Tag Archives: Obesity

Cycle touring around Copenhagen

Few sensations are more soothing than the reassuring feel of a mild breeze on the back and the sound of tyres caressing a bicycle path as it meanders through the outskirts of beautiful Copenhagen. 

Before this summer’s holiday to Denmark, the last time I had climbed aboard a bicycle coincided with the last time I fell off one. Despite this mishap, I was eager to explore Copenhagen on two wheels.

The Danish capital remains the benchmark for cities around the world as they try to figure out how to take the bicycle seriously as a mode of transport.

With the beautiful medieval city centre streets and the unlimited access for cyclists to ride on, Copenhagen continues to inspire, but where did the Danish cycling craze start?

History

Denmark is the epitome of a bike-friendly country. The opening of the city’s first bike lane in 1892 saw cycling become hugely popular, and in just 15 years the number of bikes on its streets rose from 2,500 to 80,000.

By 1960, however, using cars had become the norm, which brought with it pollution and traffic-related accidents.

The real problem, however, was the international energy crisis in the early 1970s. For a country which at the time depended on imported oil for 92% of its energy, this was a major issue.

This meant that much of the country went green and bikes now seemed more than just a cheap exercise.

Throughout the 1980s, Denmark saw a bicycle renaissance. Individuals lobbied for the introduction of bike lanes in cities and since Copenhagen began to observe its cycling rates to see how many individuals were using bicycles in 1995, the continuous rise has been spectacular.

In 2004, 41% of Copenhagen commuted by bike and by 2010, it had reached 50%. Today, the country sets a gold-standard for renewable energy and efficiency.

Cycling in Copenhagen 

Copenhagen is a cyclist’s dream. Throughout my week there, I biked to restaurants and famous sights such as the Little Mermaid statue, and through the city’s most elegant parks and attractions like Tivoli Gardens, the world’s second oldest amusement park.

Biking around in Copenhagen is so relaxing, it almost felt like meditation. People in Denmark obey cycling’s etiquette, so an obvious factor in feeling assured and pedalling at a safe pace.

After hiring out my bicycle, what really struck me about cycling round Copenhagen was how seamlessly one could weave through the city without feeling vulnerable. Sometimes the ride to a new destination in the city was as enjoyable as reaching the destination itself.

Difficulties 

Despite the highs of my cycling experience in Denmark, I did experience moments of frustration, mainly down to my general unfamiliarity with the city. Being someone who doesn’t speak Danish apart from the word ‘Hej’ – hello – remembering street names was a difficult task.

Parts of the city were a bit of a labyrinth, too. This is, of course, mainly a problem for visitors, and there were plenty of times when, seeing my confused looks at road signs, helpful locals asked if I needed help. There is a reason why Denmark is officially the happiest nation in the world.

Danish drivers were very patient with minor cycling indiscretions that would have caused road rage in London. Nothing in the city was hurried, and the main difference I observed from cycling in London is that in Denmark, cycling is an incredibly social way to get around.

I came across many friends and families cycling with one another and this is important for making a mode of transport more appealing.

The country’s wide cycle lanes mean people can ride side by side and despite the overcrowding at times, it is one of the most amazing things to witness.

Cycling and pollution 

It is common knowledge that cycling in polluted air is harmful to people’s health, but does that mean you shouldn’t cycle because of pollution?

If there is a cleaner alternative the answer is yes, but if the alternative is to drive or use bus, cycling is not necessarily the worst alternative.

Cyclists are exposed to pollutants more than car drivers – however studies have shown that the concentration of pollutants at rush hours is substantially larger inside cars than outside.

The reason for this is that cars’ air intake is close to the exhaust of the car in front, so depending on the relative speed and volume of air taken in per minute, cyclists may not be exposed to a higher amount of pollutants over the same distance.

Health benefits

If the thought of experiencing a capital city on two wheels is daunting, Copenhagen will help you conquer your fears, and as the cycling craze intensifies, so do the health benefits.

Cycling may save money and help the environment, but its biggest benefit is for health, and as a low-impact form of exercise, it is easier on the joints than running.

My view of cycling across central Copenhagen

The capital region of Denmark estimates that the city’s high cycling levels save one million fewer sick days per year and regular bike riding contributes to increased cardiovascular health and decreases in stress and obesity.

Visit Denmark 

If cycling is your thing, you would be hard-pressed to find a better-equipped destination than Denmark. With over 12,000km of signposted cycle routes, eye-catching scenery and short distances between amenities, the place is made for pedal-powered travel.

Copenhagen leads the way and the rest of Denmark follows. Cycling networks have allowed cities such as Odense to reinvent themselves as eco-friendly destinations, while Bornholm has made a huge transition from a simple beach escape once, to a place that boasts 150 miles of cycling routes.

Denmark has many cities to visit and cycle from and it is safe and great fun. So get on your bike and pedal away to take a cycling holiday in Denmark because it will be the most enticing thing you will ever try!

Click here to learn more about cycling in Denmark.

‘Food is for fuel, not comfort’

For as long as she can remember, sport and exercise have been key to Rosemarie Uzomba’s life.

Now she is trying to make them similarly important for others too, as having just completed a Sports Science degree, the 23-year-old from Hackney is carving out a career as a personal trainer.

“Trainers need to ensure they stand out from the crowd to gain clients”

“Sport has always played a large part in my life,” she told me. “Some of my fondest memories involve physical activity such as swimming lessons with my father as a toddler, or playing football in the local park with my sisters – one of whom now plays for Leyton FC.”

When it came to her choice of study and subsequent career path, the science aspect was just as important as the sport.

“I believe sport/exercise science is the health degree of the future because across the whole world, obesity is an ongoing and rising issue,” she explained.

“The USA tops the rankings with 30.6% of its population suffering from obesity, but we’re not far behind – the UK has the third highest level, with 23% affected.”

Fiercely competitive

With the personal fitness market in the UK growing rapidly, trainers need to ensure they stand out from the crowd to gain clients. Rosemarie says you need to plan ahead before launching yourself.

“It’s fiercely competitive, especially if you’re a freelancer, so you need to learn how to network to get more clients,” she explained. “You also need knowledge, time, dedication, and to be personable, so people will come to you, rather than someone else.”

“The skills for personal training are also transferable to teaching – motivation, hard work and consistency”

Pricing and knowing your target audience are also key to success – as is building a good personal rapport, to retain clients once you have them.

“An hourly rate that may be reasonable for some customers could be outrageous to others,” she said. “I don’t change ridiculous prices in order for people to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle.

“I try help people change their lives around and listen to their stories whilst transforming physically. Being a PT means you’ve got face to face interaction with people all the time, so you have to learn how to deal with different personalities. Being cheerful and outgoing goes a very long way.”

Motivation

The expertise Rose has acquired in her work as a PT, together with the interpersonal skills she uses every day, help her in another part of her career – working in primary schools.

“Once you turn to food for comfort, that’s when bad eating habits evolve”

“As a PT, I’m teaching and assisting a workout and I’m educating about also nutrition, so it’s a similar task in schools,” she explains. “The skills for personal training are also transferable to teaching – motivation, hard work and consistency.”

A report in the Guardian newspaper found that, according to the Active People Survey, nearly 80% of the UK population fails to hit key national government targets for fitness – performing moderate exercise for 30 minutes at least 12 times a month.

It found that just over 8% of adults capable of walking had not – with the exception of shopping – walked continuously for five minutes within the previous four weeks, while 46% had not walked for leisure for 30 minutes continuously over the same period.

Almost nine out of 10 had not swum and a similar proportion had not used a gym.

Bad habits

The link between exercise and health is obvious – and this is where Rosemarie’s scientific background and knowledge of nutrition come into play. “We need to have a healthier and happier lifestyle,” she explained.

“Exercise regularly and eat food for fuel not for comfort. Once you turn to food for comfort, that’s when bad eating habits evolve.”

Another fact highlighted by the results of the survey is that women are less likely to take part in sport than men. But despite being sports-mad herself, Rosemarie does not think everyone should be made to follow in her active footsteps.

“Sport shouldn’t be forced on people,” she said. “That would devalue the purpose and enjoyment factor sport provides. But with obesity rates for women in the US and UK increasing, the question is – what can be done to make women more interested in working out?”

Photo of Rosemarie Uzomba (right) with Team GB’s Perri Shakes-Drayton courtesy of Rosemarie Uzomba

Q&A with Patrycja Jakubiak

Healthy eating, healthy living, fat content, sugar levels, gluten-free, cooking meals is healthier than buying ready-made ones – we are constantly bombarded with messages about what we eat, but how to make sense of it all?

Elephants Sports spoke with Patrycja Jakubiak, a student from the Department of Food Science at the University of Warmia and Mazury in Poland, for some insight.

What was the beginning of your adventure with cooking?
To be honest there wasn’t a start. I guess my mother instilled in me the desire to cook. Since I can remember I helped out in the kitchen, sometimes we spent the whole day baking cakes or dumplings. I was always very selective when it comes to food, that’s why I had the motivation to cook what I really liked.

As for the second part of your question. I guess you can say that. Honestly, I had a lot of different scenarios in my head, but as the time went on I came to the conclusion it’s not what I was searching for. I really do enjoy gastronomy. This is what makes me happy and at the end of the day that’s what life is about. To do what you really love and enjoy.

People believe gastronomy is simply about cooking…
Gastronomy is the art of preparing and serving food based on culinary expertise. It’s the knowledge about various products, nutritional value, rational preparation of dishes, composing meals, culinary traditions, habits and customs. Completing gastronomy doesn’t mean I will live in the kitchen for the rest of my life. There are a number of options for me. People are simply unware and a bit ignorant of that.

Would you say a passion for cooking is essential?
I admit, you have to be passionate about cuisine, but that’s the way it should be in any discipline. We’re probably going to be doing it for the rest of our lives.

Most people only see the meal on their plate whereas your head is full of information about calories, ingredients and contents. Are you able to eat a meal without overthinking about what it contains?
Oh my, there’s a lot of theory and every day it gets worse. This is the reason I know how to mix every ingredient so the taste is delicious. Who would’ve thought chocolate and blue cheese is one of the best mixtures. We learn inside out what the dish consists of. Thanks to that I’m a conscious consumer. I rarely purchase products without examining the label. I’m not going to purchase pesto just because there’s ‘Tomato Pesto’ written on it, as it might only include 20% of tomatoes and the rest are extras. I’m a strong supporter of preparing food at home.

Results of research by the Nuffield Trust* have shown 70% adults in Great Britain will be overweight by 2034. Is it because of ingredients or ignorance?
The occasional cheeseburger won’t play havoc with our system. We’re all human and we like to eat, but there has to be a limit. We have to wake up a desire to prepare food at home – it doesn’t mean reheating a pizza or getting spaghetti sauce out of a jar. The internet is a mine of knowledge.

Is the typical English Breakfast a lethal mixture?
I wouldn’t say a lethal, but it’s a calorie bomb for sure. The typical English meal dates back to the old days when an English farmer had to eat a hearty breakfast to get him through the day. I took a chance to calculate the nutritional value of such a meal: 1200kcal with 93g of fat. The numbers speak for themselves.

People poison themselves with food that, health-wise, is barely consumable, from frozen pizzas to crisps and sugary snacks. Is it because it’s just convenient?
No one imagines watching a movie with a carrot in one hand and an apple in the other. Ready meals aren’t poisonous, but surely shouldn’t be served to maintain a healthy body weight. I’m talking about an excess of such products. Consumers are fuelling the machine of unhealthy food because they’re are purchasing these products.

Tasteless food is healthy? Would you agree with this statement?
I believe it comes down whether it’s properly cooked and seasoned. A little imagination along with common sense never hurt anyone.

‘Healthy’ food can involved a number of tricks in the form of sugars or other ingredients…
Back in the day, I also thought I could eat a 0% sugar yogurt without any restriction. It’s a common mistake. Sure, it’s 0%, but the amount of sweeteners and glucose syrup is enormous. Just like chocolate, when we see ‘chocolate 0% fat’ we believe there’s nothing wrong with eating the whole packet. Wrong! There’re a great deal of other ingredients, but their names are often unknown to consumers, so the information just gets ignored. That’s marketing for you.

There’s a high demand for ‘healthy’ products…
I think the reason for this is the fact a massive sign with ‘HEALTHY’ written on it is like a red rag to a bull. People follow such marketing tricks blindly believing it will make them healthy. The truth is these products often cost more but sometimes they doesn’t make you healthier. ‘Healthy’ is a lifestyle that has to be constantly worked on.

Along the same lines..Gluten? True or a scam?
Truth and a scam at the same time.

Gluten, gluten-free. Everywhere I look I see gluten…
I’ve read a number of articles and books about gluten, along with listening to a dozens of speeches. Honestly, I don’t know what to make of this. A few years ago ‘one glass of milk a day’ was a must. Now there’s a trend for not consuming gluten. I bet you in a year or two it will be ‘once a week eat at least one cheeseburger’.

What are the three most important nutrients people actually need to pay attention to when choosing food? Is there an ingredient that can be life-threatening?
Proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Adequate number is the key to success. We’re not able to protects ourselves against harmful ingredients. Many of them are naturally presented in products of plant and animal origin. Even honey can include toxic substances if the bees produce the nectar from poisonous plants. Fish can be contaminated by the toxic substances from algae.

Have you encountered a saying ‘There’s no training without a proper diet’?
We have to take into consideration whether someone wants to be a professional athlete or attend the gym once or twice a week. Sport is not exactly my piece of cake, although I’ve noticed that a well-balanced diet and exercise certainly make me feel a lot better.

You’re on a diet yourself! Does it feel like a mission impossible?
It’s not a problem. The beginning is always tough, but in my case it’s not that bad after all. I prepare the meals when I wake up or the evening before. So there’s no motivation in this aspect. I have to say my cuisine is not so bad, so I can live with it!

*Nuffield Trust – The Obesity Epidemic