New Approaches to Cardiac Rehabilitation are Certainly Needed, but parkrun is not the Answer

17 August 2023

I am an avid exerciser. I enjoy trying my hand at a host of different sports, I’ve played football since a young age and I love working out in the gym. My 79-year-old Grandmother does none of these things, and yet, despite our 55-year age gap, we both enjoy a good standard of health. If you asked her if she thought of herself as an exerciser, she’d respond with a resounding no. However, she does lead an incredibly physically active lifestyle. Whether it’s walking around the town carrying her shopping bags, or watering the plants out in the garden, if you were to compare our overall physical activity levels, or ‘total physical activity dose’, across the course of the average week, there wouldn’t be too much to separate us! It’s certainly not something I’m ashamed to say, because physical activity is far more than just structured exercise or sport, in fact, every single move we make matters for our health, and this personal example emphasises the importance of the total physical activity dose with great clarity.

The way in which physical activity and its health benefits are portrayed continue to be strongly influenced by the exercise and fitness industry. This is unfortunate, as the notion that physical activity must be structured, high intensity exercise to be of any benefit to our health is simply not true. This misconception has significantly damaged public perceptions of physical activity for health for generations and has been brought into sharp focus within a recent piece of research published in the BMJ. The article examines whether parkrun, a company which organises free 5-kilometre events at various locations around the world, could be recommended as a self-management phase for cardiac rehabilitation (CR). When you consider that only around ~50% of individuals who are eligible for CR in the UK take up traditional offerings, this presents an interesting proposition, especially when you consider the scalability of parkrun across the UK and worldwide. However, there are a number of serious causes for concern in the research article that could further compound the issues relating to the accessibility of physical activity for rehabilitation services and wider population health management.

Firstly, whilst the total sample size is large at 53,967 people, only 0.7% of people self-reported that they were living with a cardiovascular condition. The researchers do acknowledge that individuals with cardiovascular conditions are underrepresented in parkrun, which is perhaps the first indication that the event may not be the most accessible nor appealing to individuals entering a self-management phase of CR. This lack of accessibility and appeal is a major problem that continues to plague traditional exercise-based rehabilitation services, and is a key factor behind the sub-optimal uptake rates mentioned previously. My second concern is that whilst stating 81% of people with a cardiovascular condition felt they had improved their fitness sounds positive at first, the use of self-report data to draw conclusions regarding improvements in physical activity and fitness is fraught with danger. The limitations of self-report methods to assess physical activity are widely documented, with various types of reporting bias coming into play. Lastly, in a CR setting, objective monitoring, and appropriate understanding of relative intensity is vital to enable safe and effective physical activity. For many individuals who have suffered a cardiac event, knowing how to improve their physical activity safely can be incredibly challenging, with many lacking the confidence despite understanding the benefits. Equipping individuals with the tools to objectively assess physical activity intensity, coupled with a true understanding of the context behind the data can help alleviate these fears. Encouraging individuals in need of CR, many of whom will have low self-efficacy when it comes to physical activity, to attend parkrun for their CR self-management is difficult to comprehend, and could even be dangerous.

In my opinion, although the direction is somewhat misguided, the fundamental need for research into alternative means of CR self-management absolutely exists. Current CR uptake rates are concerningly low and the need to identify alternative options that can empower individuals to self-manage in a way that works for them is crucial if the NHS is to meet its 85% uptake target in the coming years. Even for those who do attend traditional CR, insufficient attention is given to the benefits of physical activity that occur outside of the clinical setting. Furthermore, the set of structured exercises that are often recommended for people to complete at-home still fail to account for all of the other possibilities to move more that already exist within our daily lives. By recommending parkrun for self-management, individuals are exposed to the same issue, with the 5-kilometre event only accounting for between 20-60 minutes of an individual’s waking week. By expanding the therapy window to account for all movement across the ~112 waking week, individuals can optimise their total dose of physical activity, rather than focussing on a narrow window of structured exercise alone as the only means of benefitting health.

So, this blog is by no means an assault on parkrun, nor is it intended as an assault on structured exercise more widely. With my own personal background in exercise science and human physiology, I understand that the benefits of more structured, high-intensity exercise are widely known and, as I said at the outset, I too consider myself an avid exerciser. Rather, we must collectively acknowledge that the health benefits of a physically active lifestyle can be experienced in a variety of different ways, and this should be promoted accordingly within rehabilitation services. In doing so, we can establish physical activity as an accessible and appealing pathway to better health, that enables everyone to lead a healthier, happier life, irrespective of capacity, preference or surroundings. From a cardiac care perspective, KiActiv® can play a key role, supporting individuals to rethink their exercise and make their everyday movement an effective medicine to enable effective self-care and sustained behavioural change. By equipping individuals with the tools to objectively self-monitor their physical activity, as well as the knowledge, skills and confidence to optimise their personal physical activity dose in the context of their condition, KiActiv® creates an effective digital alternative that is proven to enhance the accessibility and appeal of CR to reach people who are unable or unwilling to take up the current offering.

The scientific evidence for the importance of the total physical activity dose continues to mount, but many may still question the benefits of this approach versus the ingrained methods of exercise-based rehabilitation. To those in that camp, I’ll leave you with the example I opened up with. My Grandmother, very much your typical 79-year-old who, by all intents and purposes, hates exercise. If I was to invite her to do a parkrun with me, I’d get laughed out of the room! Yet, by learning how to effectively self-manage her physical activity through her normal activities of daily living, she has managed to sustain a healthy, physically active lifestyle long into her retirement and reap the associated health benefits! Food for thought and certainly the direction of travel I hope to see in future rehabilitation-based research.

Ewan Cranwell

Informatics Lead, KiActiv®

Physical activity can look different for everybody – find what suits you best to support your heart health!

27 July 2023

Physical activity is vital for heart health! Although most, if not all people are aware of this fact, many perceive their busy schedule as a major barrier to leading a physically active lifestyle. This doesn’t need to be the case, in fact, you can implement more movement into your normal lifestyle in a way that works best for you. So, whether you want to prevent future heart problems or if you are looking for a healthy way to self-manage your heart condition, continue reading to see what the latest research says and how you can exploit it to start benefitting your heart health today!

A recent study investigated if engagement in physical activity that is concentrated over a 1–2-day period per week has the same heart health benefits compared with physical activity that is more evenly spread throughout the week. In total, 89,573 individuals wore an accelerometer device to measure their weekly total of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA). Based on the data, individuals were divided into 3 groups: “weekend warriors” whose MVPA was concentrated within 2 days of the week, an “active regular” group, who spread their MVPA more evenly across the course of the week, and an “inactive” group. What they found was that both the “weekend warriors” and the “active regular” group had a similarly lower risk of suffering from atrial fibrillation, myocardial infarction, heart failure, and stroke compared to the “inactive” group. This supports the idea that you can improve your heart health in a number of different ways, depending on how you can fit physical activity into your normal routine. Whether your physical activity is evenly distributed across your week or if you decide to concentrate it over only a few days of the week, your heart health will benefit versus leading an inactive lifestyle.

It is also important to acknowledge that this study also has one big limitation. Even though the guidelines state that 150 minutes or more of MVPA per week is needed to reach optimum health, research suggests that every minute of movement is important for our health (Katzmarzyk and Jakicic, 2023) and that some physical activity, no matter the intensity, is better than none. In fact, there is an inverse dose-response relationship between physical activity and cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality meaning that the more physically active you are the lower the chance of developing a heart condition (Carnethon, 2009; Kohl, 2001). Therefore, even if you are not reaching the 150 minutes of MVPA per week, you can still benefit from moving in a way that works best for you.

In addition, physical activity can take many different forms. Walking, dancing, gardening and yoga are only a few examples of structured activities that can support you in keeping your heart healthy (University of California San Francisco, 2023). However, it Is also important to highlight that you can rethink exercise to make your everyday movement a medicine, as even the movement associated with typical activities of daily living count towards your overall physical activity level. That includes housework activities from hoovering or washing the car, to hanging out the washing, and much more (Heart Foundation, 2023). If you don’t enjoy structured exercise, you can optimise the movement that you already engage in as part of your day-to-day life. Now that you are empowered with the knowledge that physical activity is far more than structured exercise alone, you can take meaningful steps towards self-managing your physical activity for the good of your health both now and in the future.

At KiActiv®, we have been supporting people with cardiovascular disease for a number of years, helping people to rethink exercise and make their everyday movement an effective and accessible medicine, which can alleviate the fear that is commonly associated with increasing physical activity levels. Through using their Personalised Online Dashboard and the guided-support of their Mentor, KiActiv® Health participants feel motivated to optimise their total dose of physical activity in the context of their health, capacity and environment. The service is underpinned by Self-Determination Theory to promote healthy lifestyle change that is self-driven and can be sustained beyond the initial 12 weeks of KiActiv® Health. Here are just a few examples from individuals who have benefitted from using the KiActiv® Health service:

“After being given the chance to use KiActiv®, I now feel I have a lot more control over how activities I partake in affect my health and wellbeing. The ability to look at and categorise activities in graphs and see the impact, has been invaluable. I feel so much more positive about my recovery as I am able to plan and assess my recovery on a daily basis. Because of this I would not hesitate to recommend KiActiv® to anyone.”

“It helped me plan my exercises and improve my fitness after having a heart attack in 2020. I also found the KiActiv® staff very knowledgeable and helpful, I would highly recommend this programme to all.”

“I have noticed I’m able to go up and down stairs quicker as I feel stronger, my legs are stronger. I’m not as breathless as I was as I’ve been doing it more.”

“I feel fitter, stronger and more motivated to reach health and lifestyle goals in the future.”

If you want to take control over your health and unlock the endless health benefits that come with optimising your everyday movement, click here to get started!

The KiActiv® Team

Keeping physically active can increase your pain tolerance!

10 July 2023

From strengthening our bones and muscles to improving cardiovascular health, the benefits of physical activity are well-known. But new evidence has emerged suggesting that physical activity may also increase our pain tolerance.

It is thought that physical activity might influence the risk and/or progression of chronic pain by increasing pain tolerance. To investigate this, a recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE asked 10,372 individuals aged between 30 and 87 years about their leisure-time physical activity and used a ‘cold pressor test’ to measure pain tolerance. This involved each participant placing their hand in 3 °C water and the longer they kept their hand in the water, the greater their pain tolerance. The participants repeated the assessments on 2 separate occasions, approximately 8 years apart.

At the first assessment, the higher level of physical activity the participants engaged in, the longer they could resist releasing their hand from the cold water. The most active individuals kept their hand submerged for 16.3s longer than their least active counterparts. Between the 2 assessments, all participants increased their pain tolerance regardless of activity level, which was believed to be a result of ageing. But importantly, active individuals who remained active or increased their activity had a higher pain tolerance compared with those who remained inactive.

Whilst there isn’t an agreed explanation for why this happens, the evidence supporting the positive impact of physical activity on pain tolerance is growing. Some believe it could be due to a generalised reduction in pain sensitivity that happens during physical activity and is maintained for a period of time afterwards (Vaegter & Jones, 2020). Also, people who are more physically active often have better blood flow, lower inflammation and better cardiovascular health, which may result in the ability to endure more pain (Warburton, 2006).

As with all studies, there were limitations to the research. Physical activity was self-reported, which relies on people’s understanding and memory of their physical activity. At follow-up participants were only asked about their activity over the previous 12-months, which means that the dose of physical activity over 7 of the 8-year intervention period was unaccounted for. Finally, the method of measuring pain tolerance may not be applicable to all contexts of pain as using a cold-pressor test may not reflect the experience of pain in day-to-day.

While, this study doesn’t answer all the questions surrounding this topic, it does add to the emerging evidence base that suggests engaging in more physical activity may have the potential to alleviate chronic pain. Whether you prefer to keep busy throughout the day or prefer bouts of physical activity, there isn’t a one-size fits all approach. At KiActiv®, we encourage you to explore what works for you, putting you in control of the movement in your everyday life. Whether you experience chronic pain or you wish to prevent it in the future, KiActiv® can help you to optimise your physical activity, in a way that is personalised to you.

The KiActiv® Team

Physical activity can be crucial for people fighting cancer

20 June 2023

Three studies presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology have shown walking for 30 minutes a day and practising yoga can help reduce feelings of fatigue and cut the risk of the disease spreading, returning or resulting in death for cancer patients, both during and after treatment.

The first study looked into the effects of yoga on inflammation. Inflammation is an important factor because it is associated both with cancer development and progression (Chou et al., 2022). Participants were assigned to either practice yoga or attend health education class for a month. The study found that those who practised yoga had significantly lower pro-inflammatory markers resulting in lower risk or tumour progression, recurrence and spread.

The second study also investigated the effects of practicing yoga compared to attending health education classes but this time the outcome measures were feelings of fatigue and quality of life. Once again, yoga was found to be more beneficial for cancer patients and results showed that yoga can reduce fatigue levels and increase quality of life.

Lastly, the third study looked into the effects of walking on people fighting this condition. Those who stayed active i.e., going for at least one 30-minute walk five days a week, reduced their risk of dying due to the disease by almost 20%.

It’s important to note that walking and yoga are just two examples of low-impact activities that could play a vital role in managing the long-term health of people with cancer. As Dr Jurema Telles de Oliveira Lima, who led the third study, suggests, even doing chores or carrying shopping home could make a difference. Staying active significantly reduces the risk of fatal outcomes of cancer (Morishita et al., 2020) and you can choose movements that best suit your circumstances and needs. No matter how small the movement, it matters!

These studies add to the existing scientific evidence that shows you don’t need to set foot in a gym or engage in strenuous exercise in order to be active and benefit from movement. Whenever you are preparing food, gardening or doing anything that makes you move a little bit more during the day can reduce your sedentary time – something that has been known for years to have a negative impact on your health (Park et al., 2020). A brisk walk or pottering around the house might not seem like much in the moment, it can benefit your health. If you want to learn more about the relationship between physical activity and cancer and the role of KiActiv® Health in helping you self-manage your movement levels you can click here.

The evidence on the beneficial effects of movement continues to pile up, and, most importantly, it shows that movement doesn’t need to be structured exercise for you to feel the benefits. We can all find everyday movements that we enjoy and feel comfortable doing. Every move you make can matter and have the power to change your life for the better, whether you are fighting cancer or not.

Here at KiActiv® it is our mission to help you understand your movement patterns and incorporate movements in your day-to-day life that you enjoy and sustain. We acknowledge that everyone’s experience of cancer treatment and recovery is different and there is no single approach that suits everyone. The personalised nature of the service puts the client in control and enables them to take responsibility over their own health and set realistic goals within their personal context and needs.

If you would like start your journey to living a healthier, happier life you can click here to get started.

The KiActiv® Team

Evaluating the inverse, non-linear dose-response relationship between physical activity and the risk of disease and early death

7 March 2023

A recent article published in the BMJ has attempted to further define the dose-response relationship between physical activity and the risk of all-cause, CVD-related and Cancer-related mortality and incidence.

The new research incorporates a sample size far greater than any previous publication in this space, utilising extensive methods to harmonise ‘exposure data’ and draw conclusions from an evidence base consisting of over 160 million person-years and 810,000 deaths. These figures are 17- and 7-fold larger, respectively, than those included in the previously largest physical activity dose–response analysis.

The top-line outcomes are unsurprising. In general, higher physical activity levels were associated with a lower risk of all negative health outcomes, and the differences in risk were greatest between 0 and 8.75 marginal metabolic equivalent of task-hours per week (mMET-hours/week), roughly equivalent to 150 mins/week of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA). This fits well with the existing research base, and provides further evidence to validate the inverse, non-linear dose-response relationship between physical activity and disease risk.

A particularly interesting outcome from the study relates to the benefits of doing ‘some’ physical activity versus doing nothing. The meta-analysis found that 1 in 10 premature deaths could potentially be avoided by doing the equivalent of 75 mins/week of MVPA. A number of media outlets have picked up on this, reducing their headlines to simple soundbites along the lines of: “Just 11 mins of activity per day can reduce risk of early death.” Whilst the findings can indeed be interpreted in this manner, we think there are two important points to consider.

Firstly, the risk reduction the authors are referring to here relates specifically to people who are completely inactive to begin with. If a previously inactive individual were to increase their activity level to achieve 75 mins/week of MVPA, 1 in 10 premature deaths would be avoided. This does not mean those individuals already doing more than this should reduce their activity level to match, as this would be detrimental to their health. Secondly, we must emphasise that the researchers assigned standardised mMET-hr values for different physical activity intensities, which unfortunately cannot account for the different types of daily activities performed at that specific intensity. As such, the activity intensities, and the subsequent public health-based messaging, are often boiled down to single activities (i.e., walking is good for you), with little recognition for everyday activities of a similar intensity (i.e., shopping, vacuuming can also be good for you). A simple tweak to the language and messaging would make the benefits of physical activity far more accessible and appealing to all.

Due to the sheer number of individual studies included in the meta-analysis to form the substantial sample size, many different methods for assessing physical activity are used across the different studies. Interestingly, the researchers acknowledged stronger associations between physical activity and health outcomes in studies which used objective physical activity monitoring, as opposed to self-report measures. This perhaps reflects the inconsistencies and inaccuracies associated with self-reported physical activity, which relies on the accuracy of an individual’s understanding and recall. Another small compromise made by the researchers, likely as a result of the large sample size, is the exclusion of occupational physical activity. Whilst there are a number of difficulties in accurately assessing occupational physical activity, particularly when using self-reported measures, it does make up a significant proportion of a typical adult’s daily lifestyle. As such, any analysis which excludes this specific component of physical activity must be mindful of this as a limitation, and we hope to see future studies build on this gap in the evidence base.

In summary, despite a number of limitations, many of which are highlighted by the authors, this new research adds significant weight to the inverse, non-linear dose-response relationship between physical activity and disease risk. Whilst it represents a step forward in the consolidation of the evidence base, concerns remain around how the findings are reported in the wider press. We understand the need to simplify the outcomes for a lay audience, however, the ‘one-size fits all’ messaging risks portraying physical activity as unidimensional, which is simply not true. From our experience, an alternative approach, which rethinks physical activity as far more than a set of simplistic, structured activities will be far more appealing and accessible to the wider population. Finally, now that the basic inverse, non-linear dose-response theory has been appropriately consolidated, we hope to see future studies adopt new, objective methods of PA assessment to enable wider analysis of ‘all’ daily physical activity, not just that which is non-occupational. This will enable the identification of the independent benefits and risks of different daily/weekly physical activity profiles, and support a personalised approach to physical activity and its potential impact on individual lives.

The KiActiv® Team

National Heart Month – you can improve your heart health this February!

15 February 2023

February is National Heart Month, dedicated to raising awareness about a range of heart conditions and, therefore, emphasising the importance of keeping our hearts healthy.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the world’s biggest killer. In 2016 alone, a staggering 17.9 million people lost their lives as a result of CVD, representing 31% of all global deaths (WHO, 2021). In addition, it is estimated that 7.4 million individuals are currently living with CVD in the UK.

The 4 main types of CVD are:

Coronary heart disease (CHD): refers to when the blood supply to the heart is blocked or interrupted by a build-up of fatty substances (atheroma) in the coronary arteries. Narrowing of the coronary arteries due to a build-up of atheroma can cause angina (chest pains). However, a heart attack can occur if a coronary artery becomes completely blocked.

Stroke: refers to when the blood supply to the brain is disturbed. The main stroke symptoms can be remembered with the word FAST which stands for:

  • Face – the face may have drooped on one side
  • Arms – unable to lift one’s arm and keep it raised
  • Speech – may be absent or appear slurred.
  • Time – strokes require urgent treatment, therefore 999 should be dialled immediately if any of these signs or symptoms are present

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD): occurs when there is a blockage in the arteries to the limbs. Many people with PAD have no symptoms, some develop a dull pain in thighs, hips or calves and often worsens when walking.

Aortic disease: refers to diseases associated with the largest blood vessel in the body. The most common type of aortic disease is an aortic aneurysm, which is where the wall of the aorta becomes weakened and bulges outwards, resulting in chest, back or stomach pain.

There are a variety of risk factors that may contribute to the development of CVD, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which can be influenced by both our genetics and lifestyle choices. Surprisingly, it is estimated that over 30% of adults with high blood pressure aren’t aware they have it. The good news is that many of these risk factors are modifiable and, thus, largely in our control. By understanding the factors contributing to CVD risk, we can be empowered to make positive lifestyle changes to benefit our heart health.

Prioritizing physical activity is among the best things you can do for your heart (Li & Siegrist, 2012). For some, physical activity sounds daunting, but it doesn’t need to be! Physical activity simply refers to any bodily movement that requires energy expenditure (WHO, 2022). So, physical activity includes everyday activities too, such as washing the car, ironing or just walking to work.

Physical activity doesn’t need to be vigorous because all intensities of movement can impact CVD risk (Tanasescu, 2002). Finding physical activity that you feel is enjoyable and sustainable holds the key. There is a type of physical activity for us all!

One of our clients illustrated this understanding, a 59-year-old male, demonstrating that physical activity can also be used to manage CVD after experiencing a heart attack.

“KiActiv® has been the catalyst for changing my daily life from a sedentary state to a
significantly more active lifestyle. I recommend KiActiv® to all those who want to improve
personal well-being and personal satisfaction.

I couldn’t have done this alone, enjoying the initial support and personalised programme, along
with ongoing encouragement to help me understand my activity data. Reviewing my progress
is motivating. Cold and wet days can still be active days around the house.

I have changed my life to enjoy adding more vigour to those routine household
chores such as ironing, gardening, hoovering, washing the kitchen floor. All have had a positive impact for my active lifestyle.

Everyone can achieve a more active lifestyle with little need for more strenuous exercise. Just getting out of your chair every fifteen minutes is a step forward.”

KiActiv® Health aims to provide you with the knowledge to use physical activity as a tool to self-manage your health and well-being. Our role is to help you identify the different types of movement happening during your day, their intensity and how they make you feel. This information can help you to make informed decisions about managing your physical activity levels in the context of your health and capacity.

If you would like to learn more about optimising your everyday physical activity to protect against CVD or to self-manage a long-term heart condition, click here to take action.

The KiActiv® Team

It’s rheumatoid arthritis awareness day! The role of physical activity in managing rheumatoid arthritis

2 February 2023

What is Rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory autoimmune disease affecting 5 per 1000 people and commonly leads to disability (Alethea and Smolen, 2018). It is associated with tendon inflammation which leads to cartilage destruction and bone erosion (Lin, Anzaghe and Schülke, 2020). Some of the symptoms include pain, stiffness, swelling and fatigue, all of which can reduce the quality of life of those affected by the condition (Metsios and Kitas, 2018).

What’s the role of physical activity in managing Rheumatoid arthritis?

Physical activity is a key component for effectively treating and managing of RA (Metsios and Kitas, 2018), however, many individuals still fail to incorporate enough of it into their everyday lives. This is likely due to the common misconception that physical activity must be of a vigorous intensity – akin to structured exercise – to be of benefit to our bodies. This is simply not true, in fact, physical activity is defined as “any bodily movement which causes a rise in energy expenditure” (Caspersen, Powell and Christenson, 1985), thus, even normal activities of daily living such as cooking, cleaning or washing the car contribute towards our daily physical activity levels. This fits well with physical activity guidelines for RA, which state that vigorous exercise is not recommended in case of flare-ups (exacerbation of symptoms) as this can have a negative impact on the individual. In contrast, low-impact physical activity such as walking and swimming put less stress on the body and can reduce arthritis pain, improve functionality and quality of life (CDC, 2018). It is worth highlighting that some physical activity is better than none. Even though it is important to modify activity in accordance to pain levels, it is recommended by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for people with RA to stay active as much as possible without worsening their symptoms.

Why KiActiv® Health?

With tailored one-to-one support from a personal KiActiv® Mentor, the personalised nature of KiActiv® Health empowers sustainable behaviour change for physical activity and self-care, in the context of your health, preferences and environment. Supporting you to find your own optimum level of physical activity in a way that suits your needs and preferences has always been a priority for us at KiActiv®. Our personalised approach to empowering physical activity behaviour change ensures that you will develop the necessary skills to maintain your new, optimised level of physical activity far beyond the initial 12-week programme and continue to experience the health benefits that are associated with long-term self-care.

If you like the sound of taking a personalised approach towards harnessing the power of your everyday physical activity to self-manage your RA, other health conditions or just improve your general health and wellbeing, click here to begin your journey with KiActiv® today, and take steps towards a healthier, happier you!

The KiActiv® Team

Post-holiday blues don’t need to be as tough this year

27 January 2023

The third Monday in January is commonly labelled “Blue Monday” and is supposedly the saddest day of the year. Whilst this idea is probably a myth, many of us feel the impact of the cold, dark days that follow the festivities of the winter holiday season. The term ‘post-holiday blues’ refers to temporary feelings of depression and anxiety during and after the holiday period (Foundry, 2022), with symptoms including loneliness and isolation, sadness, stress, and frustration. In fact, 64% of people report being affected by post-holiday depression mainly caused by the emotional and physical stress of the season (Psycom, 2021).

The reason for this may lie behind the fact that during the holiday season ‘regular’ life is usually interrupted. Once we get back to our normal routines, the brain tends to exaggerate realities of daily life and make the return to the mundane seem more anxiety-inducing and depressing than it actually is (Psycom, 2021). This is why it is very important to take care both of your physical and mental health during that ‘return to normal’ period.

Taking care of your health is extremely important especially if you are struggling with ‘post-holiday blues’. The good news is that there is a way of alleviating the feelings of anxiety and depression during that challenging period.

One of the best ways of taking care both of your body and your mind is through physical activity (Pearce et al., 2022; Reiner et al., 2013; Saxena et al., 2009). Even small doses of physical activity can help you lower the risk of depression and benefit your mental wellbeing. And, you don’t have to do vigorous intensity physical activity in order to feel the benefits of movement (Pearce et al., 2022).

Introducing regular physical activity into your everyday routine can help you manage the symptoms of ‘post-holiday blues’. This can look different for different people. Some may enjoy going for a walk outside, some prefer to stay home and do the housework, and for others, it is something entirely different. What matters is that you engage in activities that you enjoy doing and that would make you feel happy. Sometimes simply having something to look forward to, whether that would be cooking, walking your dog or going for a coffee with a friend, enhances your mood and benefits your well-being, adding to the benefit of actually doing the planned activity (Psycom, 2022).

Many of our clients at KiActiv® have shared the positive impact that physical activity has had on how they feel:

“Walking in the evening helps with my mental wellbeing and lets me destress (Female, 20-years old)”

“I spent the day tidying up the house and I was in a better mindset because I was doing stuff (Female, 25-years old)”

“I feel more positive about small achievements (leading to changes) and this programme helped me to realise this (Female, 44-years old)”

“I changed my way of thinking, I started thinking positively (Male, 45-years old)”

I am feeling better in myself and about my health (Male, 54-years old)”

“It has changed my mental attitude (Male, 92-years old)”

As well as gaining an understanding of their everyday physical activity, KiActiv® Health clients have the opportunity to keep a record of both how they feel physically and emotionally by having 24/7 access to the tools and visualisations on their personal online dashboard. If you would like to make a positive change to your health you can click here to sign up and start taking control of your physical and mental wellbeing. If you are also interested in how to start creating healthy habits, you can click here to read one of our previous blogs on this topic.

The KiActiv® Team

Our Abstract from the Annual BACPR Conference has been published in the BMJ Heart Journal!

10 January 2023

Starting the New Year as we mean to go on, we are excited to announce that in partnership with Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, we have had a scientific abstract published in the prestigious journal, BMJ Heart – https://lnkd.in/e2QX_AYJ

The abstract, titled “Real-world evaluation of a technology-enabled system for the augmentation of physical activity behaviour change in cardiac rehabilitation,” was presented by the LUH clinical team at the annual British Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation conference in October 2022, and demonstrates the findings of our latest study on the effectiveness of the KiActiv® Health programme for improving patient outcomes in cardiac rehabilitation.

We are thrilled to have our work recognised by the scientific and cardiology communities, and are grateful for the opportunity to contribute to digital innovation within the field. We continue to demonstrate that our innovation has the potential to improve the lives of countless individuals who would benefit from cardiac rehabilitation, particularly those who are unwilling or unable to engage with traditional services.

Thank you to all of our dedicated team members and partners who made this publication possible and we look forward to sharing more of our research with the community in the very near future.

The KiActiv® Team

Every move you make matters for your mental health this winter

28 December 2022

With the cold weather and darker days officially here, many people will start to notice the impact on their mental health. Whilst the impact will vary from person to person, you might experience symptoms such as a lack of energy, having difficulty concentrating, feeling sad, guilty, low, and/or tearful, and increased feelings, and or not wanting to socialise (Met Office, 2022; Mind, 2022).

Your mental health help to determine how you handle stress, different emotions and what choices you are making regarding your health (CDC, 2021). Importantly, mental health issues such as depression can increase the risk of physical illnesses like diabetes, heart disease and stroke. That is why taking care of your mental wellbeing is just as important as taking care of your physical health.

The good news is that there is a way of taking care both of your mental and physical health.
Research shows that physical activity can have a significant mental health benefit and what is more, it doesn’t have to be structured or vigorous exercise (Pearce et al., 2022). Even a brisk walk a few times per week or engaging in-door activities can be effective in improving your mental wellbeing. In fact, every move we make can matter for our physical and mental health.

You don’t have to engage in structured exercise or vigorous intensity activity to benefit from movement. When you are choosing to use physical activity to improve your mental wellbeing, any movement can count. The best part is that you are free to choose the activities that you enjoy doing most and would make you feel happy.  Even the everyday activities you can do around your house, in the garden and art-making activities are also known to have a positive impact on your mood and the way you are feeling emotionally (University of Florida, 2022). And this is true for those who are in good health and for people who have different medical conditions. Both gardening and producing art is a great way to express your creativity, increase your physical activity and boost your mood.

Many KiActiv® Health clients have experienced the numerous benefits that come with everyday physical activity including those related to improving your mental wellbeing. Our accredited KiActiv® Mentors provide the necessary support and guidance to enable clients to optimise and self-manage their physical activity to reach their health and wellbeing goals.

This is what one of our KiActiv® Health clients, a female who was struggling with depression, shared:

“It’s helped my depression tremendously. The psychotherapist said it’s doing me a world of good, making me get out and about more.”

“It’s given me a sort of boost – a real ‘let’s do it!’ Do everything! Get healthy!”

“I’ve already recommended this programme to some of my friends.”

If you want to take control over your physical activity levels and improve both your physical and mental wellbeing in the context of your own health circumstances, you can click here to express your interest in KiActiv® Health.

The KiActiv® Team

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