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Our chairs seem to be the new lean-mean killer machines. And the money we spent buying those clean running shoes, the brand new gym clothes and the determination to lay off those extra pounds are all praiseworthy goals.

But then again, we live in an age of fads. When one sizzles out, ten new are already making their way across social media pages. Fitness groups that keep each other motivated through the first few days of gym-induced pain, some people even have “global groups” as if we did not have enough people in our country, to begin with.

So what is all this fuss about fads? Are they even worth following?

Let’s discuss five such fitness fads that must not be followed blindly.

This fad has taken the world by storm, with many people claiming to have shed several kilos within months. Now the thing with intermittent fasting is that it is not one formula that fits all. To begin with, there are six different types of fasting-

  • Spontaneous meal skipping where you have the freedom to skip any two meals every week
  • An alternate day fast
  • A 24-hour complete fast that you must follow twice every week
  • A 5:2 fast where you restrict your calorie intake for two days in a week
  • The warrior diet where you eat nothing all day and have a large meal at night to spontaneous
  • And the 16:8 diet where you pick an 8-hour window in the day to have your meals.

The problem with these types of fasting is that you cannot sustain them for long. For the first few weeks, you will see symptoms of weakness, fatigue, headache, and lethargy. This may prompt one to give up the diet trend soon. Plus, every person is different — their body type, immunity levels, metabolism ratio and even work routines. Thus, fasting intermittently does not work for all.

Try going for low-calorie foods instead that will keep you full for a long time without adding on to your calorie count. Flax seeds, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds are some excellent examples of such snacks.

High-fiber diets are said to cause a little bloating by stimulating some fiber-digesting gut bacteria species, which produce gas as a by-product. Fiber is an important nutrient that should be consumed regularly, but its excessive consumption may not be good for you if you are watching your waistline. And, if your high-fiber diet is coupled with a protein-rich diet, it may further lead to even more bloating. However, if the high-fiber diet is paired with a carb-rich diet, it may not escalate the problem that much. The study was conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

For the study, the researchers examined a dietary clinical trial that was conducted in the years between 2003 and 2005 in Boston. It involved 164 participants who had high blood pressure. They were fed three different diets over a time period of consecutive six weeks with a two-week break in between when the participants had their regular diet. 

The participants, who ate versions of a heart-healthy, high-fiber diet that was relatively rich in plant protein, were about 40 percent more likely to develop bloating symptoms as compared to a carbohydrate-rich version of the same high fiber diet.

Study co-senior author Noel Mueller, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Bloomberg School said, “It’s possible that in this study, the protein-rich version of the diet caused more bloating because it caused more of a healthy shift in the composition of the microbiome. Notably, the protein in these diets was mostly from vegetable sources such as beans, legumes, and nuts.”

The study further suggests that if high-quality carb calories like whole-grain are substituted with protein calories, the chances of bloating may be reduced for those on high fiber diets, making such diets more tolerable.


It was the late 1880s in the city of Rajkot, India. The meeting was to take place on the banks of the local river – and discretion was essential. Mahatma Gandhi, who was just a teenager at the time, hadn’t told his parents where he was going; if they had found out, they would have been shocked to death.

As it happens, Gandhi was having a picnic. And on this occasion, India’s future national hero – and one of the most famous vegetarians in history – wasn’t planning to dine on cucumber sandwiches. No, for the first time in his life, he was going to eat meat.

As he later wrote in his biography, Gandhi was raised as a strict Vaishnava Hindu, so he had never even seen meat before this fateful day. But his picnic companion was a shady character with an unusual obsession – the idea that meat held the key to being physically and mentally strong.

In the end, Gandhi braved the meat. It was as tough as leather.

The idea that avoiding meat is bad for our brains makes some intuitive sense; anthropologists have been arguing about what our ancestors ate for decades, but many scientists think that there was a lot of bone-crunching and brain-slurping on the road to evolving this remarkable 1.4kg (3lb) organs. Some have even gone so far as to say that meat made us human.

One reason is that intelligence is expensive – the brain devours about 20% of our daily calories, though it accounts for just 2% of our body weight – and what better way to find the enormous array of fats, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals these fastidious organs require than by feasting on animals which have already painstakingly collected or made them.

ut though it’s hard to imagine our ancestors choosing turnips over tuna, today it’s a different story. According to the latest statistics, there are around 375 million vegetarians on the planet. In the West, veganism has ditched the hippie stigma to become one of the fastest-growing millennial trends; in the United States, it grew by 600% between 2014 and 2017. Meanwhile, in India, meat-free diets have been mainstream since the 6th Century BCE

On the one hand, recent concern about the nutritional gaps in plant-based diets has led to a number of alarming headlines, including a warning that they can stunt brain development and cause irreversible damage to a person’s nervous system. Back in 2016, the German Society for Nutrition went so far as to categorically state that – for children, pregnant or nursing women, and adolescents – vegan diets are not recommended, which has been backed up by a 2018 review of the research. In Belgium, forcing a vegan diet on your offspring could land you a spell in prison.

But on the other, if abstaining from meat had any real impact on our brains, you would think that we would already have noticed. So is it really damaging our intellects, or is this all just fear of the unknown?

Ideally, to test the impact of the vegan diet on the brain, you would take a randomly selected group of people, ask half to stop eating animal products – then see what happens. But there isn’t a single study like this.

There are several important brain nutrients that simply do not exist in plants or fungi

Instead, the only research that comes close involved the reverse. It was conducted on 555 Kenyan schoolchildren, who were fed one of three different types of soup – one with meat, one with milk, and one with oil – or no soup at all, as a snack over seven school terms. They were tested before and after, to see how their intelligence compared. Because of their economic circumstances, the majority of the children were de facto vegetarians at the start of the study.

Surprisingly, the children who were given the soup containing meat each day seemed to have a significant edge. By the end of the study, they outperformed all the other children on a test for non-verbal reasoning. Along with the children who received soup with added oil, they also did the best on a test of arithmetic ability. Of course, more research is needed to verify if this effect is real and if it would also apply to adults in developed countries, too. But it does raise intriguing questions about whether veganism could be holding some people back.

In fact, there are several important brain nutrients that simply do not exist in plants or fungi. Creatine, carnosine, taurine, omega-3, haem iron, and vitamins B12 and D3 generally only occur naturally in foods derived from animal products, though they can be synthesized in the lab or extracted from non-animal sources such as algae, bacteria or lichen, and added to supplements.

Others are found in vegan foods, but only in meager amounts; to get the minimum amount of vitamin B6 required each day (1.3 mg) from one of the richest plant sources, potatoes, you’d have to eat about five cups’ worth (equivalent to roughly 750g or 1.6lb). Delicious, but not particularly practical.

The World Health Organization announced Monday that it would convene an expert panel to determine whether a fast-developing outbreak caused by a new virus in China should be declared a global health emergency.

The news came as China reported confirmed cases in Beijing and in Guangdong province, 14 cases in health care workers—a first—and a confirmed incident involving the human-to-human spread of the new virus, known provisionally as 2019-nCoV. It is a coronavirus, from the same family as the viruses that caused the 2003 SARS outbreak, which sickened more than 8,000 people globally, killing nearly 800.

It also comes as China prepares to celebrate the Lunar New Year when people throughout the country travel to be with family. Experts fear this event could spread the virus widely.


When you are struggling with your mental health, getting active may be one of the last things you feel like doing.

But, if you can muster the energy, evidence shows that exercise has a powerfully beneficial effect.

One study last year, published in the medical journal Jama Psychiatry, found that physical activity is an effective prevention strategy for depression.

Another 2015 paper found that exercise can be as helpful in treating mild to moderate depression as antidepressants and psychotherapy.

“We have known for a long time that exercise promotes physiological and neurochemical responses that make you feel good,” says Professor Nanette Mutrie of the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Sport, Physical Education, and Health Sciences.

When we exercise, the brain releases endorphins, as well as dopamine and serotonin.

“Very often, these same chemicals from part of antidepressant drugs,” she says.

There is also a psychological component to exercise that makes us feel good.

Prof Mutrie explains: “When you’re exercising, you are improving your self-esteem, mastering a new task and meeting new people.

“All of this forms part of the mix. There’s this synergy of positive things that are happening.”

If you are struggling with your mental health and are anxious about exercise, the best advice is to start small.

Most smartphones now have pedometers, so you can track your steps: 7,000 steps a day is a good target to set yourself, with the aim of eventually increasing it to around 10,000 steps daily.

Jermaine Johnson, another personal trainer who often trains clients with depression and anxiety, suggests avoiding cardio.

“That can raise the heart rate and fuel your anxiety,” he says.

Instead, he suggests trying out strength training.

“I’ve trained people with depression who’ve said weightlifting made a big difference,” he says.

Because you can measure your progress with weight training – heavier weights or more repetitions – you will be able to see how much you are improving, which can lift your mood.

And you do not have to exercise all the time.

If you want to gain muscle, check Research Peptides

“If you want to optimize your exercise regimen for your mental health, according to our research, exercising for 45 minutes at a time, three to five times a week, has the most beneficial mental health effects,” says Dr. Adam Chekroud of Yale School of Medicine.

He is the co-author of one of the biggest studies into exercise and mental health, which looked at 1.2 million adults in the United States. He says that cycling and team sports will give you the biggest boost, but even walking or doing household chores is better than nothing.

Just being in nature has also been shown to have beneficial mental health effects.

“You need sunlight for vitamin D, and vitamin D lifts your mood,” says Overall.

If you feel up to being around other people, group exercise can also help.

“When it comes to depression or stress, these conditions have a biological underpinning, but they also have social components,” Dr. Chekroud says.

The sense of community you feel like part of a sports team can have a brightening effect on your mood.

“It takes the attention away from the individual,” says Johnson.

But, if you are feeling very anxious before a class, give the trainer a heads-up that you are not feeling great, and might slip out early – and pick a spot near the door for minimum fuss.

Johnson recommends starting with a yoga or barre class, rather than a circuit class, as often these involve partner-work, which can be difficult for those with social anxiety. Whatever you are doing, pick a beginner’s class.

“If a class is too intense, you’re going to feel like you’re doing badly, and you may end up feeling worse than you did when you arrived,” he says. “That is definitely not the goal.”

Anyone struggling with body dysmorphia “should avoid gyms, as they are full of mirrors”, says Overall. “Instead, take things outside if you can.”

Try jogging or doing a high-intensity interval training workout in the park.

If you are in recovery from an eating disorder, Overall recommends creating an exercise plan under the supervision of a mental health professional, to avoid overdoing it.

“Otherwise, it’s like an alcoholic going back to a pub. It’s got to be carefully managed,” she says.

If you do not feel as if you can leave your house, there are plenty of fitness videos online that you can do at home. Try Fitness Blender, or download the Nike app.

When you are exercising, it is absolutely fine to take a break or stop entirely, if you are feeling overwhelmed.

When you are struggling with your mental health, it is easy to get trapped in a spiral of negative thoughts and think that everyone in your gym is watching you. But they are almost certainly not and are focusing on their own workout.

Finally, the act of putting on a pair of trainers can, on its own, be a form of self-care.

“Even if you leave after a few minutes, you’ve already achieved something just by going to the gym,” says Johnson.

Focus on the fact that you went to the gym in the first place, not that you left. And take everything one step at a time. You’re in control.



Europe’s largest-ever digital health hackathon is taking place in Edinburgh, Scotland, from Thursday 20 February – Sunday 23 February 2020.

Join us as hundreds of health professionals, entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, designers and technologists will spend 75 hours realizing the future of health and social care.

Open to everyone from unlikely innovators to seasoned founders; whether you want to launch a startup, develop a product within an existing organization, solve a problem that you have studied at university, or just develop new skills, this event will leave you equipped will the mindset, teammates and tools for disruption.

There will be a special “sport and mental health” track, and you can take part remotely (or in-person) in three ways:

  1. You can be a mentor
  2. You can be a panel judge
  3. You can be a participant 

The event is an immersive experience lasting four days and four nights, in which participants will design and build a solution to a challenge in the sport and mental health sector. Participants will be in a multi-disciplinary team made up of tech experts, sector experts, and business development experts. Participants will also receive mentoring from the track mentors. At the end of the four days, teams will present their creations and are awarded points by a panel of judges who have expertise in the area. The idea is that these creations go on to become real technologies or businesses that make a sustainable impact!

This event is being hosted and co-sponsored by The Crags Centre, a community sports center in Edinburgh that helps people grow, on and off the court.


At Exercise Coach in Southlake, the workouts are short but tough. The owner claims you only need 20 minutes to get a full-body workout.

“The machine measures a client’s ability to exert force,” Mike Sims said. “It stores that information. then the next time the client gets onto the machine the trainer enters a client’s pain and the machine automatically calibrates itself to reflect that client’s ability.”

This type of technology is gathering strength in the fitness industry, especially for those wanting shorter, more intense gym sessions. Hotworx uses infrared heat to ramp up your workouts.

You can take classes that range from 15 to 30 minutes inside a heated studio.

Creators claim it’s more effective because when your core temperature rises, it speeds up your metabolism.

As for the infrared energy, it’s supposed to help accelerate your workout recovery.

According to The Mayo Clinic, several studies have been done using infrared saunas and researchers have found evidence of possible benefits for those with chronic health problems, but experts say more studies are needed.

Utopia is a gym that takes a more comprehensive approach. It combines food and fitness.

“We do a custom program,” said founder Kirk Wilder. Clients work out 20 minutes, twice a week. “At the time that they workout, they pick up either three days of food or four days of food, which will cover them for the seven days.”

Wilder told us Utopia also uses special gym equipment for an effective workout.

“That 20-minute workout equals 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, and 50 minutes of convention strength training,” Wilder said.


Spotlight analyzed the 2018/2019 neonatal mortality rates in all the provinces and found that the majority did not show decreased death rates. According to provincial health department annual reports, reasons for this included overcrowded and understaffed hospitals, and high infection rates as a result.

Recently, the Gauteng Department of Health confirmed that 10 neonates had died at Tembisa Hospital as a result of a bacterial outbreak between November and December of last year. The hospital’s neonatal unit has only 44 beds but reportedly admits almost 90 patients at a time. Gauteng was nevertheless one of only a few provinces to reduce its neonatal mortality rate in 2018/2019.

The Gauge reports that in 2018 just over a quarter of pregnant women did not access antenatal care within the first 20 weeks. Antenatal care can help healthcare practitioners detect early risks such as HIV and diabetes. Antenatal care is part of a child’s first 1,000 days of life, which are critical for a child’s further development.

Most provinces reported successfully increasing their percentage of antenatal visits before the first 20 weeks in the 2018/2019 year. Provinces that failed to reach their targets cited late bookings as well as the late presentation of teenage pregnancy due to the fear of stigmatization and cultural shaming.

South Africa has made great strides in reducing child hunger to 11% (child hunger is defined as children living in households who reportedly go hungry “often”, “sometimes” or “always” due to a lack of food), but although children may not be hungry, they may not be getting the nutrition they need.

As a result, children are often stunted, malnourished or overweight. Stunting is when a child’s height-for-age is below the average of others in the same population. Stunting rates in SA have remained high at over 27%, and have seen a minimal change in the last 20 years.

In terms of child hunger, the Gauge reported that for 2018, KwaZulu-Natal had the highest number of children living in households with child hunger: 753,000. This was two to four times more than other provinces and accounted for over a third of the cases in the country as a whole.

For under-five mortality, malnutrition-related deaths accounted for half of the hospital deaths. This is split between cases of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and moderate acute malnutrition.


Marc is an 11-year-old boy who was seen in our hospital’s Urgent Care Clinic after he was referred there from the Emergency Department (ED). His parents had taken him thereafter he told them he wanted to kill himself. 

It wasn’t the first time Marc had told his parents he wanted to die. He said the same thing a year earlier after having cut his forearm with scissors and considering hanging himself with a belt. When the psychiatrist asked Marc how and when he was first exposed to self-harm and suicide, he answered, “I don’t remember not knowing about it; it’s everywhere—social media, online, television, my friends. Everyone talks about it.”

As mental health professionals, we feel privileged to work with children and families to address their mental health challenges and to see their return to health. But after a shared six decades working as a child and adolescent psychiatrists, we are alarmed, more alarmed than we have ever been in our long careers, as we see trends going in the wrong direction.

You may have already read that hospital EDs have seen unprecedented numbers of young people presenting with self-inflicted injuries, thoughts of suicide, and suicide attempts. More of them are getting admitted to hospitals—generally a last resort, given the necessarily restrictive nature of psychiatric inpatient units and the risk of “cocooning” the child to an extent that makes it harder to return to “real life” at discharge. Even more tragically, the rate of deaths by suicide is climbing among children and teens in the United States, particularly among females. We don’t have reliable national data in Canada at this point but are concerned there may be a similar trend.

As a child and adolescent psychiatrists working in a large Canadian urban children’s hospital with a busy emergency department, we are living with this new reality. As we—together with scientists, public health experts, other mental health professionals, children, and families—seek answers to the reasons for these alarming trends, we know one thing for certain. We need to come together as a community to address this crisis; no single family, no single mental health professional, no single school, no single policy, no single piece of legislation will be sufficient to push back against these alarming statistics without all of us working together.

There are a number of theories, many of them persuasive, regarding potential contributors to this increase in ED visits for self-harm and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. One, which has a positive side, is a new willingness among children and families to speak up about mental health concerns and to seek help. As mental health professionals, we are delighted by this and need to work with hospital leaders and policymakers to ensure that this courage is received with appropriate services and support.

However, the rise in admissions and completed suicides also has darker roots. We know the negative impact that high rates of social media use can have on mental health, particularly among young girls who are its most active users. The constant comparison to celebrities, to shiny images of social success, can be toxic for even reasonably confident adolescents. Social media and the internet have also permitted some sinister movements—cyberbullying on a 24/7 cycle and sites that promote self-harm and suicidal behaviors with encouragement, methods, and a sense of community. Indirect impacts of our children’s engagement with their electronic devices are their effects on sleep and levels of physical activity; disruptions to both are known to be major contributors to negative effects on mental health.


Anumber of recent long-term studies have linked greater optimism to a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and other chronic ailments and to fostering “exceptional longevity.”

My husband and I were psychological opposites. I’ve always seen the glass as half-full; to him it was half-empty. That difference, research findings suggest, is likely why I pursue good health habits with a vengeance while he was far less inclined to follow the health-promoting lifestyle I advocated.

I’m no cockeyed optimist, but I’ve long believed that how I eat and exercise, as well as how I view the world, can benefit my mental and physical well-being.

An increasing number of recent long-term studies have linked greater optimism to a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and other chronic ailments and to fostering “exceptional longevity,” a category one team of researchers used for people who live to 85 and beyond.

Admittedly, the relationship between optimism and better health and longer life is still only a correlation that doesn’t prove cause and effect. But there is also no biological evidence to suggest that optimism can have a direct impact on health, which should encourage both the medical profession and individuals to do more to foster optimism as a potential health benefit.

According to Dr. Alan Rozanski, one of the field’s primary researchers, “It’s never too early and it’s never too late to foster optimism. From teenagers to people in their 90s, all have better outcomes if they’re optimistic.”

Dr. Rozanski is a cardiologist at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital in New York who became interested in optimism while working in a cardiac rehabilitation program early in his career.