a companies revenue, deploying a digital corporate wellness program within an organisation can be a cost effective way to bring down these costs while also increasing employee engagement. The wellness program provider Carewise has found that the health care costs of highly engaged participants rise just 0.7% annually, compared with 24% for less engaged participants. In its recent IPO documents Fitbit states it expects much of its future growth to come from this area as companies increasingly offer wellness programs.

Wearables in Corporate Wellness

Its still relatively early days for wearables but in the next few years we think there will be an explosion of organisations using wearables to improve health outcomes and reduce costs (read some of our outcomes here).

To run effective health and wellness programs that take advantage of the benefits of wearables and biosensor data, companies should ensure a few things:

  • Companies should work in partnership with employees to ensure a high level of engagement and trust. Employees need to be engaged and keen to share data for a successful wellness program.
  • Programs should have objective measures in place before the program starts which can be measured at the end and related to the objectives of the program such as; injury rates, absenteeism or presenteeism rates, pre- and post-program health assessments, health risk profiles for employees or productivity metrics.

Wearables and biosensors are here to stay — on our wrists, shirts and shoes. Those organisations that use biosensor data wisely will be able to deploy engaging preventative health programs across entire staff populations for a fraction of the cost of traditional corporate wellness programs.

Our Digital Health Platform

We’re working with insurers, employers and aged care providers to improve the health and wellness of their staff and clients and are excited the future of digital health. If you’re thinking about using wearables or running a digital health program in your organisation have a look at our website  or get in touch over email.

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WA Startup Ecosystem Preliminary Report 2015

Drones, apps, games, casinos, big data, robots, augmented reality, AI and laser shooting robots in Australia's mining capital.

We are delighted to present the second of our reports on the early stage digital and internet technology sector in Western Australia (WA). This preliminary report (download here) builds on the 2013 Perth Startup Ecosystem Report and shows that the local tech-industry has grown substantially since then.

The report was produced by Boundlss commissioned by StartupWA, and generously supported by the WA Department of Commerce and the City of Perth. Information was gathered through community workshops, interviews, data scraping and research.

The report is a preliminary report with the final report to be published in February 2016 with the addition of recommendations and numbers on later stage tech companies.

This preliminary report focuses on early stage digital & internet technology companies operating throughout Western Australia. Due to the time constraints and the geographic spread of the region the report mainly focuses on the Perth metro area, but we hope to identify more regional tech startups for the final version. 

Perth & Western Australia
And if you have never been to Perth or anywhere else in Western Australia, WA is Australia’s largest state occupying the entire western third of Australia. It has a population of 2.589 million across 2.5 million square kilometres — is the second largest country sub-division in the world — and as you can see from the map, mostly fairly empty. It’s main industries are energy and resources, exporting 58% of Australia’s energy and minerals.

What do we mean by Tech Startup?
Back to startups. So what do we mean by digital and internet technology ‘startup’. Firstly we are just focussed on early stage, so just those established since January 2010. It’s not that we’re ageist, its just the scope of the research. And by digital and internet technologies we mean those companies developing their own intellectual property in technologies such as computing, software, mobile applications, internet focused companies, electronics and hardware; particularly those hardware companies that incorporate software such as wearables, sensors, drones, robotics and autonomous vehicles. We call these ‘startups’ for short throughout the report.

The Numbers

The report identified over 420 digital and internet technology startups operating throughout Western Australia since January 2010, of which 335 remain active. We found approximately 3,000 people who are working in and building early stage technology startups.

These numbers are substantially larger than the 100+ startups we identified in our 2013 report. There are several reasons for this, namely increased awareness & interest in the space, increasing opportunities in the space (such as accelerators and programs), leading to increased formation rates (with 103 companies alone formed in 2014). Additionally our process for finding startups is improving.

We didn’t identify as many as expected in the current year (only 69 in total), however we assume this to do with that fact that the most recently formed startups are probably not yet out there publishing their birth to the world. If we did this again in 2016 we’re certain the number would be similar to 2014.

Another thing to note is that the total numbers are probably higher than 420. There are almost certainly many active startups that we missed and it is quite difficult to dig the dead companies out of the grave and identify the remains. If I was to take an educated guess I’d say there could be between 670 and 1,000 in total that have been born since 2010, roughly a 167 per year birth rate (or 64.5 startups per million people).

Market Focus

Of these 420 startups, a wide range of market focus was evident, with particular clusters emerging in eCommerce, Fin-tech, Health-tech, Resource-tech, Education-tech and more unexpectedly in areas such as Gaming and Human Resources. Product and technology types were diverse, ranging from mobile applications and machine learning to 3D printing. 

Technologies did however seem inclined to less complex technologies rather than more complex emerging technologies such as drones, advanced robotics and machine learning. This is probably due to a combination of factors: 

  1. the relatively small number of computer science graduates and electronic engineers completing university courses in Western Australia,
  2. the scarcity of available capital to fund more resource intensive technology development such as drones, robots and AI, and
  3. the previous abundance of very well paid engineering jobs within the WA resources sector.

As you’d expect many startups focused on communication services, consumer marketplaces, entertainment (all the cool kids like these things) and as expected in Australia’s mining capital a large number in resources-tech (eg. Newton Labs, Sentient, MiPlan, Track’em). 

Gaming
Surprisingly there was a reasonable number of gaming companies (25+), with a decent number operating out of SK Games (a gaming co-working/incubator-ish space). Based on discussions with the folks at SK Games we actually think the number is substantially higher. There are over 300 members of Perth’s gaming community and I’m told the majority of these produce a few working games per year, of which at least 1 would make it to market on Steam or the like. Sadly these guys and gals are super under funded with a minimal $10-$50K of funding going into the gaming space.

Other Cool Clusters
Some other interesting clusters we saw were fin-tech (35), health-tech (27), ed-tech (24) and hr-tech (19). There were also a smaller number of companies doing interesting things with drones and geo-spatial technology, like listed mapping company Spookfish (ASX: SFI) which is developing new technology to do high resolution, cheap, quick imagery and raised $M. Or subsea drone companies such as Geo Oceans, factory automation Autronics. Surprisingly, we didn’t find many startups at all doing ag-tech, given the size of the market. But the guys at OVASS are just launching and this looks very cool.

Autonomous Vehicles
We were particularly disappointed to not identify a single startup working on autonomous vehicle technology despite the fairly substantive adoption of autonomous vehicles by all three of the largest resource companies. Just Rio Tinto alone has 1 autonomous train in operation, a number of autonomous drilling and blasting systems and 69 Komatsu Autonomous Haulage Systems (AHS) operating on it’s mines, and has an agreement with the Komatsu to ramp the number of AHS up to 150 by 2018. 

Weirdly Rio Tinto has well over double the number of self driving vehicles operating in the remote far north of Western Australia than the 32 cars Google has driving around Silicon Valley. 

Funding

We identified over $101.7 million in total funding over the past 6 year period to 77 startups, ten of which raised funding by listing on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX). The average fund pool allocated each year was $16.96 million, and average per startup was $1.32 million. However the median funding per startup was $183,500. A very low number. The average is much higher due to a small number of startups (such as Spookfish, 1-Page, Tagroom, Virtual Gaming Worlds and Brainchip) which all raised between $9 to $15 million each.

We identified 113 rounds and 137 transactions. We would expect to see more transactions given the number of rounds, which makes us think we certainly missed some of the transactions that took place. You can check out the top 38 startups by total funding below. If we missed anyone please let us know. 

Total funding across WA results in an average per capita funding ratio of $6.61, one of the highest levels seen nationally, however still substantially lower than international ratios which go up to $183 in Israel and $4,341 in Silicon Valley.

Venture Capital funding per Capita. Note the Perth and SEQ numbers include funding types additional to just VC, such as angel, crowdfunding and government grants. 

Australian Stock Exchange (ASX)

We saw ten startups listing on the ASX, raising near $40 million in total from the ASX (40% of total funds). These startups were, by market cap at 27November 2015: 1-Page (ASX:1PG), Norwood Systems (RAP), Resapp Health (RAP), Spookfish (SFI), Brainchip (BRN), Activistic (ACU), Rewardle (RXH), MyFiziq (MYQ), XTV Networks (XTV) and iCollege (ICT).

It’s interesting to note how young these companies are when listing. All had little or no revenue at time of listing, most were in the R&D phase (Spookfish, Resapp, Brainchip, Activistic, MyFiziq) and Resapp barely even had a team with only 1 staff member — the CEO. We haven’t got a number for this but our sense is that these are in general older teams.

Given WA’s venture space is virtually non-existent we think startups are turning to the ASX as an alternative avenue to raise money. Listing on public markets at a much earlier stage than what you would normally assume. 

There are also a number of startups listing on the ASX that aren’t born and bred in WA, such as 1-Page (San Francisco based) and Resapp (commercialising IP from Queensland uni and run by one of Queensland University’s ex-commercialisation directors). However these end up registering a head office in WA in order to get access to the ASX through our strong stock broking industry.

Meetups, Events, Groups & Universities

The report found that across Western Australia there was a substantive number of meetups, hackathons and community driven educational activity in the ecosystem. Over 12 co-working spaces have arisen in the past 6 years in the Perth CBD, Leederville, Joondalup, Fremantle, Geraldton in the Mid West, and as far south as Pollenators in Bunbury. There are also a number of cool maker and hacker spaces. Co-working spaces include: Bloom, F-Sapce, Spacecubed, Minespace, sixty27, Sync labs. And maker/hacker spaces include the Artifactory, SW Makers and the Vic Park MiniLab by Enkel. 

These places serve as a vibrant catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship and are increasingly moving up the innovation value chain from offering sharing office space to formal startup accelerators providing seed capital for early stage commercialisation. Spacecubed in Perth’s CBD now hosts 5 accelerators and seed accelerators (Amcom Upstart, RAC Seed Spark, Unearthed and Founder Institute) along with multiple hackathons throughout the year.

Universities

WA Universities have a history of commercialising innovation, out performing east coast universities when viewed through the lens of company formation and university spinouts. There is also an increasing number of student led programs, hackathons and incubators arising out of universities, such as UWA’s Bloom Labs. However compared to US and UK university company formation rates (1 to 3 startups per $100M in the Uk or US, compared to 0.4 in Australia) there is still much Western Australia can do to develop more innovative startups. This is a sorry state of affairs. As former Chief Scientist Ian Chubb states:

“We can wait for the one in a million natural-born entrepreneur to successfully seize the once in a lifetime opportunity to create change. Or we can make our own luck by using the education system to give people the skills and knowledge that will make them entrepreneurs.”

Future Growth

Technology is increasingly restructuring the global economy, with technology companies increasingly entering traditional industries such as mining, transportation, insurance and accommodation. Foreign companies are taking market share at a rapid pace, with a case in point being Uber which is estimated to have secured near 8.8% of the Australian taxi market in under three years, as of early 2015. Based on current economic and technology trends this report estimates the potential economic impact of disruptive digital technologies on Western Australia’s economy in 2025 could be over $76 billion per annum, approximately 25% of Gross State Product (GSP).

This shift in economic value provides a tremendous opportunity for new and established companies to rapidly create substantial value. If Western Australia is to do this successfully taking advantage of our proximity to the worlds largest and fastest growing consumer markets in Asia is almost certainly necessary.

Conclusion

The early stage technology industry in Western Australia is still in it’s infancy with a few breakout successes that have managed to overcome regional isolation and sparse support. Nevertheless, Western Australia has a promising level of engagement in some of the most innovative new technologies coming to market, such as Fin-tech, Health-tech, Resource-tech and the Industrial Internet. Given a substantive effort by all participants in the ecosystem — entrepreneurs, investors, educators and government — the state can almost certainly take advantage of its deep entrepreneurial roots to ride the next great economic revolution.

_______

Download

You can download the full report here: Download 
You can download the summary slide deck here: Download

__________

 

Ok there's no laser shooting robots, we lied about that one.
But there could be... 

WA Tech Startup Ecosystem Report 2015

We Need You...
While we're a digital health company, we're also kind of good at data aggregation, analysis and visualisation. We're also keen on supporting other tech companies and growing a vibrant tech industry in Australia. So on occasions we're asked to do reports on the industry.

So we were very chuffed when  StartupWA invited us to work with them to do a report on the Western Australian tech industry and the impact of digital disruption on the state over the next 10 years. The report is focussed on quantifying the breadth and depth of early stage (<5 years) digital tech companies, particularly those building technology such as: software, mobile apps, drones, autonoumous vehicles, web applications, on-demand mobile assisted services (Uber for-x type things), robotics, wearables, 3D printing, digital games, desktop applications, sensor technology, IoT technology, mobile health services, and agtech.

 The report follows on from previous reports we have done for Perth in 2013 and Queensland in 2014 (we've also just finished a very cool one on regional Queensland that is yet to be published).

The report is being commissioned by the City of Perth and the Department of Commerce. And its great to see both local, state and federal government getting really interested in the technology and innovation space.

You're Invited to the Community Workshop
Ok this is the part were we need you. :)

As part of the report we wanted to gather community feedback about the issues, opportunities and actions you think are critical to the growth of the sector. If you’re involved in the industry (either as a founder, team member, investor, educator, event/group manager, advisor, or other such role that directly supports the development of innovative digital technology) we'd love you to attend this session next week and give your feedback. 

Time & Place
Tues, 17 November 2015, from 3-5pm @ AusIndustry’s offices in the Perth CBD

You can find out more and book on Eventbrite: 
http://wa-startup-report.eventbrite.com

Share
Please share the invite with anyone you think would be interested in contributing to the report/session. 

Let me know if you have any questions and I look forward to seeing you there.

Many thanks,
Jonah

Mix up your meditation

Be more spontaneous to build up your capacity and improve meditation. For a beginner, increasing the duration of meditation is a challenge. Does the amount of time really matter? It does.

Depending on your experience and condition, it takes about 15-45 minutes for the physical sensation to settle and the mental wave to calm down toward evenness. The range varies widely from person to person. In a 60 minute-long meditation, the middle or last 15 minutes is the most important part. So your goal down the road is to be able to complete a 30 to 60-minute meditation session.

To increase the duration of meditation, first, set a realistic time goal; second, build your stamina through practice; third, develop a sense of being. Predetermining the time limit is especially helpful for beginners. As your stamina grows, you will naturally be more comfortable with sitting and being.

Adapt gradually. You can build up your capacity slowly, steadily, and patiently. This principle always works. When you allow your body and mind to adjust to changes, they do. Trust yourself. If you get impatient and break this principle, you can still return to where you were and start over. That’s all right.

Two Types of Meditation

There are two types of meditation: spontaneous and ritual-like.

Spontaneous meditation simply means to sit or lie back and meditate without formality. You can do it for any length of time. You can do it literally anywhere: on a bus, waiting in line, walking in the park, or even in bed before sleep. What you need to do is to focus your mind on a single thought that is emotionally neutral but holds your attention. By doing so, you contain your mind in the present moment in a non-judgmental fashion.

For the ritual-like meditation, you can create a format you would like to explore and follow those steps. Here are 4 examples of ritual-like meditation.

  1. Combine short-long-short sessions. If you have 10 minutes available, begin with a short 1-minute sitting meditation, then a 3-minute sitting meditation with music (or chanting) followed by 5-minute prone meditation. End with a 1-minute sitting meditation.

  2. Alternate meditation types. If you have 15 minutes available, do a 3-minute sitting meditation, a 2-minute prone meditation, a 7-minute walking meditation, and end with a 3-minute sitting meditation. Or, alternate an easy week and a hard week: for example, in the first and third weeks of the month do multiple short meditations and in the second and the fourth try 1 or 2 long sessions to enhance your endurance.

  3. Practice moving meditation. Sports and meditation have similarities in producing a flow experience in which the mind and body merge into one through the activity. Go out and play any sport or hobby you enjoy and totally immerse yourself.

  4. Meditation Challenge. When you are ready, host your personal meditation challenge: Design a 30 or 60-minute meditation session such as 5 minutes of sitting, 10 minutes of walking, 15 minutes of sitting. And is you're going for 60 pop on 5 minutes of walking, 5 minutes of music (or chanting), and 20 minutes of sitting meditation. This takes you close to your 30 or 60-minutes of meditation but it mixes it up a bit.

Finally, when you feel ready, explore a complete 30 or 60-minute sitting meditation. Use every skill you have learned. Sink deep down in your body and be, watching what occurs in your mind.

 If you don’t complete the goal, take a break, and try again another day.

Every minute you put in your meditation effort counts, like currency saved in your “meditation bank” or hours at the gym.

Grab More Rays

To get more sleep get more sunlight. Sunlight helps you maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle and get deeper sleep.

The struggle to get more and better sleep seems never-ending for many of us, and increasingly the sleep-deprived are opting for chemical relief. In 2012, 60 million Americans filled prescriptions for sleeping pills, up from 46 million in 2006 (as reported in The New York Times).

But considering the potential dangers of taking sleep meds, natural alternatives are definitely worth considering. A recent study suggests that one of these alternatives—perhaps one of the best we can get—is available just outside your window. Sunlight could be the cure for what ails millions of insomniacs.

Spending time outside, even on a cloudy day, will help keep your body's internal clock ticking properly and help you maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle. It's best if you can expose yourself to natural light for at least 20 minutes first thing in the morning—by throwing open the curtains, sitting in a sunny window, or using a dawn simulator light or alarm clock.

The study focused on the sleep quality of 49 day-shift office workers (27 in windowless workplaces and 22 in workplaces with windows). Researchers wanted to find out if more natural light exposure during the day resulted in more restful sleep at night. Using an evaluation tool called the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) and a monitoring technique known as “actigraphy,” (yep it's a real word) they were able to determine if office workers with windows fared better in dreamland than their walled-off counterparts.

The results showed that they did. Compared to workers in windowless offices, those with windows received 173 percent more natural white light exposure during work hours and slept an average of 46 minutes more per night.

Workers who get more sunlight also tend to be more physically active according to this study. And an additional analysis of overall quality of life suggests that they’re generally happier, too. Office workers without windows reported more physical ailments and lower vitality, along with lower sleep quality.

The difficulty with studies like this, of course, is that many people aren’t just without windows, they’re without options. If you work in an office dungeon designed without sunlight in mind—perhaps sequestered in a cube farm—you’re likely limited to getting outside during breaks and maybe working in a few daily strolls by perimeter offices that do have windows (at least the offices of folks who don’t keep their doors shut).

However you can do it, the results of this admittedly small study indicate that you should get as much natural light exposure during the day as possible given the confines of your workplace. You can also try getting more sunlight first thing in the morning before you arrive at work; research suggests that morning sunlight exposure is linked to sounder sleep (more on that at this Discovery Health article).

The research findings were presented at the 27th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC, and were published in an online supplement to the journal Sleep.

He's going the distance.

"He's going the distance. He's going for speed." Cake.

Cover more ground on your next walk to increase endurance and lose those love handles. And if you need some inspiration to lift your pace on your next walk turn this baby up. 

For all the attention we give the latest fitness craze (did you hear about the one that combines yoga and break dancing?), we're awfully quick to dismiss one of the best workouts around: walking. True, it's not exotic. But unlike so many of the fitness fads we believe will motivate us to sweat, it doesn't cost $60 a month to participate. It's free. It takes no gym membership or equipment. There's no learning curve because everyone already knows how to do it. In fact, it's something we do every day.

That may seem anticlimactic (walking is so simple, so familiar!), but before you write it off as a poor excuse for a heart-pumping workout, consider the science. Research has linked walking to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and dementia. It improves blood pressure, cholesterol, stress, and depression. And that's not taking into account the benefits walkers reap from losing weight.

Another way to ramp up your workout: Go farther. Instead of focusing on speed, distance workouts are all about endurance. You won't be able to sustain the same level of intensity you do on shorter walks, but that's OK. Instead of walking at a too-fast-to-talk speed for 30 minutes, try walking briskly for an hour. If 10 minutes of vigorous walking leaves you huffing and puffing, slow it down for a 15- or 30-minute distance walk. Just as you'd build up speed, you can gradually increase the distance you walk.

Cranking up your distance-walking program can work in tandem with your speed-walking plan.

"On the one end of it, you want to work on going a little bit faster even if it's a little bit shorter," says Dave McGovern. "And then on the other end of the spectrum, you might start building the distance one day a week."  

To run far, go with others.

‘If you want to run fast, go alone…
If you want to run far, go with others” African Proverb.
Join a running club to stay motivated and improve your fitness.

One of the many joys of getting involved in running is the chance to share your passion with other people. Running clubs are a popular destination for beginners and the more experienced runner alike, who want friendship, advice and company. So here’s a 5-point guide to why you might like to seek out a local running club and how it might help you.

The loneliness of the long distance runner

Different things inspire different people to begin their love affair with running. But what most would agree on, is how hard it can be at the start. Long, lonely runs in parks, forests, cities, or by the ocean, can be tough for the mind and soul if you’re doing it by yourself. It’s hard to stay motivated and it’s also difficult to improve your distances and times on your own. Reading a mountain of information about running is easy, but there’s nothing like being told by someone who knows, to make you sit up and take notice. Even better if they’re telling you how to do something when they’re running right next to you!

Inspiration

Talking to someone who has run 10 marathons is better than the forensic study of 100 training plans. It’s only when you hear the reality, the painful lessons learnt, the highs and lows, that you come to understand what you need to do. Running clubs are full of people just like you, or people that you want to be in 3 years’ time. While a lot of non-runners glaze over at the very mention of mile/kilometre splits and orthotics, fellow running club members won’t. They will love to share tips, advice, horror stories, PBs, race day experiences and injury advice. So make the most of the camaraderie and friendship of like-minded folk and learn from it.

There is no better teacher than experience and having a target to aim for. Sometimes that target can be a person we admire and against whom we can regularly compete. Running clubs provide that environment. It’s also good to gauge your progress in a group, to see where you sit in the pecking order. Not only does it give you a target to aim for, but sometimes you might be pleasantly surprised to find out how quick you actually are, because you’re the person at the front of the group.

Motivation

The knowledge that a group of fellow runners is meeting at the same place every week and waiting for you, can be a mighty powerful motivation. Let’s face it, when the weather is brutal, the snow is falling or it’s howling a gale, not everyone wants to hit the road. But if you’re motivated by a feeling of obligation and feel like you don’t want to keep anyone waiting, then a club can work for you. At the same time it is still possible to function as an individual! You aren’t compelled to go every week and if you feel under the weather or just don’t feel like it, that’s okay too.

Safety

We are all familiar with the phrase safety in numbers, but it was never truer than in the context of a group of runners hitting a mountain trail at night. If you want to go running in the Australian Outback, or Yosemite National Park, then friends from a running club who know what they’re doing and can show you the ropes, can be invaluable. Night running is safer and more fun with two or more people and you will find that the world will become your sporting oyster if you join a club and find people at the same running level as you. 

Variety

Just because you’re joining a running club, it doesn’t mean you’re planning an assault on the next Olympics. Clubs cater for all levels, so you needn’t worry about winning or even coming second. You will be able to find people of varying abilities in your local club who will encourage you to try different events and different things. Many clubs like to enter teams for events, so you can train and run with the same people right up to marathon level.  You may prefer to compete or run a race alone, but you will have plenty of people around you in training to help you along the road when those long runs get tough. If you do compete with others you have your own readymade cheerleading team by your side, to applaud every move. And remember that other runners will be able to provide information about different training routes.

Anything that keeps you mentally fresh during training is a bonus and having friends that can take you somewhere new for a training session is a joy.

Sign up for a Sportive

Sign up for a Sportive (thats a fancy name for a bike race) to stay motivated and improve your fitness.

One of the best ways to keep yourself motivated and indulge your new-found love of riding is to set yourself a goal, and one of the simplest things for a cyclist to target is a significant distance.

Depending on your fitness level, that can be anything from 50 up to 150 kilometerss – anything that you realistically believe you can achieve in a set amount of time.

Whether you opt to ride your target distance on your own, enter a mass-participation sportive or take part in a charity challenge, one thing’s for sure – you need to train, and train in the right way. Below are lists of guidelines to follow that will hopefully help you in your quest to conquer your first big event.

Set your goal

First off, choose your event. Be realistic: if you took up cycling only a couple of months ago, don’t enter a monster slog through the French Alps. Challenging, yes; sensible, no.

Then think about exactly what you want to achieve on your ride. Are you completing, competing or conquering? Again, be reasonable. Set an impossible aim and you’ll soon lose motivation. Once you have your goal sorted, write it down and put it in your wallet, next to your computer, on the dashboard or fridge door - anywhere that you’ll see it often enough to help keep you focused.

Get long rides in

We all miss occasional planned rides, but even if you can’t do high mileage outings all the time, don’t miss the long rides at the heart of your training – they’re vital. Bad weather? Go out anyway; you could get bad weather on event day. Bike broken? Fix it, or get your bike shop to sort it – and learn how you could have solved the problem out on the road. Long rides are when your body gets used to handling the demands you face on the big day; they help you learn to draw on your fuel reserves more efficiently, and they get your head prepared for long, gruelling efforts.

Develop technique

Get used to incorporating technique work into your general rides, as well as devoting regular sessions to improving your skills. Find a long, winding hill and time yourself down it over several runs, looking to get quicker by laying off the brakes, leaning into the corners and learning when to put the power back on. Be careful – do this with a riding mate and only on quiet roads where you can easily see any approaching traffic. And don’t think that you can make up for poor climbing by flying downhill. Sheltering from the wind in a group saves you masses of power output from your legs and will improve your sportive finishing time, but it doesn’t necessarily come easily – there are tactics to learn here too, so practise in regular group rides and local road races. The more comfortable you are riding in close formation, the more time you can save.

Take breaks

You don’t get fitter when you’re riding, you get fitter when you recover afterwards, which is why you need to have at least one day without exercise every week, or more if you over-stretch yourself, plus an easy week each month.

Become fuel efficient

You need to drink when you ride to replace the water you sweat and breathe out, but for longer training rides and during the event itself you must use drinks to help provide fuel. Suffering ‘bonk’ – when your body can’t get the energy it needs and refuses to cooperate any further – is very bad news. For both training and the big ride, it’s key to go for a drink that you really enjoy the taste of – that way you’re far more likely to drink enough. Drink plenty before you go out on your bike so that you start off fully hydrated, and continue drinking afterwards – a little and often – to aid recovery. If you’ve trained for over an hour, make it a carb drink. Don’t wait until you feel really thirsty – that’s a bad gauge of need.

You should consume at least 1g of carbohydrate per kilogram of bodyweight for every hour of riding. This can be in the form of carb-electrolyte drinks, gels, bars, solid food, or a mix of these. But your needs could be different from the norm so it’s important to experiment in training. That way you’ll be able to tell exactly what you can tolerate and what you need with you on the day. If riding an event, find out what food and drink will be available and at what points along the route. If you can’t stomach the energy drink on offer, take your own sachets. If you get sick of sweet stuff, check there’ll be something savoury for you to grab, or carry it with you.

Chew your food... longer...

Chew your food... longer...It will help you reach your weight goal and improve your calorie management.

Busy lives and hectic schedules mean that for many of us, sitting down and having a leisurely meal just isn't possible all the time but new science is emerging suggesting that chewing your food for longer may actually help you to lose weight.

A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that chewing your food 40 times instead of the typical 15 chews resulted in 12% fewer calories being ingested.  For an average 2000 calorie diet, that equals 240 calories.

Over the course of a year, that’s 11kg’s. Not only does chewing your food cut down on the calories, it also helps you slow down and enjoy your meal more.

Why? It's all about timing - chewing for longer prevents overeating by giving the brain more time to receive signals from the stomach that it's full. Feeling full can actually take about 20 minutes to reach the brain, so if you polish off your plate in 5 minutes, you don't have time to reach that 'full up' feeling before it's all gone. Taking a more leisurely approach means you might just stop eating before your plate's clean - meaning less calories in the long run.

What does this mean for me?

Have a think about how you eat. Are you always rushing your meals or eating on the go? Are you so hungry by the time you eat that you clean your plate in double quick time? Or are you a '6 chews and it's gone' kind of person?

However you eat, think about whether taking a bit more time about it might make a difference to the amount you consume - give it a go and it might just work. You could even keep a diary of 'number of chews' vs. the number of calories eaten in your personal Food Diary.

 

Swim in legs. But don't use legs

Split your swimming target into separate legs to boost your endurance and improve your fitness. Oh and don't kick too much, use your legs mainly to balance - it'll help you last longer.

Many swimmers struggle to increase their swimming distance. Adding more to your total swim yardage in the pool or in open water requires more than swimming to exhaustion in each training session. To improve your distance, concentrate on improving your endurance in and out of the pool as well as honing your technique to improve your efficiency in the water. Here are some steps you can implement to get that distance back up;

Swimming Endurance

There are two basic approaches to increasing swim endurance in the pool. The first, and least effective, is to swim the target distance without stopping. If your goal is to swim 2,000 meters, you swim 2,000 meters in the pool using every stroke and kick you can to cover that distance. The downside to that approach is that your technique degrades quickly as you tire. You will ingrain poor habits and see little improvement in your time.

The second approach is to divide the target distance into smaller chunks, gradually increasing their size as your condition improves. For example, 2,000 meters can be divided into twenty 100-meter swims with progressively shorter recovery times between each set of 100 meters. The swim sets can then work up to ten 200-meter swims and four 500-meter swims. The progression would continue until you can swim 2,000 meters without stopping to rest.

Stroke Technique

Most long-distance swimmers use the freestyle stroke, and improving your technique will provide a significant return on your ability to swim longer distances without fatiguing. In every training session, spend at least 10 to 20 minutes working drills that will make your strokes more efficient in the water. Examples include one-arm drills, using hand paddles and pull buoys and focusing on maximizing arm extension throughout the stroke.

Kicking Technique

Swimming longer distances involves very little effort from the legs. Since the legs are comprised of large muscle groups, the more you use them in swimming, the faster you will fatigue. When working on kicking technique, focus on minimizing leg movement. The legs are used more for balancing the body horizontally in the water than propulsion. With this in mind, avoid using kick boards since they will teach you to kick harder than you need to. Instead, place a pull buoy between your knees and note how little effort you need from your kicking to move forward. Alternate 50 meters of swimming with a pull buoy and 50 meters without one to develop a feel for the minimal amount of leg movement you need to keep your body in the proper position.

Just eat

Practice mindful eating to help you be more calm and focussed. 

Eating as Meditation is the opposite of mindless eating — it’s a way to practice completely mindfulness, focus, awareness of thoughts and emotions, gratitude for the food we’ve been given.

When we do sitting meditation, we drop all other activities and just sit, paying attention to body and breath, being present with ourselves without expectation or judgment. Food meditation is the same thing, but instead of just sitting, we just eat.

It’s not eating for the point of rapid consumption, or even for the point of sensory pleasure (though that does happen). It’s about slowing down, paying attention to the food, really savouring it, being grateful for where it came from and who prepared it, noticing our emotions as we eat.

The benefits of eating meditation are many:

  • Food tastes better when you pay attention.

  • You can learn to enjoy healthy foods when you slow down and savour.

  • You eat less because you’re not eating mindlessly.

  • You naturally gravitate towards simpler foods because of the savouring.

  • You begin to address the emotions around eating.

  • You get a little oasis of slow mindfulness in your busy day.

  • It relieves stress.

  • It’s fun.

The Meditation Diet Method

So how do you do it? It’s not very difficult — you can do some or all of the items here:

1.     Create space. Too often eating is multitasked with reading or working or driving or watching. Create some space for the eating meditation — clear away everything else, and just do one thing. Just eat.

2.     Put your food in front of you, and consider it. The food you choose doesn’t matter — it can be food you already eat on a regular basis, or you can consider a handful of berries, a carrot, some broccoli, some raw almonds or walnuts. Sit down with the food in front of you, and look at it. Notice its colour, texture, imperfections. Smell it.

3.     Think about its origins. Take a moment to think about where this food came from — is it from another continent, or somewhere in your area? How did it get to you? Who grew it, picked it, transported it, prepared it? Be grateful for all of this.

4.     Taste it. One bite at a time put the food in your mouth and savour its taste and texture. Is it crunchy, soft, chewy, grainy, syrupy? Is it earthy, sweet, floral, salty, spicy, oaky, citrus-y, grassy, herbal, mossy, tangy, tannin-y? Think too about what has been added to the food — chemicals, salt, sugar, fat? How does the food make you feel? Consider what nutrients the food is giving you, how it is nourishing you.

5.     Notice your heart. What do you feel as you eat? Are you hungry, stressed, sad, happy, hurt, angry, afraid, confused, lonely, bored, impatient?

6.     Pause between bites. Don’t pick up the next bite as you chew. Just stay with one bite, then swallow. Breathe. Enjoy the space. Then repeat the process for the next bite.

7.     Practice this once a day. When it becomes a regular habit, try it twice a day. Eventually, do it every time you eat a meal or snack, or have anything to drink.

Get your morning iron on

Pump some iron (or another form of exercise) in the morning to improve your sleep and manage that snoring of yours. ;)

Pumping iron is just as good at helping you get your z's as popping pills, and multiple studies have shown that people who exercise experience deeper, higher-quality sleep than people who don't, Dr Jordan Metzl writes. Not only that, but insufficient sleep is linked to a whole host of health problems that exercise can counteract: weight gain, fatigue, lethargy, heart disease, and an inability to cope with stress, just to name a few. Weight gain can also cause or exacerbate sleep apnoea, a condition that can interfere with a good night's rest. So if you suffer from sleep apnoea, you have another reason to hit the gym.

Playing sports or working out can set you up for a good night's sleep—but the timing matters for some people. It's best to finish vigorous workouts by late afternoon to give your body temperature, heart rate, and other functions enough time to drop, post exercise, to set the stage for sound slumber.

In 2013, the National Sleep Foundation's Sleep in America poll, which included 1,000 adults between the ages of 23 and 60, found that people who exercise vigorously in the morning have the best sleep patterns, including better quality sleep and a lower likelihood of awakening feeling unrefreshed. It's fine to do relaxing exercises like yoga or simple stretches in the evening.

 

 

Walk with your homies

Generally, it's always more enjoyable to walk with others. Join a Walking Club to help improve your health and meet some new peeps.

If you're looking for a way to lose weight, boost your energy, get fit and have some fun with some new friends, a walking club could be the perfect way to turn your wellness goals into reality. Walking with others is a fantastic way to make friends and share stories while getting out and about.  You can join an existing walking group, or make your own!

The easiest way is to find a Heart Foundation Walking Group near you.  You can also contact your local neighbourhood house or council to find out if there's a group in your area.

Don't forget that you can also join or start a walking group at work!

Here's why you should consider joining a walking club – and what one can do for you.

1. Walking is great for your body. Let's start with the basics: regular walking has a positive impact on your heart health by lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol, reducing your risk of heart attacks and strokes. Walking also boosts your bone density and has shown to improve overall quality of life.

2. You'll stick with it. Now that we know some of the key health benefits of walking, you may be wondering: Why should I join a club? The answer is simple: to be able to stick to a great, new fitness routine. Statistics show that 70 per cent of people who start an exercise program quit within the first six months. Why? Mostly because they just aren’t motivated.

3. You'll lose weight. Walking for 30 minutes (the minimum for many walking clubs) burns about 125 calories. If this doesn't sound like much, just think if you walk five days a week for a whole year, you'll burn 32,500 calories and more than 5 kg of fat. Tip: The best fat-burning effects of walking kick in about 30 to 40 minutes after the start of a walk, so if you walk for more than 30 minutes at a stretch, you'll lose more weight.

4. Clubs are fun. "A walking club has a social atmosphere," Crowley says. "It feels more like free time or special time to spend with people that you enjoy than exercising." 

You can join a walking club with neighbours and friends, or sign up on your own and meet new liked-minded people, adds Linda Godin, physical activity specialist with the City of Hamilton's Healthy Living Division. Godin also points out that you can't have a good chat while you're in the thick of an aerobics class, but you certainly can in a walking club.

5. It'll boost your mood. New research suggests that group exercise releases endorphins – your happy hormone – which can help transform something that seems like a chore (exercise) into a real pleasure. What’s more, other experts say that walking in good company and in pleasant surroundings helps you sleep better and reduces your risk of depression and anxiety.

6. Clubs are safe. You can walk in new parts of your community and at night without worrying about your personal safety. 

7. Discover new parts of your 'hood. Many walking clubs explore different routes and terrain, so while you're getting fit you're also getting more familiar with places in your own community.

 

Spice Things Up

Avoid boredom, spice things up to help improve your fitness.

 

Humans are designed to be in motion, and walking takes you step by step to better health, a sunnier outlook and a longer, fitter life. Walking a set distance on a regular schedule boosts bone density, muscular endurance, strength and flexibility -- and could keep you moving into a ripe old age. 

Constantly changing your workout is doubly beneficial. For starters, it keeps away boredom, which can land you right back on the couch. Plus, it will make sure you work your body in more than one way. A week of walking should ideally feature a day doing a faster, cardiovascular-type workout, a day working on muscle endurance through distance, and a strength-training day with hills that work the legs and help add lean muscle, says Kemp Salvato. You can go a step further, she says, by strength training (at home or a gym) and stretching to improve flexibility.

Or add variety within workouts. For instance, Kemp Salvato suggests having fun with cardio exercises by walking fast for a few minutes and then slow for the next few, alternating until you've hit 30 minutes. You can base your speed on distance, walking quickly for a quarter mile, then slowly the next. Racing from streetlight to streetlight or from house to house—with a slower pace in between sprints—counts, too. 

The beauty of walking is that you can modify it to suit your lifestyle, whether you have to fit exercise in between picking up the kids and making dinner or do it on your lunch break from work. Your start can be slow or speedy. Do it alone or with a friend. "Most sports require a certain level of fitness or body type—strength, ideal body weight, good alignment without knee problems and back problems," says Kemp Salvato. "Walking really welcomes everyone with open arms."

Steps to a Longer Life

Walking your daily mileage or minutes works your glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, shins and foot muscles. But it can also ease back pain, lower mental stress and protect against dementia and depression while extending your longevity and your ability to live independently.

Harvard Medical School reports that a meta-analysis of walking studies shows that walking 14.5km a week lowered the male premature death rate by 22 percent; 30 minutes a day decreased the chances of men developing coronary artery disease by 18 percent; and walking for three hours a week lowered women's risks for heart attacks, cardiac death and stroke by 34 to 35 percent.

Take 10,000 steps every day and you will meet the Department of Health’s recommendation to log at least 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week. Ten thousand steps translates to roughly 8 kilometres.

 

Rock a tutu

Challenge yourself to a 5km race on the weekend to help stay motivated and increase your fitness.

Nothing gets you cracking on a goal like making it official. Sign up for a 5K race, then tell everyone you know that you're going to run. Now you have a deadline, and the motivation to train in order to follow through on your goal. "A race keeps runners accountable," says Susan Paul. "You're training, not just running for fitness, and you have a plan, a starting point and an end point." Once you commit to a race and running it continuously, you'll reap more than renewed motivation.

Walk a mile, and you burn about 70 calories. Run a mile, and you'll torch roughly 100. While the exact number varies depending on your weight and pace, if one of your goals is to shed pounds, you'll do it faster by running.

 "When we sign up for a race, we become athletes," says Patti Finke, a coach in Portland, Oregon. "We take better care of ourselves. We train properly, eat in a healthy manner, and get enough sleep."

And when you accomplish something you never thought possible—like running an entire 5K—it buoys your self-esteem.

"So many novice runners are so insecure and feel like they 'don't belong out there,'" says Paul. "But running a 5K means you committed to training and had the guts to follow through with it—that's huge."

After it's over, you'll be able to break down the race from your new perspective—that of a real runner. You'll head to breakfast with your running buddies, and recap the highlights: "I went out too fast, but I calmed down at the first turn." "That hill at mile two was a killer." "So, when's the next race?" "I passed that guy in a tutu."

Mix it up on the weekend

Mix it up on the weekend to help burn more body fat and manage your weight.

If you are stuck in a cycling rut by training at the same speed, riding the same routes, or avoiding the same hills, it’s time to break through to new levels of bike fitness. Challenge yourself to become a better, faster cyclist by incorporating variety into your cycling program. Even a short ride can be extremely valuable to your fitness, as long as you give it purpose and variation in intensity.

Short-Sharp Intervals

This workout, when done correctly, is taxing. It will challenge several aspects of fitness, such as neuro-muscular, cardio and speed, with its short intervals of intense effort. After a solid warm-up of 20 minutes easy, and three to five more minutes of moderate riding, find a false flat, a road that rises ever so slightly. When you've done the first 25 minutes stand out of the saddle and attack the bike  for three to five seconds - getting your speed up as high as possible. Then, settle in the saddle but continue to increase bike speed for another five to 20 seconds. Take a full three to five minutes of recovery before you a launch again, and don’t exceed five of these rounds in your first workout. The entire effort shouldn’t exceed 30 minutes in your first few weeks—one short-sharp interval a week is plenty.

If you are stuck in a cycling rut by training at the same speed, break through to new levels of bike fitness with these elements. Remember to plan ahead so that you depart for each ride with full knowledge of what you’re doing and why.

Cycling is a great way to control or reduce weight, as it raises your metabolic rate, builds muscle and burns body fat.  Research suggests you should be burning at least 8,400 kilojoules (about 2,000 calories) a week through exercise. Steady cycling burns about 1,200 kilojoules (about 300 calories) per hour. Research shows that a half-hour bike ride every day will burn nearly five kilograms of fat over a year. 

Join a Swim Club

Join a weekend Swim Club to stay motivated and super fit.

Ask any masters or Olympic swimmer what his or her swimming secret is and 99% of the time you will get the same answer: he or she joined a swim club or team at a young age and/or belong to a swim program currently. Swimming Australia has a useful site to connect you to Swim Clubs in your area. So, below are the top six reasons why you should join a swim club:

1. Getting Faster

The best reason you should join a club is to swim faster. This outcome results from coached sessions, other athletes pushing you to your limit, and a quality swim workout that isn’t the same as swimming by yourself. Getting up early for a swim practice can be daunting at times, but putting in the time and effort with a swimming club will pay huge dividends come race season, as well as helping out with reason number five.

2. Meet New Athletes

When you don’t have anyone to talk to at the pool, your swimming starts to feel like a chore. Joining a club will surely guarantee that you meet new athletes. Olympic swimmers might just be in the next lane, but if you aren’t training together, how would you know? Going to practices will help you learn more about other athletes and might just score you training advice from a high-calibre swimmer for free.

3. Learn to Swim With Better Technique

Swimming programs will increase the number of swim sessions you have during the week. With an increase in distance and speed, one thing that will start to improve drastically is your technique. With coached sessions and other athletes watching you, you’ll begin to identify areas of your swim technique that need work.

4. Coaching and Accountability

5:00am swim practices are never fun. After you meet a new coach and athletes, they tend to notice when you miss a practice or cut a warm up or cool down short.

Do you want to let your new teammates or coach down? Do you want to make everyone wait on you in the morning before the practice starts? Having that accountability can help you become a better swimmer by forcing you to break out of old or bad habits.

5. Competing

When swimming with an adult program, there are actually meets in which you can compete.  Running and road cycling races are easy to find with a quick online search, but how often do you hear about a mile or 500m swimming competition? This type of competition can give your season a new focus and provide you the confidence you need to crush your next race. 

6. Patience

We live in an instant gratification society and it’s hard to fully get that swimming is long-term development. Not. Short. Term. You need to develop and have the patience to know that the time spent working on proper form now will give you enormous rewards come the future.

In addition to these top six reasons above, there are plenty of other benefits from swimming with a group such as new friends, increase in stamina, and more. Don’t be left behind while your competition surges ahead of you during the swim. Take the extra time to find a program that suits you and just have fun! You never know what you may learn or discover. 

Watch your serve size

Watch the size of your meals today to reach your weight goal and improve health.

 

Within each food group the Australian Dietary Guidelines identifies the serve size of different foods that have roughly the same amount of key nutrients and kilojoules but that also reflect the amount of food commonly eaten in Australia, for example one piece of whole fruit or one slice of bread.

The ‘serve size’ is a set amount stated in the Australian Dietary Guidelines and this doesn’t change. However, your ‘portion size’ will depend on how hungry you are and what type of meal or snack you are eating. For example, your ‘portion size’ may be two slices of bread in a sandwich for lunch, but only ½ slice of bread with a meal when you aren’t very hungry. 

The serve size table for adults in the Australian Dietary Guidelines is often not the same as your portion size. Portion size is the amount that you actually eat. For example, your ‘portion sizes’ at breakfast may be half a small tub of yoghurt on your ½ cup muesli. This would only be half a ‘serve’ of yoghurt, but two ‘serves’ of muesli.

Take a look at the Five Food Groups and see how big a serve is for each of the Five Food Groups.

Getting portion size right
It is important for weight control and essential for weight loss to think about your portion size. We tend to ignore our bodies signals of hunger and satiety (satisfaction) until we’ve eaten too much and are overfull. 

Many people say they rarely feel hungry. Learn to recognise how it feels to be ‘peckish’, ‘hungry’, ‘ravenous’, or ‘satisfied’, ‘full’ and ‘stuffed’. Perhaps imagine your stomach as a petrol tank with a gauge and aim for somewhere between quarter and half full. When you eat, think first about how much you really need to feel satisfied and how far away the next meal or snack is.

Eat slowly, ‘mindfully’ without distractions like TV and give your body time to give you feedback. Put your cutlery down between mouthfuls when you’re chewing, or sip water in between swallows to slow your pace. Pace yourself with a ‘slow’ eater or even the clock. Concentrate on how a food looks, smells, tastes and feels in your mouth and stomach. By eating ‘mindfully’, you will enjoy food more and end up needing less to feel satisfied.

How much water is needed?
There is no single recommended amount of water, as a person’s requirements at any one time will vary depending on climate, physical activity, and individual bodies. The following intakes can however be used as a general guide: about 8 cups for women (9 cups in pregnancy and lactation) and about 10 cups for men. These amounts include fluid from all sources including all hot and cold drinks, but water is the best.

How much unsaturated spreads and oils can I include in my diet?
A ‘serve’ of foods that provide unsaturated fat such as unsaturated margarine or oil, nuts and seeds is 10g (such as two teaspoons of margarine or oil). However, these foods are high in kilojoules so remember to always keep quantities small, especially if aiming to lose weight.

Some days people might eat more serves from one food group, and other days less. However, over the week, the average number of serves from each food group should match the minimum recommended in the Guidelines. There are endless possibilities for how to combine these serves from the food groups in interesting and tasty ways. Click on the links below to see how you might spread them out over one day.

Lunch time zen

Meditate on your lunch break sharpen focus and increase your productivity.

People say the hardest part about meditating is finding the time to meditate. This makes sense: who these days has time to do nothing? It’s hard to justify.

If you begin to pair your meditation with lunch, pretty soon, you’ll think of meditation when you eat lunch, and it will become a trigger for you. Find a quiet nook in or around the office and carve out a slice of your lunchtime to sit in stillness to make it a habit. Schedule a 10-minute break on your calendar. If you work in front of the computer, you can put it on your Outlook calendar so you’ll be prompted.  If you work at an office, tell your co-workers about it so they can support your silence.

Stressed out and tired? Then find some peace and harmony with a simple guide to a mindful lunch break;

  • Find the quietest spot possible. If the weather is nice, get to a park or some kind of green space away from traffic. If you can’t find anywhere quiet, put on some headphones and listen to soothing meditation music.
  • Set your phone alarm so you don’t have to worry about getting back to work.
  • If you feel comfortable doing so, cup your hands over your eyes to rest them.
  • Breathe mindfully. Inhale slowly, drawing in breath until your stomach is fully extended, and then exhale, bringing your navel in towards your spine. Try to concentrate only on the feeling of breathing, and your body. If possible, do this for at least 10 minutes.
  • Focusing your mind on something other than work will ensure that you return to your desk feeling refreshed and ready to take on new challenges.

Meditation brings many benefits: It refreshes us, helps us settle into what’s happening now, makes us wiser and gentler, helps us cope in a world that overloads us with information and communication, and more. But if you’re still looking for a business case to justify spending time meditating, try this one: Meditation makes you more productive.

How? By increasing your capacity to resist distracting urges. 

Research shows that an ability to resist urges will improve your relationships, increase your dependability, and raise your performance. If you can resist your urges, you can make better, more thoughtful decisions. You can be more intentional about what you say and how you say it. You can think about the outcome of your actions before following through on them.

Our ability to resist an impulse determines our success in learning a new behaviour or changing an old habit. It’s probably the single most important skill for our growth and development.

As it turns out, that’s one of the things meditation teaches us. It’s also one of the hardest to learn.