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Content Was Refreshed: 25 Jun 2018 | 20:04:11

Health & wellbeing | The Guardian

Latest Health & wellbeing news, comment and analysis from the Guardian, the world's leading liberal voice

Pacing a friend, or racing for yourself? As always, come and share your weekend stories below the line - whether you feel triumphant or despondent, we’re here for you!

Well I’ve been pretty busy since last week’s weekend debrief, mainly building up my wine cellar... [disclaimer: I do not actually have a wine cellar. Or indeed any cellar.] Last Thursday at my club mile race I won a bottle of wine. On Saturday I paced a friend to a parkrun PB on Saturday then yesterday won the that nice prosecco on the left with a third place at the Harry Hawkes 10 miler. Anyone would think runners are entirely motivated by booze. I mean, how daft, right? Surely everyone knows we are motivated by cake? Still, I suppose you’ve got to wash that cake down with something ...

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Posted: June 25, 2018, 8:42 am

It’s your bosses’ responsibility to create a conducive working environment – if they won’t, move on, says Sharmadean Reid

Change agencies. Seriously. Whoever is in charge has a responsibility to create the absolute best working environment.

I viewed dozens of spaces before settling on our current office, which is a fifth-floor corner space with full glass windows. It’s slightly out of the way, which makes it cheaper, but the key thing for me was to create a space in which everyone would feel energised and keen to do their best work. I didn’t want to build a tech company in a basement.

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Posted: June 25, 2018, 6:00 am

Keeping these muscles in good condition will help you fend off a bad back – just make sure you mix it up

A strong core isn’t about having photogenic abs, looking good in swimwear or grinding out another deadlift. It is a key element in dozens of everyday movements, including simple things such as carrying your shopping or getting out of bed in the morning. Many people know that a weak core can lead to a bad back, but the benefits of strengthening it are sometimes underappreciated. An analysis of studies published between 1970 and 2011, for instance, found that “core stability exercise was better than general exercise for reducing pain” in chronic low back pain patients. Given that back pain affects 540 million people globally, just five or 10 minutes a few times a week spent improving core strength is an excellent investment.

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Posted: June 25, 2018, 5:00 am

The James singer on yoga, meditation and his ‘shadow side’

I’m the Woody Allen of health and wellbeing. I’m not a hypochondriac but I did suffer a lot of illness when I was younger. A liver condition I had from the age of 10 hospitalised me when I was 21. I was actually dying. But it changed my life for the better. I was eating all the wrong foods and my liver couldn’t deal with it. So that threw me into Eastern medicine and things that in 1980 were considered to be completely whacky. I remember taking the vicar’s daughter I was going out with to her first yoga class and the next month in the parish newspaper was a piece about yoga being the work of the devil.

In my 20s I fell into a meditation cult, no alcohol or drugs, and days of meditation where you don’t move. Then we found the gurus doing everything we weren’t allowed to so we disbanded. But the meditation stayed. I now see it as technology rather than spirituality, which always has an aspect of hierarchy and holier-than-thou involved.

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Posted: June 24, 2018, 5:00 am

Before her mother died, she handed over a shopping bag of private and personal letters sent long ago between her and her father. But what would Sabine Durrant learn about the man who died shortly after she was born?

My father died just after I was born and I knew very little about him until I was in my 30s. I was a journalist then, and I approached it like an investigation, writing a memoir about what I discovered – his unhappy childhood, his life as a pilot in the navy, and his disappearance one November night during practice manoeuvres off the Dorset coast. The memoir was published in a book and serialised in a newspaper. After it appeared, my mother talked to me about him; not much but enough. She told me he had been a great love, and she told me in heart-rending detail about the night he didn’t come back. We both cried, which was good, because I had got used to thinking she had forgotten him. We had met for lunch, and when we had finished eating she rummaged in her shopper and brought out a plastic bundle, a small Ottakar’s bag containing a thick pile of letters. “You can read these,” she said. “If you like.”

I took the letters home, and I was going to read them that night. In some ways, it felt like victory. The teenage me, the one who in secret trawled for evidence, who had raged against her silence – would have drunk them in. I liked to think I had bypassed her in my search, because I hadn’t wanted to upset her. She was long remarried, with a life of her own. But if I am honest it had also been a way of snatching my father from her, of having him to myself. And maybe their letters were too much of a rebuke of this, provided too concrete a proof that he had been a lover, a husband, hardly a father at all. Or perhaps their existence was just too personal – that squeamish resistance all children feel towards parental intimacy. I put the Ottakar’s bag on the table in the hall, and at one point it was moved on top of the piano, and then it graduated into a space on the bookshelves behind. I stopped thinking about it. The bag, with its green logo and arc of orange, wasn’t sealed, the top with the handles just folded over, but it gave the impression of being bound in Sellotape and masking tape, of being as impenetrable as a cage.

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Posted: June 24, 2018, 4:59 am

The singer on sleep, his sweet tooth, and home renovation in the Canadian mountains

Sleeping well is why I’m able to tour as much as I do. Occasionally I get up in the night to jot down a lyric, or hum a melody into the phone to remember it. Every morning, I wake up, get my coffee and play the piano for an hour. I have a seven-year-old daughter, Viva, who spends a third of her time with me and my husband, Jörn Weisbrodt, and the rest with her mother, Lorca Cohen. My set getting-up time is 9.30am, but when I’m with Viva I get up at 7am. I’m rarely in bed before midnight.

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Posted: June 23, 2018, 7:00 am

Never has anything so closely resembled the function of the squat thrust, while being so much more fun

My sister is a big Zumba fan: the way she tells it, the instructors are all really hot. There’s one who looks exactly like Benicio del Toro in the Usual Suspects, and his classes are so full that on a Friday night all the bars are empty because everyone’s in a municipal gym trying to twerk. Every instructor has a favourite musical bent, either salsa, soca (soul of calypso), Latin or dancehall wine, and all are equally good in their own unique fashions. One of the women in her class recruited her to Momentum. I couldn’t recreate a scene like this in my own postcode; but nor could I turn up at her Zumba class. For some reason relational intimacy doesn’t belong in a fitness environment. It would be like the time my friend met his brother in an underwear-only bar.

So let’s just accept that hers (trendy south-east London) was cool and mine (not trendy south London) wasn’t (there is nothing to stop you going to hers). I would still recommend this activity.

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Posted: June 23, 2018, 5:59 am

Neuroscientists have studied treadmill runners, ultramarathon athletes – and a number of lab animals – to investigate the effects of running on grey matter

It may seem obvious – as you push on through a long run, veering wildly between sensations of agony and elation – that running can have a huge effect on your state of mind. It is an intuitive idea that a growing number of neuroscientists have begun to take seriously, and in recent years they have started to show us what actually plays out on the hills and valleys of your grey matter as you run.

Their findings confirm what many runners know from their own experience: we can use running as a tool to improve the way we think and feel. And we are now learning precisely why running can return focus, vanquish stress and improve mood. Plus we know why – if you’re lucky – you might get a brief glimpse of nirvana.

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Posted: June 21, 2018, 12:13 pm

What do you reward yourself with when you get a PB, and does it motivate you to run faster? As always, come and share your weekend exploits below the line

Possibly the only thing better than a PB, is pacing someone else to one. Admittedly, I suspect the pros pacers probably get paid more than a small cut of a pot of chocolate buttons, but still - it’s extremely satisfying. So you can just call me the Jenny Meadows of junior parkrun.

In fact, I did the parkrun double this weekend - Fulham on Saturday (and whatever-the-opposite-of-kudos is to the utter prat who finished behind me but barged in front of me and four others in the finish funnel, aggressively grabbed a barcode from the marshal, and ‘upgraded’ his time significantly) and then junior parkrun in Wimbledon Park on Sunday. Which is where I paced my six year old to her latest PB - 10:52 for 2k.

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Posted: June 18, 2018, 9:43 am

A new report argues we’d all benefit if the government started taking the cycle industry seriously

If a country wants to make things, it needs a domestic steel industry. Our government considers this industry to be one of national strategic importance. But you would think it was also important to keep people moving, to make sure the air they breathe is clean and to look after their health.

It just so happens that cycling is one of the ways to unsnarl traffic congestion, reduce pollution and make folks hale and hearty. People who cycle to work even have fewer days off sick.

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Posted: June 16, 2018, 6:30 am

The free run celebrated the NHS’s 70th birthday this weekend. But, argues Jack Dickenson, it is the event itself that could provide the elusive public health intervention we so badly need

Just a normal Saturday morning on Tooting Common: birds tweeting, trees wafting in the summer breeze, dogs scampering around. Suddenly, as the clock strikes nine, the reverie is broken by a storm of runners – first a couple, then the chasing pack of 10, then ever more streaming past – more than 600 in all. A big national race? County Championships? No, just the usual goings on at Parkrun, in a scene replicated hundreds of times over, not only around the country but the world. The social phenomenon that is Parkrun, which began in 2004 in Bushy park, now spans 1,451 different venues, from Russia to Australia, Swaziland to Malaysia. Almost 4.5 million people are signed up, but those running on Saturday had an express purpose: to celebrate the 70th birthday of the NHS.

In a campaign led by Dame Kelly Holmes, Parkrun teamed up with the NHS to put on themed runs across the country, celebrating the momentous milestone. At Tooting, my university athletics club coordinated a huge turnout of runners, not only from university staff and students, but also hospital staff, joining forces with my club, the Herne Hill Harriers, to provide pacers. Blue and white balloons festooned the ‘world’s longest finishing tunnel’ (according to the event’s director, Mark Shotton) as runners, kitted out in snazzy surgical caps, ran, jogged or walked their way three times round the mile loop. There was a real party atmosphere, with NHS staff filling the volunteer roster and spreading the love for the service and all it stands for. All in all, it was an amazing and fitting celebration of a unique institution.

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Posted: June 11, 2018, 10:44 am
Checkout offer bans and TV advertising watershed are key steps to tackle health crisis

New laws to ban shops from offering special “two for the price of one” deals near supermarket checkouts for food high in sugar, fat or salt are to be introduced in an attempt to ease an obesity crisis that has made the UK the most overweight nation in western Europe.

Related: Obesity epidemic demands more action and investment to protect children

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Posted: June 24, 2018, 5:00 am

FDA issued warning about pills promising sun protection but New York senator Chuck Schumer wants them to go further

Sunsafe RX is a product that promises “to help protect you from both UVA and UVB rays”. On its website, there are glowing user testimonials and photos of young, attractive people enjoying the weather. It’s the kind of marketing you might expect from a sunscreen brand, except that Sunsafe RX isn’t a cream or a spray – it’s a pill.

It’s one of a number of products to be taken orally that make claims about protection from the sun – potentially heralding a new era when, instead of slathering yourself in lotion, you could swallow a pill and head to the beach.

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Posted: June 18, 2018, 7:03 pm
Anger over natural birth and breastfeeding bias spurs alternative baby clubs

When Lauren Marks-Clee recovered from a bout of postnatal depression brought on by her conflicted feelings about breastfeeding, she was angry that the parenting class she had paid hundreds of pounds to attend had barely mentioned bottle-feeding at all. In fact, she felt it had done little except exacerbate her guilt.

“I spent two hours listening to a woman telling me breast was best when I was pregnant,” she said. “So when I struggled to breastfeed, I felt I’d failed as a mother … I didn’t bond with my son and I think that was partly because I dreaded the feeds and the pain. I dreaded having him passed to me.”

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Posted: June 17, 2018, 5:00 am
New experiences, great food and yoga have become a big draw as audiences demand more for their money

Festivals have moved on from music, mud and a murky pint of cider. This year they are just as likely to involve qoya dancing, racing hovercraft, learning medieval swordplay or dancing in a lava tunnel.

Promoters are turning to activities to lure people to their festivals, as audiences demand new experiences and great food and show less interest in musicians, DJs or even whether there is a stage.

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Posted: June 17, 2018, 5:00 am

Support new mothers if they make informed decision to bottle-feed, says RCM

Women who decide not to breastfeed their child must be respected for their choice, midwives are being told.

Updated advice from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) stresses that new mothers should be given appropriate support if they make an informed decision to bottle-feed.

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Posted: June 12, 2018, 8:36 am

There are many diets you can follow if you want to live more healthily, but it’s hard to know which has the best long-term effects? Luckily, a team of experts has done the research

Losing weight is a common new year’s resolution. Even when dressed up as a pledge to eat more healthily, it can be tinged with self-loathing. Those pigs in blankets, mince pies and Baileys. Why, oh why? But at least anyone who wants to improve their diet has a fantastic resource to help them. With perfect timing, a US panel of experts in diet, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and food psychology has scrutinised and ranked 40 diets. Its listings, which are produced annually, show which diets are best for short- and long-term weight loss, which are easiest to follow, which you are most likely to stick with – and which are unsafe because they don’t supply enough nutrients.

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Posted: January 5, 2018, 4:18 pm

A new study suggests canine-lovers could be 23% less likely to die from heart disease – or it could just be that healthier people prefer dogs

Dogs really are our best friends, according to a Swedish study that says canine ownership could reduce heart disease. A study of 3.4 million people between the ages of 40 and 80 found that having a dog was associated with a 23% reduction in death from heart disease and a 20% lower risk of dying from any cause over the 12 years of the study. Previous studies have suggested dogs relieve social isolation and depression – both linked to an increased risk of heart disease and early death.

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Posted: December 4, 2017, 7:00 am
More than a quarter of new fathers in a new study showed significant levels of depression – what are the causes, and what can they do about it?

Men don’t go through pregnancy or childbirth. Their hormone levels don’t nosedive. They don’t get sore nipples. What exactly have they got to be depressed about? Quite a lot, according to research from Sweden showing that, over the past 10 years, a significant number of men have struggled with the transition to fatherhood.

This latest research tries to quantify just how many men get postnatal depression. Previous studies have found between 4% and 10% of men, while, in this smallish sample of 447 Swedish fathers who volunteered (and may therefore not represent your average dad), a surprising 28% of men had symptoms that scored above mild levels of depression. Overall, 4% had moderate depression. Fewer than one in five fathers who were depressed sought help, even though a third of those had thought about harming themselves. While women in the UK are often asked a series of questions that screen for postnatal depression (which affects up to 13% of women), the mental health of fathers is rarely assessed.

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Posted: November 13, 2017, 8:00 am
If you have sensitive skin, doctors recommend moisturisers without fragrance or allergic ingredients, but terms such as ‘hypoallergenic’ and ‘dermatologist-recommended’ are often just marketing tools

What do you look for in a body moisturiser? Is it the smell, how smooth it leaves your skin feeling, or how much it costs? If you are attracted by terms such as “dermatologist recommended” or “hypoallergenic”, you may be disappointed. A study of the top 100 best-selling whole body moisturisers found that not only did prices vary by 9,400% but that 95% of the products claiming to be dermatologist-recommended had at least one ingredient that could cause an allergy. Of the hypoallergenic moisturisers, 83% contained a substance on the allergen list of the North American Contact Dermatitis Group (NACDG). The most common potential allergy-causing ingredients were fragrance mix and paraben mix (a preservative).

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Posted: October 30, 2017, 7:00 am

A new report suggests that young people are aware of their parents’ drinking – and it may well have an impact on their relationship with alcohol. So should you keep booze out of the family home?

When you’re drinking wine at home, don’t look as if you’re enjoying it – at least not if you have kids. How much you drink, how often you say: ‘Ah, that’s nice,’ while imbibing and whether you use alcohol as a reward or coping mechanism can all encourage adolescents to drink, according to a report last week from the Institute of Alcohol Studies.

In case you think it’s OK for teenagers to drink, the Department of Health advises children have an alcohol-free life until the age of 15 and only one drink a week until they are 18. In 2009, Prof Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer at the time, warned that “exposing children to drink-fuelled events” was one of the root causes of the UK’s drinking problem.

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Posted: October 23, 2017, 6:00 am

You can’t force your mum into therapy, says Annalisa Barbieri, but it may be something you want to explore

My sister and I are both in our 30s and were brought up by our single mother. We need to set boundaries with her, because she’s stressing us to the point where it’s affecting our health.

We have differing relationships with her: she looks to me for comfort and support, and to my sister, who is younger, for things to pick apart. I have always looked after my sister (who says she feels a bit like my daughter) and we are rock solid. But mum judges her constantly. Currently my sister has a toddler and a baby, and has turned to our mum for some help. She criticises my sister’s parenting and then gloats when the “bad” things she predicted happen (all trivial incidents).

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Posted: June 22, 2018, 2:00 pm

He’s 27 and has had seizures and depression since he was at college. But now the mood swings and frightening anger episodes mean we are struggling to cope with him as a family

My brother is 27 and had his first seizure after leaving school. At college, he struggled with the workload and his seizures and had a breakdown. He was diagnosed as having depression and possibly bipolar disorder. He hasn’t been able to keep a job and struggles with mood swings. He self-medicates using a prescription from a doctor he saw years ago, but my parents are struggling to cope with him. He has serious anger episodes and shuts people out: he’ll retreat to his room for days on end, often damaging his belongings. I am desperate for advice.

• When leaving a message on this page, please be sensitive to the fact that you are responding to a real person in the grip of a real-life dilemma, who wrote to Private Lives asking for help, and may well view your comments here. Please consider especially how your words or the tone of your message could be perceived by someone in this situation, and be aware that comments that appear to be disruptive or disrespectful to the individual concerned will be removed.

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Posted: June 22, 2018, 11:23 am

I really love her and want to be with her, but I live in constant fear of being cheated on

My girlfriend has a very colourful sexual past, having been in at least three threesomes. This, coupled with the fact that she travels for her work and most of her friends are male, puts me in constant fear of being cheated on (having been cheated on in the past). And this drives me to have irrational reactions and outbursts. I really love this girl and I have no doubt about wanting to be with her, but I can’t continue living with so much anxiety and depression about our relationship. I don’t know what to do.

Loving sexual relationships should not be continually painful, but for those people who are prone to always imagining the worst, they often are. Furthermore, your girlfriend’s “colourful sexual past” is unimportant: what matters is that she has chosen to be with you. This is a wonderful truth.

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Posted: June 25, 2018, 6:00 am

Mariella Frostrup identifies with a man who grew up amid the sectarian violence of Northern Ireland and says his failure to act when he was a teenager would be a common scenario

The dilemma I was born in Belfast in 1965. I fell in love with a girl in 1983 and at the time she fell in love with me. To cut to the chase, she told me that her brother had sexually abused her and her two sisters. However, the abuser was heavily involved in a terrorist organisation. You can have no idea what it was like then. The threat of death was constant. I knew and she knew that if I reported the abuse to the police then I would have been killed. We were kids and we split up after a few years. But the abuse still bothers me. I’m now 52 years old. I’m not looking for a solution, I just think it’s time to either recognise my failings or do something – although I don’t know if that’s the answer.

Mariella replies You were 18! I don’t think we can with good conscience or any credibility add your handling of that incredibly complex situation to a list of your failings. One of the many benefits of accruing years is the ability it allows for hindsight and the compulsion that comes with it to examine and understand events that may have gone less scrutinised at the time. There’s certainly wisdom to be gained from understanding our motives and those of others. Excavating and analysing our actions is a worthwhile pursuit and teaches us new ways to approach old issues, but in this instance you really mustn’t attempt to shoulder the blame.

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Posted: June 24, 2018, 4:59 am
Content Was Refreshed: 25 Jun 2018 | 20:04:11
Last Modified: April 28, 2018