National fitness day 2018

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On Wednesday 26 September sports enthusiasts and health campaigners across the UK are coming together to promote National Fitness Day, highlighting the role physical activity plays in health and wellbeing.

The day will be officially launched at the City of London Corporation’s Guildhall Courtyard by ballerina and Strictly judge, Dame Darcey Bussell, who will guide hundreds of people through a 7am dance fitness routine. From this venue there will be fitness events throughout the day.

However, it doesn’t stop there, as organisations and business across the country are creating their own local events to champion the role of fitness in health. These include pilates and yoga classes, treadmill challenges, ‘plank offs’, dance-offs, mass walks and high street HIIT classes.

If you hold an event for National Fitness Day, we’d love to know!

After the event, please send in a couple of paragraphs about what you did, along with high-resolution pictures, so we can potentially give you a mention in International Therapist and/or online. Email with ‘National Fitness Day’ in the subject box.

We hope you have a great National Fitness Day!



Dates announced for National Massage Day and Pro-Touch Awareness Month

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It has recently been announced that National Massage Day (NMD) is to be held on 1 October, from 2018 onwards.

Originally hosted by Gill Tree, NMD is now owned by Liz Badger, founder of The Therapist Business Club, who has launched a new Pro-Touch Awareness Month, to coincide with the same start date.

In collaboration with Massage World Magazine, NMD and Pro-Touch Month will be celebrated at the National Massage Championship, which FHT Vice President Mary Dalgleish is helping to judge, on 1 October at Olympia Beauty, London. Free entry tickets to the event are available here.

As hosts of NMD and Pro-Touch Awareness Month, The Therapist Business Club will be gifting the first 100 visitors to each of their collaborator stands – including Massage World Magazine and Holistic Therapist Magazine – one months’ free access to all expert content on their website, plus one month’s access to their Facebook group.

There will also be an on-line platform of information launched on 1 October that will be freely available on The Therapist Business Club website, to help raise awareness of the many therapies that can help to support clients living with a range of conditions. Content will include videos, podcasts, client testimonials, blogs and articles, some of which have been contributed by the FHT.

Finally, a special Facebook group has been launched to celebrate NMD and Pro-Touch Awareness Month. The aim is to build a collective and supportive environment, raise awareness and share experiences that highlight the benefits of hands-on therapies and positive touch.


New UK health secretary supports plans to increase social prescription

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On Friday Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, addressed an audience in Manchester at NHS Expo, supporting plans to dramatically increase social prescription as ‘growing evidence’ suggests that encouraging patients to lead sociable, healthier lives could relieve pressure on the NHS.

Social prescribing – sometimes referred to as community referral – enables primary care professionals to refer people to local, non-clinical services with the aim of improving their health and wellbeing. These non-clinical services can include education and learning, gardening, creative activities, cooking and healthy eating, counselling, mindfulness and complementary therapies.

Dr Michael Dixon, founder of the College of Medicine and a speaker at this year’s FHT Conference in November, welcomes the health secretary’s comments, saying they are a sign that social prescribing is now moving into the mainstream.

Dr Dixon said, ‘For many years, the conventional medical establishment regarded social prescription as something peripheral if not irrelevant. It is remarkable today to see social prescription becoming mainstream and being seen as important part of future health and care as well one of the keys to NHS sustainability.

‘The College of Medicine has been championing social prescription with many of its members and members of council being leading innovators. Dr James Fleming in Burnley created ‘Green Dreams’, while Sir Sam Everington (Vice President, College of Medicine and GP at the Bromley-by-Bow partnership) and I (Senior Partner, Culm Valley Integrated Centre for Health) have been working together for over ten years to develop the concept of working models of social prescription in both practices.’

Social prescription began as a national movement following a meeting arranged by the College of Medicine and University of Westminster in London in January 2016. The National Social Prescribing Network started with 100 people in January 2016 and now has over 2,000 members.

The network leads thinking and research on social prescription nationally and internationally and works closely with NHS England on the implementation of social prescribing in England.

Dr Michael Dixon will be a speaker at the FHT Conference on Thursday 29 November at the King’s Fund in London. In his talk, Dr Dixon will provide an overview of the current health and social care landscape, and discuss the different challenges and opportunities this presents for the successful integration of complementary therapies into mainstream care.

Read more about  social prescribing



Mindfulness improves sleep in fibromyalgia patients

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Researchers at the University of Derby have conducted the first-ever study focusing on exploring the effects of mindfulness for improving sleep in individuals with fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic and debilitating pain condition that affects approximately three percent of adults. In addition to generalised all-over body pain and various cognitive difficulties, sleep problems are a core symptom of the condition.

Although practicing mindfulness has already shown promise in reducing the general symptoms of fibromyalgia, this is the first time its impact on sleep has been specifically studied.

Dr William Van Gordon, from the University’s Centre for Psychological Research, co-conducted the study with colleagues from Spain and Chile. The study was a randomised controlled trial involving 39 middle-aged women diagnosed with fibromyalgia, as the condition has a seven-to-one higher prevalence in women aged 20-50 years old, compared to men of the same age.

Participants were allocated either to an intervention group or a waiting list control group. The intervention involved two-hour weekly group meditation sessions over a period of seven weeks, with training in mindfulness exercises as well as other contemplative techniques. Assessments were taken before, after, and three months following the intervention.

Results showed that compared to the control group, individuals in the mindfulness group demonstrated significant improvements across each sleep-related measure, with the intervention effects maintained at the follow-up assessment:

  • 30 percent improvement in sleep quality
  • 23 percent improvement in subjective insomnia
  • 22 percent improvement in sleep impairment
  • 20 percent improvement in daytime sleepiness

Dr Van Gordon said: “This study shows that meditation can improve the overall sleep quality of people suffering from chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia. The findings are important because poor sleep quality has been shown to intensify pain, fatigue, and social-interaction problems in people suffering from fibromyalgia.

“The study reflects the third randomised controlled trial that I have carried out in the last 18 months, where meditation training has been provided to people with fibromyalgia. Overall, the evidence base for using mindfulness as a means of treating fibromyalgia is starting to look more convincing.”

The full study has been published in Frontiers in Psychiatry.




Turmeric extract could be used to help treat glaucoma


Glaucoma is a common eye condition affecting the optic nerve, where it becomes damaged because fluid builds up in the front part of eye. This increases pressure inside the eye and can lead to loss of vision if it isn’t treated early.

Eye drops containing curcumin, an extract from turmeric, could be used to treat the early stages of glaucoma, according to a new study from UCL and Imperial College London.

By delivering the eye drops containing curcumin directly to the back of the eye, the researchers discovered a reduction in the loss of retinal cells in rats. The loss of these cells is known to be an early sign of glaucoma, and researchers believe that the eye drops could in time become a treatment option for the condition.

The study’s lead author, Professor Francesca Cordeiro (UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, Western Eye Hospital and Imperial College London) says, ‘Curcumin is an exciting compound that has shown promise at detecting and treating the neurodegeneration implicated in numerous eye and brain conditions from glaucoma to Alzheimer’s disease, so being able to administer it easily in eye drops may end up helping millions of people.’



Impact of social media on the young to be examined

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How social media helps or harms children’s mental health is to be examined by leading experts in social geography and mental health from the Universities of Portsmouth and Sheffield.

Professor Liz Twigg, in the Department of Geography at Portsmouth, has been awarded funding from the charity MQ to carry out the first long-term study of thousands of 10-15 year olds.

Funding was awarded against a sharp rise in mental illness among young people in the UK.

The results are expected to give the first indication of the effect of social media on the generation brought up with it, and will be used to give clinicians and mental health workers guidelines in how social media may influence the mental wellbeing of young adolescents.

Professor Twigg said: “Poor mental health among children is on the rise and it’s unclear whether social media is implicated or is helping.

“A snapshot of some children who are suffering mental illness at any one time isn’t enough – we need to be able to see the long-term effects of a lot of factors in children’s lives, including their social media use alongside the degree of their parents’ engagement in their children’s lives, their parents’ mental health, their social and economic circumstances, and details about the neighbourhoods they live in.

“It may be that online friendships are a great help in protecting some children, or that social media communities help some children develop resilience to stresses in their lives.

“It could be some uses of social media undermine children’s well-being or are more damaging for boys than girls, for example – we simply don’t know yet.

“We need a more complex and detailed understanding of the contexts in which social media might provide a level of resilience for young people.”

Existing research shows positive and negative effects of social media use but no research has examined its long-term effect in different types of individual across different types of household and neighbourhood. There is also little research on the early adolescent years (10-15 year olds).

The researchers will use data from Understanding Society, a complex dataset which, from 2009, has gathered on-going details of thousands of young people’s living situations, including their own sense of happiness and their parents’ mental health and socio-economic status.

Professor Twigg hopes that by shining a light on this under-researched group, well designed interventions could make a substantial difference to their long-term mental health.

Her goal is that by 2030 poor mental health among young people will have begun to decline and all key youth mental health workers will understand the complex ways in which social media can influence a young person’s mental health status.

Alongside publishing results in an academic journal, Professor Twigg will work with Professor Scott Weich, a consultant psychiatrist and expert in mental health epidemiology from the School of Health and Related Research at the University of Sheffield, to provide guidelines to doctors, nurses, social workers and others.

According to the funder MQ, three children in every school class have a diagnosable mental health condition.

Professor Twigg has previously used similarly large, complex government data sets to study Britain’s physical, behavioural and social health.

Action for Happiness promotes altruism this August


Action for Happiness hopes to spread selfless goodwill this month, with its ‘Altruistic August’ action calendar.

The movement publishes monthly calendars, offering daily affirmations on the theme of the respective month. ‘Altruistic August’ follows ‘Jump Back July’, ‘Joyful June’, ‘Meaningful May’, ‘Active April’, ‘Mindful March’, ‘Friendly February’ and ‘Happy January.’

Suggestions for this month include the following:

  • Decide to be kind to others (and yourself) every day.
  • Ask someone how they are and really listen to the reply.
  • Show support for a cause that doesn’t affect you directly.
  • When you buy one and get one free, give the extra item away.
  • Sign up to be an organ donor or give blood.

Download the calendar