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9 Tips For Better Sleep Hygiene (Get A Better Night’s Rest!)

9 Tips For Better Sleep Hygiene (Get A Better Night’s Rest!)

What Is Sleep Hygiene? Why Does it Matter?
Sleep hygiene is a series of routines, habits, and behaviors you partake in relation to your sleep. Unknowingly or not, each of us has our own rituals and behaviors which may impact our overall feeling of rest. Things like a 3 pm cup of coffee or sleeping in on the weekend to ‘catch up’ on sleep are examples of undesirable sleep hygiene behaviors.
Sleep hygiene is important because it can either improve or reduce the quality of sleep you are getting. A few simple tweaks can really improve the amount of sleep you are able to get – whether that is 6 hours or 9 hours.


This list is a holistic approach to improving your nighttime habits and is not a simple one-step solution.

1. Learn about your Circadian Rhythm

To fully understand the power and importance of sleep to your health and wellbeing, we must first look at the how the body regulates this process. We can then start to understand why sleep is important and how you can get reap the benefit of sleep by adjusting certain behaviors and routines.


Our bodies have a natural 24hr cycle, we call this internal body clock the Circadian rhythm. The word circadian comes from the Latin word circa diem or about a day. The circadian rhythm is controlled by a structure in the hypothalamus called the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) these neurons serve to regulate and synchronize the circadian rhythms of the body’s tissues using cues from our environment such as light, eating, exercise and social cues. The 24hr circadian rhythm is important in the regulation of gene expression, thermoregulation, memory, learning, alertness and sleep/wake behaviors in each of us.


Our body’s have a natural internal  24hr body clock that regulates many physiological processes to maintain our health. This includes the sleep/wake cycle. We need to be mindful of any disruption to our body clock as it can mean thsat our health can be affected. 

2. Sync your Body Clock

Melatonin is a hormone that is secreted in the Pineal gland. Melatonin is an integral part of the circadian rhythm and modulates the sleep/wake cycle and also has an effect on thermoregulation of the body. Melatonin secretion is modulated by the external light levels. Typically, melatonin shows a higher concentration at night and peaks at around 3-4am.


The development of the 24hr society over the last few decades means that we are disturbing the natural melatonin – circadian rhythm axis. Different wavelengths of light have a different effect on the secretion Melatonin and the onset of the sleep/wake cycle as well as other molecular and gene expressive functions of our cells. Short wavelength visible light that is resent during the day has the effect of suppressing melatonin levels making us more alert. However, during the night, no light is present, leading to the higher concentrations of melatonin, leading to increased Delta and Alpha wave brain activity. Eventually leading to sleep.


The 24hr society and the abundance of artificial light, not to mention the differing shift patterns of some workers provides the conditions for disruption to the Circadian rhythm. Furthermore, research has suggested that our health maybe affected by this disruption, leading to increased risk of disease and mortality.


Artificial light used in our homes may have an effect on our body clock (Circadian Rhythm) potentially disrupting our normal sleep/wake cycle and leaving open the possibility of increased risk of affecting our mental and physical health.

3. Limit your Caffeine Intake

Caffeine is a widely used psychoactive substance that is present in a lot of foods and drinks that we consume. People tend to use caffeine for different reasons; to enhance cognitive performance (say on an exam) to stay awake and prevent sleepiness, taste, enjoyment and many other reasons.

On the other hand, caffeine could also be impairing our ability to get a good night’s sleep that leaves us feeling refreshed and energised. Research suggests that caffeine can reduce the time to fall off to sleep, the duration and the quality of the sleep itself.

Your tolerance and reaction to caffeine vary from person to person. With some people being very sensitive and other not. The pharmacodynamics of Caffeine mean that in conjunction with exposure to artificial light during the night can have a profound effect on the Circadian rhythm, bodily processes and the sleep/wake cycle.

In order to minimise the impact on your quality of sleep and your overall health you could adopt the following new habits to replace the old ones.

Recognise you’re consuming too much caffeine – This includes some foods that are high in caffeine

Switch to Decaf – Switching to decaf is a good way to reduce your caffeine intake without sacrificing taste.

Cut back gradually – Caffeine withdrawal syndrome can cause symptoms such as; headache, fatigue, decreased energy/activeness, decreased alertness, drowsiness, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating and focusing on tasks, feeling irritable and not feeling clear minded.


Caffeine is powerful stimulant that promotes wakefulness and disrupts the natural circadian rhythm if taken in high enough quantities. Also, high caffeine intake can reduce the time to fall to sleep and the quality of the sleep itself. Reducing your caffeine intake can help with the quality and duration of sleep.

4. Be Mindful of the Temperature of the Room

Body temperature for better sleep tips

Core body temperature and the temperature of your surrounding environment plays a part in your ability to fall asleep. Recent research has suggested that the reduced blood to the extremities has a detrimental effect on your ability to fall asleep. Heat loss at the extremities has been suggested to be a benefit to inducing sleep and preventing insomnia.


Have you felt sleepy after a long hot bath? If like most of us the answer is yes, this is because blood has been shunted to the skin and your extremities trying to dissipate the heat. This triggers a physiological cascade that results in sleepiness. Therefore, one of the ways in which you could initiate the sleep cycle is to wear a hat, socks and gloves if your feet and hands are particularly cold.


Core and peripheral body temperature plays a role in inducing sleepiness. Constriction of blood vessels at the end of your limbs plays a part in preventing sleep. If your hands and feet are cold, wearing socks or gloves may help to dilate the blood vessels leading to increased blood flow and helping you fall off to sleep.

5. Move your Body Throughout the Day

pt training course

The research around the impact of physical activity and exercise on sleep quality generally shows that being active and getting recommended 30mins moderate to vigorous activity per day helps to boost the quality of sleep.

There is a complex interaction between exercise and how it positively affects sleep quality and duration. Exercise may induce physiological changes in the body that allow the body to enter into the sleep cycle easier and may have benefits on your ability to have better quality sleep at each stage of the sleep cycle.

There is evidence that suggests that sleep deprivation and poor-quality sleep impair not only your cognitive function but your ability to perform exercise and your body’s ability to repair damaged tissues. There is inclusive evidence of the exercise dose relationship between intensity and type of exercise that illicit sleep improvements.


Being active through the day and having a healthy exercise routine (minimum of 30mins/day moderate to vigorous intensity.) will help you to fall asleep faster and improve the quality of sleep.

6. Write Down a to-do list: Sleep and Anxiety

Anxiety is sometimes a debilitating disorder that can leave people unable to function or go about their daily lives.

The main ‘stress’ hormone that mediates our stress responses is cortisol. It has wide ranging physiological functions in the body to prepare us for a perceived danger. However, prolonged release of cortisol can result in negative psychosomatic effects such as sleep deprivation, depression, weight gain and cardiometabolic dysfunction.  This has the effect of disturbing your circadian rhythm and preventing good quality sleep and can lead to insomnia itself.

If you find it hard to fall asleep at night because your mind is racing with all of the things you need to finish tomorrow, take a minute to jot all of your thoughts down. Having a place to keep all of these thoughts is helpful because you won’t have to stress or worry about forgetting something – all of those thoughts will be waiting for you in the morning!


Use techniques that will help you to unwind before bed. This can include; writing down your fears, reading, steering clear of stressful activities, having a bath, breathing techniques and meditation.

7. Will sleep supplements help you?

Hemp Based Products

Chamomile has been known for its tranquilsing effects for some time. Research has suggested that Chamomile can help you achieve a better quality of sleep compared to a placebo.


Prescribed and even some over the counter medication has been attributed to all sorts of health risks associated with both acute and chronic usage. Research suggests that although the supplements and prescribed medication may help you get off to sleep ok, they may not help you when it comes to the quality of sleep you have. This could indicate that you are not moving through the different stages of sleep as you should or not spending enough time in them. Therefore, the underlying causes of your sleep disturbance needs to be found out in order for you to be able to start to address that problems you are having with sleep.


It is always best that you learn what the root cause of your sleeping issues are. There may be a need for supplements but you should always need to seek medical advise and guidance before you do so. Ask you self ‘why’ you are feeling bad when you wake up and why you cannot fall off to sleep. Start from there before heading down the supplement route.  

8. Aim to fall asleep and wake up at a similar time each night

tips for better sleep

Waking up at a similar time will help strengthen your body’s natural circadian rhythm. Our bodies are designed to rise with the sun and sleep when it goes down – and sleeping in on weekends can throw this rhythm off.

The same goes for falling asleep at a similar time. You will find falling asleep will get easier as your body gets used to its new routine.  

Try to sync your daily routines with your own body clock. When you feel sleepy,  take that as a big hint that your body is telling you that now is the time to sleep. Many native tribes around the world sync their sleep and  wake cycles with daylight and nighttime cycle. As soon as dusk set in, the tribe sleep. As soon as daylight starts to appear, the tribes are awake. Although this is an ideal situation. Many of us are not fortunate enough to follow this pattern. You could takes steps to limit social media use in the nighttime and ensure that the lights are off or dimmed. 


Get into a good routine 

9. Block out all distractions

mental health courses

Try to use curtains or blinds that block out light as much as possible. especially if you live in an urban area like a city or town where there is a lot of light pollution. 

Get a light that you can set to switch on at dawn, this mimics the light from the sun that triggers your wakefulness. 

Some people are very sensitive  to noise during the night. Whilst others would sleep through a thermonuclear detonation next to their head! If you are the former, then make sure you minimise the noise pollution as much as you possibly can


Reduce the external distractions that may affect your sleep pattern. Write down all of the issues that you know distract you from having a good sleep, and systematically go through each of them on your list one by one. 

SFE Academy in collaboration with

10 Top Health & Wellness Trends this 2019

10 Top Health & Wellness Trends this 2019


This year has been a year when most of the world focused on health and wellness in a more holistic manner: both physical and mental wellness. And it is beginning to look like 2019 will be a glorious continuation of what we have been opening our minds up to in 2018. So what can we expect to see in the health and wellness sphere in 2019?

1. Ayurveda

The 5,000-year-old health system, Ayurveda (in Sanskrit means “knowledge of life”) is responsible for a lot of health movements in 2018. Perhaps the most familiar of which would be the ketogenic diet. Ayurveda is an old system of medicine that incorporates plants and animal products, particularly fats. The practice of Ayurveda involves using fats both for consumption, meaning eating fats like ghee, and external use, like oils for the skin. The practice connects both mind and body in bringing about wellness.

2. More Plant Based Alternatives

Plant based diet

2018 has seen the rise of plant based food, a whopping 23% rise in sales. Gone are the days when the choices we had regarding plant based food were TVP and tofu. Now it is beginning to look like there will be a huge movement in the plant based fish sector. Expect your local Whole Foods aisles to have more plant based fish meat choices. The plant based fish movement stemmed from the awareness of people of the negative impact of over fishing has on our environment.

3. More Sleep

More Sleep

A lot of people, students and workers alike, are severely lacking in sleep. In the coming year, we will have a better understanding of our circadian rhythm and the effects of melatonin and cortisol on our sleep patterns. If these two hormones get out of whack, our circadian rhythm will be thrown out of its cycle and our sleep gets messed up.

4. CBD Oil

This year has seen a massive rise in popularity of CBD oil. Despite its being taboo in certain circles, Whole Foods Market’s projection predicts that CBD oil will have an even higher spike in popularity in 2019.


Expect that in the coming year, we will be learning more about the endocannabinoid system or the ECS. This is a major bodily system which compounds like CBD and other cannabinoids interact with. We have seen how CBD oil has helped manage anxiety and we’ve marvelled at its anti-inflammatory and anti-seizure effects. Cannabis might also help with setting our sleep pattern straight. It most certainly helps with keeping a lid on anxiety and stress.

5. Eco - Consciousness


More and more people are becoming aware of global warming and the dire situation the Earth is currently in. Expect that in 2019, the strong rise of the eco-friendly movement will continue. It is predicted that the use of single use plastics and other single use items will see a further decline and the BYOB (bring your own bag) movement will continue to become more popular.

6. Mental Health

Mental health

This year, mental health continues to be given its due importance. People are now realising that in order to be physically healthy, you need to think about your mental health as well. Hemp based products (like CBD oil) has become a more popular alternative to the usual stress medications. It is predicted that 2019 will see the continuation of this mental health trend.

7. Oat Milk

Oat Milk

Is oat milk the new soy? This year, sales have grown by an impressive 45%. Lactose averse people have found a good alternative to dairy and soy milk and the rise of its popularity does not seem to be ending soon. Grab yourself a bottle of oat milk this 2019 because it looks like they will be flying off the shelves still.


8. MCT Oil


Aside from CBD, 2018 brought MCT (medium chain triglycerides) oil into the spotlight. This oil is odourless and colourless and stays liquid at room temperature. Putting MCT oil into your coffee, making it “bulletproof” is a good way of boosting your energy. Expect to see MCT become even more popular in 2019 as more people become aware of its benefits.

9. Body Positivity

Body positivity

Thanks to Rihanna and her Fenty brand, body positivity moved from the fringes to mainstream. Body positivity saw a rise in popularity in 2018 as more and more people focus on loving their bodies instead of shrinking them to fit into the image that society wanted them to look. As more people shift their focus to mental health, this 2019 will see an even bigger rise in the body positivity movement.

10. Hemp Based Products

Hemp Based Products

Aside from CBD oil, hemp based products have found their way into our lives from our beauty products, to our food. With the 2018 Farm Bill already signed into law, hemp based farming will be legal nationwide. Expect that in 2019, there will be more choices in hemp based products.

This article first appeared on

Popular Weight Loss Supplements Reviewed

Popular Weight Loss Supplements Reviewed

As we train the next generation of of fitness professionals at SFE Academy, we often get emails sent to us with questions posed to us like “how to lose weight fast without exercise” or “how to lose weight fast in 2 weeks”.


Our reply is always “A balanced diet with plenty of exercise” you need to get the energy balance equation on your side.


The supplement industry is big business, we wanted to scientifically analyse the most popular weight loss or weight gain supplements out there to see if the evidence matched the claim…

Garcinia Cambogia

What is it?

Garcinia gummi -gutta is also more commonly known as Gacinia cambogia. A fruit that has a similar shape to a pumpkin but is much smaller and green or yellow in colour. It is widely used in cooking and the fruit is a native of Indonesia.

The claim: 

It can help weight loss.

How it works: 

(-) – hydroxycitric acid (HCA) is a compound that can be found in Garcinia cambogia and is a derivative of citric acid. Research suggests that (-) – hydroxycitric acid (HCA) inhibits the activity f the enzyme adenosine triphosphatase citrate lyase which plays a role in the synthesis of fatty acids in the body. Furthermore, Garcina cambogia is said to increase serotonin release in the brain leading to suppression of appetite.

What does the evidence say?

One study shows that Garcinia cambogia supplementation led to a small reduction in weight of about 2lbs in a period of between 2-12 weeks compared to the placebo control group.  (1, 234567, 8, 9, 10 )


Studies also suggest that Garcinia cambogia supplementation has no statistically significant effect on weight loss. A large study to examine the effect of taking Garcinia cambogia suggest no effect on weight loss at all; (11, 12)


Some studies have shown weight loss through Garcinia cambogia supplementation and other have not. The current optimal does levels are currently unknown. One study has suggested a link between supplementation and a reduction in belly fat.


What is it?

Pyruvate is a 3-carbon intermediate molecule produced in the last step of anaerobic glycolysis.

The claim: Increased energy and weight loss

How it works:

One of the end products of anaerobic glycolysis that takes place in the cell and responsible for part of our energy production systems carries carbon atoms into the mitochondria for the Krebs cycle and is also responsible for the production of acetyl co-enzyme A (acetyl-CoA). The current theory for supplementation is that by having more pyruvate available for the mitochondria, you are increasing its energy production capacity. There, increasing metabolic rate and acting as a fat burner.

What does the evidence say?

Studies have suggested that pyruvate supplementation does not have any effect of fat loss (16,) one study showed a decrease in body weight and fat mass. However, this result should be interpreted carefully as the study group also participated in a vigorous exercise program along with pyruvate supplementation, so it could be that increased exercise regime that is producing the weight loss. (13, 14, 15, 171819)


Pyruvate supplementation does not show any effect on reducing fat mass or promoting weight loss. Nor is there any evidence that total cholesterol, blood pressure, training volume or muscular power out are affected in any way by

Green Tea

What is it?

Green tea is made from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant. The difference between Green tea and normal black tea is that the green tea leaves have not been processed.

The claim: Reduces body fat helps weight loss

How it works

Green tea contains many antioxidants. One such molecule called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) this has an affect on adipogenesis (fat cell production) and lipolysis (fat burning)

What does the evidence say?

Studies do suggest that Green Tea does increase fat burning and promote fat loss over the long term (12 weeks or more) however, caffeine contained within the Green tea may also play a role in fat loss too. Caffeine sensitive people should avoid excessive caffeine consumption. (20, 212223 )



Green tea can increase fat burning. People with a caffeine sensitivity should be aware of the risks of a high caffeine intake.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)

What is it?

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a fatty acid derived from linoleic acid. Linoleic acid is found in many dairy, animal products and oils.

The claim: Increases fat loss and weight loss

How it works

Thought to have a role in energy production, fat burning, inflammation and fat production.

What does the evidence say?

In short, the results are mixed. Some studies in obese populations suggests that CLA is effective at decreasing body fat mass where as other studies suggest that it s not effective at helping to reduce body fat mass in healthy populations (people not classified as obese) Continued and long term consumption of CLA has been attributed to fatty liver, digestive problems and insulin resistance.   (24, 25, 26, 27)

weight gain.


Will only produce modest fat loss in some people and can be dangerous in the long term. Taking CLA long term does not prevent weight gain.


What is it?

Found in the plant Coleus forskohlii.

The claim: Promotes weight loss

How it works

Forskolin increases levels of Cyclic AMP (cAMP) in cells which could stimulate fat burning (28, 29)

What does the evidence say?

One study suggests that Forskolin resulted in a decrease in body fat percentage, body fat and it also showed an increase in bone density. However, the same study also saw a rise in testosterone levels amongst the obese men and women tested. Testosterone has a well-documented fat burning effect as well as muscle and bone building properties. This could have accounted for the fat loss seen.



No clear evidence of Forskolin as a fat burner.

Bitter Orange / Synephrine

What is it?

The real name for bitter orange is ‘Citrus aurantium’ and contains the active molecule p-synephrine.

The claim: Weight loss, appetite control, increased energy


How it works

p-synephrine is similar to ephedrine which is a stimulant but does not affect the cardiovascular system in the same way as ephedrine or norepinephrine. (30) p-synephrine/bitter orange is reported to also increase your metabolic rate.

What does the evidence say?

One study looking at the effects of bitter orange on weight loss and mood suggest that the 20 overweight men and women in the study did lose small amounts of weight, but they were also taking caffeine with the biter orange extract pills. This could have attributed to the weight loss seen as caffeine can have potent fat burning effects. There was an increase metabolism for all the men and women in the study. (31)



There is too little evidence for its fat burning properties to say that it is likely to lead to weight loss. More evidence is needed to conclude its effectiveness either way.

Raspberry Ketones

What is it?

Raspberry ketones are found in raspberries, cranberries and blackberries.

The claim: Helps you lose weight

How it works

The Raspberry ketones have been shown to down regulate some of proteins essential for fat production, storage and fat burning.

What does the evidence say?

The studies on humans are limited. However, some of the studies on rats show that the raspberry ketones do produce a fat burning effect.


No evidence that raspberry ketones have any effect on fat burning or weight loss. (32)

Further Education: Driven by Targets or Target Driven?

Further Education: Driven by Targets or Target Driven?

Further Education & Training: Driven by Targets or Target Driven?


The UK spending review 2010 was the first act in a then new conservative/Liberal democrat coalition to redress the fiscal deficit accrued due to the banking crash of 2008 and the unsustainable overspending by the New Labour government (HM Treasury:2010) expenditure for FE was reduced to 2007 levels using the vehicle of accountability, fairness and the drive to increase standards not only in the education sector but across all government departments (Browne review: 2010; HM Treasury: 2010) 


The spending review 2010 brought about  strategic and structural changes to the FE sector that had the explicit aim to increase achievement and overall standards in the sector by continuing and even accelerating the market reforms of education ( Skills funding agency:2011) as direct consequence of the funding cuts and the ideological realignment of the sector to a more progressive reform agenda (Osbourne: 2009) funding initiatives such as funding for ESOL and the education maintenance allowance (EMA) has been abolished, the funding formula for colleges has been altered and the train to gain scheme has been rebranded as the small to medium enterprise apprenticeship. The balance of power is being purposely decentralised in favour of the institution. (Beck: 2008; Watters: 2007) 


The question of the effects of the policy of cuts to FE sector must have a multidimensional answer due to its wide-ranging effects. The cuts by themselves should not be analysed on its own merit, the ideological undercurrent must be examined too in order to ascertain how the cuts are likely to impact the organisational structure of the institution, the professional identity of the teacher and how they fit in with the new fiscal realities and ideological shifts. Not least, the moral and ethical impacts of the new funding realities on the learner, local communities and the wider economy. 



The Beginning: The Spending Review


Research examining the effects of the spending review on the FE sector is scarce. A reason for this finding could be due to the short amount of time between the spending review, and the implementation of the policy. This could indicate that sufficient time has not elapsed to fully elucidate the effects of the funding cuts.  An increasing amount of research has focused on the modernisation and adoption of marketisation of the education system in an era of reduced funding . Steer et al: 2007 examines the use of funding as a mechanism to “steer ” educational policy to meet the government’s own ends. With funding not being available to the institution should their aims not meet the governments aims. Their research seeks to unpick the effect of policy steering on the institution and adequately ties this in with the adoption of modernisation in the FE sector. They go on to suggest that institutions that fall in line with their policy receive the highest funding and an “arm’s length” approach to governance. This would seem to be at odds with the idea and ideals of a neo liberalist educational policy and therein lay the tensions between funding, the institution and the state.  Steer et al: 2007 has suggested that funding of FE is dependent on compliance with a policy set by the state in order to garner the desired funding with the added carrot of an arm’s length regulatory system upon compliance. However, Bonal:2003 tries to make the connection between the external economic and global position of the UK and the competitive market forces that govern the UK’s and other countries relationship to the transformation of what Bonal calls the “internal educational market”. Bonal states that a contradiction exists or has existed where the country as a whole takes part in neoliberal market and that quite often the internal structures i.e educational policy and other departments lag behind in reform that would match the external economic environment.


The Impact of the Financial Crash on Further Education


As the age of austerity bites and bites hard on the UK the traditional form of social welfare system and current funding arrangements will come up against a buffer of realism that could force reform to accommodate the decreased fiscal clout of the UK (Bonal:2003)The research by Bonal:2003 does document accurately how changes in the global picture affect education policy which translates into the distribution of resources and funds available for education. Bonal’s work does not comment on the effect of politic on educational policy or the realities of underfunding or the effect of half committed market reform changes which closely reflects the reality in the UK. The FE sector exists in a funding reform halfway house with certain commentators espousing free market reform (Osbourne:2009) whilst the realities are that funding policies are “steered” from  the top down with the institution expected to invoke market reform from the down up and therein lies the conflict and confusion surrounding FE funding. 


Other commentators seem to increasingly link the funding of the FE sector with the flow of market reforms from one government and ideology to the next (Stoten:2011; Avis:2009; Steer et al:2007) therefore it would be prudent to examine the ideological currents in order to measure the policy shifts in educational funding as they seem to be inextricably linked.  



What about the Front line?


The front line - Further education reform

This paper takes the frontline to mean the level of the teacher and learner. And what about the teacher and learner? Within the maelstrom that is FE funding sits the teacher and learner or the frontline. Just how are the cuts in funding from the review effecting them? Researchers such as Coffield et al:2007 have examined the effect of funding determined parameters such as achievement and retention and how the fits in with the financial priorities of the institution, the demands of the policy, lack of resources and their duties to the learner. Stoten et al:(2011) and Edward et al: (2007) examine this very concept.


Both Stoten and Edward’s work, whilst providing some insights into a teachers changing pedagogy along with the changing relationships between teachers and the managers within an institution as a result of funding initiatives. However, the research by Stoten et al: (2011) did not have a large enough sample size for it to  be truly representative of the views across the FE sector. Furthermore,  Stoten et al  had only examined a sample size of seven further education establishments who were chosen based on available demographic data that were to represent a cross section of society.


An argument can be made that demographic data may not be the best selection criteria to analyse the effects of funding policies on the  organisational structure and a teachers professional identity (Forrest et al:2004) Forrest et al: (2004) suggest that there could be differences in the organisational structure of an institution regardless of its demographics. This would suggest that Stoten et al: (2011) would either need to increase the sample size to include many more institutions or change the process of selecting the institutions. By using this method the relationship between; funding and organisational structure, funding and demographics and also funding and policy initiatives can be ascertained and elucidated at a greater statistical significance. 


Target Driven Funding: The Right Approach?


The link between the funding of the FE sector and the means by which it is delivered has been established (targets, retention, achievement) (Finlay:2007) so too has the link between funding and reform. To begin to fully understand the how the funding cuts to the FE sector are affecting their organisational structures and also the frontline, it would be beneficial to begin with an historical overview that has led to the spending review 2010. 


Reform in Further Education


The education reform act: 1988 was essentially the starting point for the transformation of both the compulsory and FE sectors in England (Strain et al: 2008) It sets out a blue print for the decentralisation of power from the state to the institutions giving them much more responsibility for their own budgets and curriculum’s. The education reform act was derived from the 1977 education green paper that attempted to raise the standards in education (Education reform act: 1988) The act attempted to get the FE sector to create links with local businesses. A comment can be made that  the education reform act and the further and higher education reform act (1992) were the starting guns for the decentralisation and the introduction of new public management reforms to the FE sector that will affect how it is funded. 


How Government Targets for the Sector are Set


Both the education reform act (1988) and the further and higher education reform act (1992) state that the secretary of state sets the national targets for the FE sector. Here in lies the seed of the problem that is being currently felt due to spending review facilitated cuts. The FE sector has a funding formula that is set through achievement and retention rates (Finlay:2007) The reform acts seeks to decentralise power and at the same time centralise power.  

In essence colleges have the illusion of increased competition and a more student led funding arrangement through market reforms but the state sets the targets and therefore allocation of funds. This is the mirror opposite of what a neoliberalist new public management agenda should be (Thorsen et al: 2010) There is scope for the political elite to use targets for their own political ends and therefore play politic with FE through the funding mechanisms. This relationship does not occur in any other free market sector. It would seem that full market reform of the FE sector with the sector fully responsible for their own targets was and is a risky political gamble too far.  


As early as 2009 the then shadow chancellor of the exchequer George Osbourne set out his policy in a speech articulating his educational reforms in a time of austerity. In retrospect his speech was a harbinger of the scale of cuts to come.  


In light of the spending review, what has the effect been on the frontline? In a word, the teachers at the sharp end of the cuts have been forced to reassess their priorities (Coffield et al: 2007) Popham et al: 2001 suggested that teaching to the test was a prevalent feature of the education system even at a time of relative economic prosperity. This is a symptom of the targets driven funding system. One could extrapolate those findings into today’s educational climate and deduce that the cuts could cause teachers in the FE sector to teach to the test in order to meet the financial constraints placed upon them. This can pose a moral dilemma for the teacher: a choice between doing the right thing for the student and developing their potential  against the reality that if they do not “teach to the test” their very institution and even job could be at risk.  


The Problem and the Solution


The FE funding formula comprises of four main targets that dictate the allocation of funds; The number of students, business or employer engagement, achievement/success rates and the frequency of teachers with the relevant teaching qualification (Learning and skills council:2002; cited in Steer et al:2007) 


An unintended consequence of the targets could be that colleges feel under pressure to enter students onto additional qualifications in order to increase the level of funding that they received (Leney et al: 1998; Cited in Steer et al: 2007) The policy of fiscal austerity in FE could lead to an increased incidence of this occurring. However, can the institutions be blamed for taking this approach to their own funding? In short, the answer is no. The centralised nature of “funding for targets” leaves scant room for the real issue of FE and that is the student learning experience.  


The spending review: 2010 also has an impact on the organisational structure of an institution (Steer et al: 2007; Coffield et al: 2007; Watters: 2007) The new  public management reforms in the FE sector has led to the a sea change in the leadership and organisational structure. Principals and line managers are now responsible for the interpretation and implementation of government policy (Steer et al: 2007) The spending review preceded the Browne review: 2010. The Browne review realigns the state – institution relationship by redefining the funding arrangements for FE again.  


There is a significant sum that is not being collected from students or employers for the cost of their qualification. (Browne review: 2010) the review goes on to suggest that FE and skills be paid for on an equal basis between the state, learner and employers. Funding for a level three qualification for students 24 and over has been abolished. Similarly, funding for the first level 2 qualification has also been abolished  (IFL: 2012) This runs counter to the aims of increasing skills in the UK for economic benefit and social mobility.  


The Wider Societal and Philosophical Impact of Policy


By abolishing the provision for a free first level 2 & 3 qualification could lead to those in society from a lower socio- economic background  missing out on an opportunity to gain skills and increase their chances of employment (IFL:2012) At first it makes little sense to abolish a fund for those at the fringes of society that will help them to gain employment. However, after considered judgement the policy could be right. By offering everyone a chance to access free first level 2 and 3 qualifications over the age of 24yrs, there seems to be a cast the net as wide as possible approach to increase skill levels, in the post spending review order of less funds to colleges. the idea of targeting and offering everyone, regardless of financial status the chance of a free qualification does not make financial sense and blows against the prevailing neoliberal marketisation wind of the conservative/ liberal democrat coalitions doctrine of progressive reform and fairness. By targeting scarce resources to those who need it based on means tested data makes for good financial sense. That way the objective of targeting those in with a lower socio-economic status will be met.  


A consequence of what is termed co-investment (increasing student and employer financial contribution) is that colleges will be increasingly responsible for collection of funds from students and employers. Further decreases in funds to an institution will result, should the amount of funds collected not correlate with expected income.  


The effect on the teacher could be to further erode their professionalism by asking them to have a dual role of debt collector and educator. What should happen to the student(s) if funds are not collected from them? Does the teacher have to exclude them from class? This crosses ethical and moral boundaries as the aim of the teacher should be to enable the student to reach their full potential and not erect boundaries to their participation. Similarly, if employers are foot dragging in paying the costs of tuition for their employee’s which then results in litigation, this could cost the institution from both the litigation itself and the penalties imposed from the skills funding agency and the education funding agency (The skills funding agency and further education funding 10th report:2010)   


Cause and Effect


The spending review has meant that funds for ESOL and the EMA have been abolished to be replaced by a learner funded arrangement in the ESOL case and an enhanced discretionary support fund in place of the EMA (Exley:2011)  


The commentary surrounding their abolition has been vociferous and represented as an attack on the most vulnerable in society even to go as far as saying that the abolition of the ESOL will affect UK wide immigrant integration (Exley: 2011) However, research by Maguire: 2008 examines the efficacy of the EMA and comes to different conclusions as to its effect if it were abolished. 


The comment by Exley: 2011 supporting the argument that the ESOL and EMA removal will be detrimental to inclusivity and participation is a valid comment. However, there is no comment on the effect on teachers of ESOL and the institutions themselves. 


In areas with a high immigrant demographic, colleges that rely on the funds from ESOL students will be at a greater financial disadvantage to those colleges situated in a different catchment with a different demographic. Those colleges with a high ESOL provision will be forced to cut back in other departments or make staff redundancies in order to balance the books. 


However, Research by Maguire: (2008) suggests that retention rates were increased after the introduction of the EMA but that was due to a condition of the learning agreement for the payment to take place. Furthermore, Maguire: (2008) went on to suggest that the decision to go to college did not hinge on the receipt of the EMA. If Maguire’s findings are correct then this would translate to no change in student enrolment, subsequently no loss of funds for the institution. 



The Path Forward


In summary, the spending review of 2010 has posed some difficult and awkward questions for further education institutions and learners alike. The state is realigning the relationship between the state,  learner and the employer onto a more equal footing.  


The role of the new market reforms in the spending review has blurred the role of the teacher. Should the teacher teach to the states agenda to guarantee funding or should the teacher teach to realise a student’s full potential? A happy medium must coexist with one eye on financial survival and the other eye on the learning experience. 


Perhaps we could take solace in the following statement: 

“We have got them (students) to that point where they believe in themselves



This would suggest that despite the funding initiatives and pressures on institutions, the main focus is always the student. 


Exercise & Cancer: The Protective Effect of Exercise

Exercise & Cancer: The Protective Effect of Exercise

The Benefits of Exercise


We all know someone who has been through the traumatic and sadly often fatal ordeal of a cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment. The UK has made strides to inform the population to the common risk factors for cancer and the benefits of exercise. They roll off the top of your head as easily as your home address or your number. However, we also choose to ignore the advice that successive government health campaigns and even the education system itself has taught us over the years.


This article aims to elucidate the effects of exercise on cancer genesis and progression.


Exercise, Cancer and the Immune System

Exercise has profoundly positive effect on our immune system and the effect is almost instantaneous. The immune system is our body’s way of fighting off foreign cells such as viruses or bacteria, it plays a part in inflammation and importantly it also has a role in tumour suppression and prevention.


The evidence for the role of exercise on the immune response was first discovered in 1893. It first described how leukocytes (white cells)  increased in the bloodstream during physical exertion. The link between exercise and activation of the immune system had now been observed.


The focus of recent studies in the field has been on a specific type of white blood cell (WBC) called a ‘natural Killer’ cell (NK cell) NK cells are produced in the bone marrow from CD34+ precursor cells and are part of the innate immune system and respond rapidly to threats in the body. NK cells are stored in the spleen and the vascular bed and during exercise, both of these organs have their blood flow increased significantly, and also increases their numbers in circulatory system.


NK cells have a ‘natural’ ability to seek and destroy premalignant and malignant cells without the need to first be exposed to the cell in order to develop a defence (adaptive immunity) However, they do play a major part in training the adaptive immune system.  


Exercise and cancer - Immune system activation during exercise

Credit: Trends in Molecular Medicine.

How NK cells are recruited during Exercise

Research has suggested that NK recruitment into the bloodstream can increase six fold in as little as 70 seconds of physical activity. Whereas, other studies have shown that NK increases in the bloodstream can be produced within minutes of exercise taking place. This is also in agreement with other studies that have investigated the role of exercise and white cells.  However, following 30mins of endurance exercise, NK cell numbers did not increase. The general consensus in the literature is that the exercise intensity to elicit an increase in NK numbers must be sufficient for an increased heart rate and breathlessness to occur. Moderate to high intensity endurance and resistance type activities. However, exercise beyond 3 hours results in a decrease in circulating NK cells.


Research supports evidence for the benefits of exercise that we can all relate to. Overtraining can cause harm and lead to opportunistic infections that would have otherwise been dealt with by the immune system.  A possible example of this is the middle distance runner Sebastian Coe and the American sprinter Carl Lewis. Two such examples of how over training may have been detrimental to success. Seb Coe failed to qualify for the 1988 Seoul Olympics due to a respiratory illness whilst Carl Lewis failed to qualify for the 1992 Olympic 100m due to an infection. While the evidence linking over training to their respective failure to qualify is not sufficient for a definitive answer. The circumstantial evidence would certainly point in that direction.


What are the anti tumour Properties of NK cells and how is it affected by Exercise

The two different subtypes of NK cells that are activated during and post exercise are known as CD56dim and CD16+ compared to all other NK cell subtypes. CD56dim and CD16+ cells are more cytotoxic (cell destroying) than other subtypes which are said to be more cytokine (molecular signalling) producing NK cells.


Cytokines are the messengers of the immune system. They are produced in certain WBC’s in order to ‘communicate’ or signal other cells of the immune system. Exercise releases myokines from the muscle fibres into the circulation. Myokines are proteins released by the muscle during contractions. The myokines are signalling molecules that activate the NK cells. Interleukin 6, 7 and 15 (IL 6, IL7 & IL15) have been seen to play a role in NK cell activation during exercise. Furthermore, epinephrine release pre and during exercise is also thought to recruit NK cells into the circulatory system.

Exercise and cancer

Cytokine Map: This image shows you the different cytokines and their functions.

The role of exercise intensity, mode and duration of exercise and the various signalling pathways that activate the tumour fighting NK cells is now a bit more transparent. This could help fitness professionals to widen the scope of exercise.   

Ageing, Cancer and the role of Exercise

The increasing body of research that has examined the  effects of exercise and aging on cancer and the immune system. The general consensus is that exercise still has the same positive effect on reducing the risk of malignancies developing.

The ageing process is a complex topic involving many different variables that all contribute to the process. However, in essence, the ageing process can be thought of as an accumulation of cellular damage over time. This can be from free radical exposure and oxidative stress on  cells leading to in effect cellular exhaustion. Therefore, leading to cellular dysfunction. However, the already established immediate responses of NK cells to exercise is supported by research that also suggests that elderly populations who undergo a 12 week aerobic and resistance training programme display increased antigen expression on monocytes (immune cell), decreased inflammation and inhibit a tumour promoting environment whilst promoting a tumour suppressive one.


Does Exercise Confer and Benefits for Patients with Malignancies?


There are studies that explore the immune response to exercise in people who have been diagnosed with cancer.  The findings are in agreement with research looking into non cancer patients. The same NK cell response is seen in healthy populations and in control groups or people with malignancies. However, there is still a great deal to be done to find out if the immune response seen in both populations has any beneficial effect on clinical outcomes.


Exercise, Metabolism and Tumour Physiology


Exercise has a profound effect on blood flow around the body. Blood flow is shunted from some organs and redirected to the working muscles during exercise. The redirection of blood flow is to adequate supply the working muscles with oxygen and remove the waste products produced from cellular respiration.


Tumours exhibit hypoxia like conditions due to metabolic and blood vessel abnormalities that mean that oxygen delivery is impaired making the tumour rely on the glycolysis energy pathway for the tumour cells energy needs instead of the oxidative phosphorylation pathway. This is termed the ‘Warburg effect’


Exercise is also responsible for activating HIF1ɑ which also enables up regulation of pro-erythrocyte proteins and proteins that promote angiogenesis (increase in vasculature) Several studies have suggested an increase in intratumoral (within tumour) perfusion rate (blood flow) The increase in tumour blood flow sounds counter intuitive and far from being a benefit. However, if blood flow to the tumour is stabilised, would it mean that the tumour will have an increased nutrient supply? Therefore, promoting tumour growth? The counterargument to this is as follows; If the intratumoral vascular network is stabilised, this would increase oxygen supply bringing the tumour to normoxic (normal oxygen levels) conditions, altering tumour metabolism and up regulating  AMPK and reducing tumour growth.  Furthermore, increased intratumoral blood flow also increases Immune cell infiltration and allows easier access for exogenous chemotherapy drugs conferring a possible survival advantage for the patient.



Tumour VS Normal Vasculature - Exercise and cancer

Credit: Research Gate.Net


Caution must be ascribed when interpreting the effect of exercise on tumour metabolism. There are many other factors and genetic mutations affecting metabolism and tumorigenesis where exercise may or may not have an effect upon. There is still much more research to be done on human models.


Mode of Exercise


Interestingly, there is an increasing body of research that examines the mode of exercise and its effects on cancer risk. Research has  suggested that moderate to vigorous exercise lowered the risk of a range of cancers including; colon (23%), breast (12%), renal (12%), prostate (10%), pancreatic, gastroesophageal (18%) and ovarian (11%).


Mode of Exercise - Frequency, Intensity, Time & Type of Exercise


Studies using rodent models of cancer have used various types, duration, distances and intensities of exercise. The researchers postulated a dose dependent relationship between exercise and tumorigenesis. However, they did conclude that more research needs to be done to determine the exercise dose.


Why fitness professionals now need to listen and adapt


We can see why the UK government recommends that the adult population  needs at least 30 mins of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day. The benefits of exercise are clear. Moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise and resistance training has been shown to have a positive effect on the prevention of cancer. Cancer patients could also benefit from exercise in combination with other treatments such as surgery, chemo and radiotherapy.


For those of us who are lucky enough not to have suffered cancer, a balanced, healthy diet with plenty of exercise will reduce your overall risk of developing cancer. Increased activation of the immune system. Increased exercise induced vascularisation, altered tumour metabolism and more.


The Future of Fitness


Current fitness and exercise qualifications only make reference to the benefits of exercise and its cancer prevention properties. There is little to no explanation of why this is so. This can be  detrimental to the overall task of educating a populace to enable them to prevent the onset of this dreadful disease.

As certain as one can be, current fitness professionals may not possess the knowledge to effectively train a cancer patient. (or a one in remission) Given that cancer will affect at least 50% of the population, the notion that fitness professionals do not have this skill set is alarming.

The way forward is for qualification awarding bodies to revamp their qualifications to include much more content on training different populations other than stereotypes of clients who ‘just wants to get bigger’ or ‘lose weight’. A reality of towns and cities across the UK is that people have all sorts of ailments and idiosyncrasies. The time for catering for a select few is now over as reality catches up with rigid qualification structures, content and teaching practices.


This is where SFE Academy is different, the courses we offer have been ‘reality checked’ meaning that we have put the course through quality checks to make sure that what we teach you is relevant to the people you are likely to encounter.


We work closely with industry partners to make sure that once qualified, you are ready for the fitness industry. .

Gene doping – How editing our genes for performance may be about to become mainstream

Gene doping – How editing our genes for performance may be about to become mainstream

Gene Doping



What is Gene Doping?


Gene doping is the use of DNA to alter how a gene works. It involves injecting new DNA into the body directly for the sole purpose of enhancing performance of an athlete.  The world anti-doping agency (WADA) is the international organisation tasked with ensuring sport is free from doping. Its core vision is “A world where all athletes can compete in a doping-free sporting environment.”   


WADA has undergone its fair share of criticism of late. The uncovering of systemic doping by athletes of the Russian federation in collusion with the authorities and the unsubstantiated counter claims made by them against other nations has sown discord and doubt in the public mind’s eye about the effectiveness of the international governing body that is supposed to prevent these kinds of abuses. Is a higher game afoot? A kind of 3D chess among competing geopolitical interests, although using the syringe as a chess piece? This article aims to examine the new frontier in performance enhancement, its leaps, its bounds and how we all might have to face its consequences.  


A brief history of gene technology and how we got to gene doping 


The Human Genome project (HGP) was an international research project to map all of the genes in all Human beings. The HGP project completed the sequencing of all Human genes. The circa 25,500 genes that form the hereditary blueprint for all Humans is now used across the world in research laboratories to try and understand how the genes are expressed. The HGP has had direct and indirect influences in fields as diverse as forensics, agriculture, molecular medicine, microbial genomics, and archaeology and now it seems sport too.  


Key Dates in the development of gene therapy and editing. 


To understand the role of gene doping in sport and exercise it is necessary to have an overview of the current state of gene technology and from the starting point of the HGP. These are some of the key developments in this field.  


  • 2005 – Gene therapy approved and used for the first time by scientists in Japan. In this case, the P53 gene had been delivered to a patient with squamous cell head and neck cancer.  



  • 2006 – Development of genetically engineered lymphocytes shows promise as a cancer treatment.  


  • 2011 – Successful use of gene therapy to treat haemophilia in mice.  


  • 2013Studies into the efficacy of using transcription activator like effector nuclease (TALENS) to correct an inherited skin disorder Epidermolysis Bullosa 


  • 2015 – Results from a phase 2 trial using Zinc finger nuclease to modify CD4 and CD8 cells to treat HIV patients.  





How Gene Expression is Regulated


There are two main ways that genes are regulated; control of transcription (DNA converted into its complimentary RNA code – think of a coat zip being undone) and translation (messenger RNA (mRNA) is used to make amino acids that make up proteins in your body) and changes in the structure of DNA.  Your DNA is a blueprint for the production of proteins which make up you. The blueprint is made up of four different bases; Adenine (A), Cytosine (C), Thymine (T) and Guanine (G). In RNA, Thymine is replaced with Uracil (U). The bases link up with specific bases to form base pairs; A&T, C&G 


Mutations are ways that the DNA can be altered and in some cases the alteration of DNA has effects on the way a protein is made and the gene is expressed.  One example of this is a point mutation.  Mutations to individual bases can be introduced by either substituting a base with another base or when a base pair is either substituted or deleted. Furthermore, an example of a point mutation is Tay- Sachs disease, Cystic fibrosis and Sickle cell anaemia 


There are a number of ways in which gene doping can potentially enhance performance. The up-regulation of some cellular functions in certain organs and tissues that lead to enhancing the capacity of the tissue or organ to deliver increased performance.  There are a number of candidate genes that if tweaked, could lead to performance enhancements.  


Endurance – Red Blood Cell Production  


Red blood cells (erythrocytes) are cells responsible for the transport of oxygen from the lungs to the cell and carbon dioxide from the cell to the lungs. It is easy to see why this would be a target for genetic manipulation for the purposes of performance enhancement. Erythropoietin is a hormone responsible for the production and maturation of erythrocytes.


Gene doping - Altering EPO to increase erythrocyte production

Credit: Human Genome Research Institute

90% of EPO is produced in the kidneys whilst the remaining 10% produced in the Liver.  Furthermore, the production of erythrocytes is regulated by the concentration of oxygen circulating in the body. In normal oxygen concentration conditions (normoxia) of the body, the activation of hypoxia-inducible transcription factor 1 alpha (HIF1α) is curtailed. As a result, the production of red blood cells in the body ameliorated. However, in conditions where oxygen levels are low (hypoxia) HIF1α binds to the Erythropoietin (EPO) gene leading to the gene being up-regulated which leads to increased levels of EPO. Therefore, the production of erythrocytes will increase as will the haemoglobin and haematocrit levels.Furthermore, this leads to an increase oxygen and carbon dioxide carrying capacity of the body. Ergo… increased performance.  


Muscle Strength and Endurance – Insulin like Growth Factor type 1 (IGF1)


IGF1 is produced in the liver and is controlled by growth hormone. The release of IGF1 stimulated by sleep, low blood glucose levels, hypoglycemia, high intensity exercise and low levels of IGF1 itself. This in turn stimulates the pituitary gland to release growth hormone which then releases IGF1.  


IGF1 has a role in muscle building (hypertrophy) this leads to increases in muscle power. Therefore, performance. It has been postulated that copies of the IGF1 gene could be inserted into muscle cells to cause hypertrophy. This could be valuable for strength and power events such as weightlifting and sprinting.  


Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) & Fibroblast Growth Factor (FGF) 


Oxygen, carbon dioxide, nutrients and metabolic waste are all delivered or extricated by the vascular system. The body has a series of vessels connected to all organs and tissues for this purpose. Also, VEGF promotes the growth of the existing vasculature in a process termed angiogenesis. Whereas, FGF has a role in angiogenesis and tissues repair. The idea is that when copies of the gene coding for VEGF or FGF are introduced into muscle, this then will have the effect of promoting angiogenesis and increase muscles blood supply as a result.  


The role in sports performance is that a greater vascular micro structure results in increased oxygen deliver to the muscles and greater energy production for exercise.  


Gene doping and VEGF expression

The Vascular System.

Alpha Actinin 3


Alpha Actinin 3 (ACTN3) is postulated to play a role in fast twitch muscle contractions. This type of muscle fiber (fast twitch) is different from other fibers primarily by the way in which energy is derived for muscles contractions and how efficient the fiber is at producing energy from that ‘energy system’. ACTN3 has been termed the ‘speed gene’. A recent study suggests that ACTN3 plays an important role in muscle metabolism and the fatigability of the muscle. However, the study does not suggest that it plays a role in muscle hypertrophy.   


ACTN3 would be an obvious candidate for genetic manipulation to enhance speed performance in athletes. However,  if ACTN3 were to be down regulated to cause a deficiency, there could be a performance benefit for more endurance trained athletes.  



Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor – α, β, δ, γ


PPAR’s play a role in cell differentiation and metabolism. There actions differ between to the four subsets but their use for the performance enhancement is interesting. They play a role in fat (lipid) metabolism, glucose homeostasis and insulin sensitivity. All three would be beneficial to an athlete interested in surreptitiously improving performance. Lipid metabolism in the liver and fat cells (adipocytes) is regulated by PPARα as is the breakdown (catabolism) and β oxidation of fatty acids (lipid metabolism). PPARβ, δ and γ on the other hand are responsible for the metabolism of glucose.  


The up-regulation of these genes would provide benefits in the increase in uptake of glucose by the cell. Therefore, increasing energy metabolism for exercise. Increased β oxidation would also provide benefits to energy production for exercise but it would also help athletes who need to ensure they are in the right weight category during competition such boxing, MMA and even bodybuilding.  


If the PPAR gene expression is exploited, it is also easy to see how this could easily cross into the main stream from elite sport. The proliferation and widespread abuse of anabolic steroids and growth hormone in gyms and health clubs today only reinforces the idea that societal pressure placed upon people to look good can lead people down all sorts of quick fix avenues.  


Gene Doping to Increase Psychological Performance.  


Several studies have assessed the possible candidates for altering the expression of certain genes that govern emotional control, stress and an athletes outlook during competitions. There are two main gene candidates in this regard; serotonin transporters (5HTT) and Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Altering the expression of these genes could produce improvements in all of the above psychological factors to accompany any physical changes the athlete experiences due to gene doping.  


Ethical and Philosophical Considerations


Altering the genes to enhance performance, is this cheating? Is this dangerous? Or is it inevitable? Gene doping raises some obvious ethical arguments.  Because the pace of change in the field of genetics means that we are fast approaching the point at which we will be in a world where athletes routinely alter their genes to gain the advantage. However. this has ramifications for us all. The use of anabolic steroids in the competitive bodybuilding in the 60’s and 70’s and the subsequent rise of the health and fitness industry in the intervening time has leached into the mainstream.  


Should we expect this to cross over too? Will society deal with it when gene doping does come along and what are the implications for society when we are in the era when gym members start to artificially alter the ways their genes are expressed just to look good? One could also argue that we all inherit  DNA, chromosomes and genes from successive generations with their own unique mutations. Some beneficial, some not so and some fatal.  


Why is Usain Bolt so fast? Is it to do with how ACTN3 is expressed and used in his muscles? What if another 100m runner didn’t have the same mutation as Usain Bolt or other runners. Therefore, giving a genetic disadvantage.  


By artificially altering our genes aren’t we just introducing mutations in a controlled way and leveling the playing field?  


In conclusion, It has only been since 2003 that we managed to map the Human genome. Although the pace of change in the field of gene editing, therapy, molecular medicine and others are increasing exponentially. However,  we are still in its infancy and there is a lot we have yet to learn and the dangers have not yet been fully realised.  


 Gene doping - Gene editing

Gene Doping: Editing the your way to performance?
It’s never too late to retrain

It’s never too late to retrain

It’s never too late to retrain, i did it


There’s a sneaky way of breaking into a new career once you have decided what career you would like. The latest of a growing market of fitness trends and alternative health and well-being has hit the UK industry and steadily growing to reach an estimated 22.8 billion by 2020. This growth has reflected the number of sport and fitness occupations available.


As the industry grows, the role as leaders, motivators, and educators will always be in demand. A good trainer should have the ability to be creative, inspire and engage clients with confidence. A good trainer should show a holistic approach to their practice from matching client needs. They need to know your competition and challenges, whether it’s studying anatomy and physiology, life skills, planning and insurance, all of which you may need to apply these same principles to a fitness career.


So, you may want to reskill or upskill yourself to new opportunities. If you’ve been sitting on the fence for some time, unsure of whether to purse your dreams and take your first steps in joining the fitness industry then think carefully. Exploring new career paths, whilst currently employed, is a brilliant way to keep your options open. At this point none of us know what the future holds but ensuring you gain new skills will support your planning and help you to access a route to self-employment, its one way to empower yourself. Deciding which training provider to invest your time and money is a huge decision.


I would highly suggest people don’t rush into the first speedy online course available

Firstly, I would highly suggest people don’t rush into the first speedy online course available, do your research and talk to educational facilitators who have studied and worked in the industry and can provide an objective view whether the qualifications are authentic, accredited, value for money and long term and deliver a high-quality curriculum. Do some preparation and work out your realistic motivations and values. Time and money will be investable for long term goals. When people make a change, they fail to research a career in fitness with unrealistic goals. Be thorough in your investigations and ask questions. Always meet potential facilitators face to face and ask questions. Check the relevance to the industry and scope for employment once you earn your qualification.


Things to consider when choosing an educational provider:

Speak to the facilitators, are they genuine enough and show passion for what they do or is it just a running business? Are they flexible in their approach and able to work around your needs and what works for you, your lifestyle and home life?  Consider the learning options. If you have got the stamina, then go for a part-time course over a couple of years, or distance learning and weekend/evening classes.  That’s a more affordable way of setting yourself up for a new career. (although it is very tough trying to work and study at the same time)


It helps if there is a qualification at the end of the training. That will motivate you to complete the course and employers like to see that you’ve achieved an accredited benchmark standard. If you go for the distance-learning option you will need a computer or easy access to one and an email address. You will also need self-discipline, the support of your family, and the motivation to research and write essays to deadlines. You will need a mentor to help and guide your essays. Consider the cheapest but value for money option but will fit in with your lifestyle but ask about the flexibility on payment options. Ensure you have good facilitators who can support you through this process but also remember not all fitness courses are online. Face to face contact with teachers is needed for the theory aspects of courses.


Specialise in an area you are most interested in.


The more flexible you are about change, the more likely you are to have a successful career. You may not need to make dramatic changes – you could research the options to specialise in an area you are most interested in.


Most of all, I went back to being a student very recently and the most important approach was that of the tutors. They enabled me to have some lifelong learning habits by building knowledge, staying motivated, be a critical reader and writer, building my knowledge systematically and explicitly, independent learning and learning to learn again.


Was it worth it?

For me was it worth it, I ask myself and yes, learning a new skill to get me that job was ideal as I landed straight into a teaching job. I loved the student environment, the focus on learning and exploring ideas. I’m intrinsically motivated to learn new things. Usually I do this through reading a wide range of subjects. But having the opportunity to do it as a  student again was a valuable experience.


Setting personal goals will get you closer to where you want to be. If you don’t try you will never know. Self-evaluation is an ongoing process, happy reading and happy planning.


Bogus trainers and a cluttered fitness training market.

Bogus trainers and a cluttered fitness training market.

Bogus trainers and a cluttered fitness training market.



The health and fitness industry has grown and as a nation we are becoming more interested in alternative health regimes. The fitness industry has grown in popularity around the world and alternative well-being is top of the agenda. Keeping fit and valuing our well-being, is highly recommended by personal trainers, doctors and other health practitioners to their patients. Furthermore, as an industry, we search out an instructor who can introduce us to a safe practice and have the right qualities and competencies to be a trainer.


A recent experience rushing from my daily chores to my yoga class, I but found a cover teacher instead. Yes, I was a little disappointed but inside my chattering mind, I thought just ‘give it a go’. As the class went on, I wasn’t assured by her practice. I felt there was no connection between her students and no flow and no adaptation to my needs made in the class. No encouragement and no emotional quotient. Yoga is supposed to be about looking inward and having a mind-body connection, not about posing.


What do others in the health and fitness industry say?

Ali Valdez sums up the health and fitness fitness industry and how the lack of knowledge, philosophy or emotional maturity to your practice can be detrimental to clients. “The fitness phenomenon has grown to big business, you can become a yoga instructor doing a 200 hour certificate program! Fantastic article on bogus trainers that don’t reflect the meditative skills, physical and spiritual guidance associated with genuine trainers.”

I’ve recently questioned the fitness industry as a whole and in the UK. There are no official qualifications required to teach yoga, so anyone can technically create a class and charge the “I saw you coming prices” for one to one lessons. Paul Fox from The British Wheel of Yoga (BWY) explains. That the fitness industry has become ‘shorter, less-vigorous, cheaper courses, which are mopping up the increasing appetite for teacher training.’


Bogus trainers and a cluttered fitness training market.

The way forward…

So, here’s my conclusion, to all this confusion the fitness industry if you are planning to step into any instruction programme. I would invest in time and money with accredited certification. Surely, there is a ‘duty of care’ as an instructor to provide validity as a qualified trainer. Therefore, protect the consumer. The potential consequences of this lack of regulation are poor competencies, potential injury to the client, and poor public perception of personal trainers. Additionally, it isn’t known whether personal trainers are meeting the needs of their clients. The criteria used in hiring them seems not to be clear.

Finally, I think that with the right tools trainers should project lifelong gains and to deliver the correct training processes. It is in the best interests of the  training establishments that there is available support to deliver high quality, professional and a confident approach.

Bogus trainers? Maybe. A way forward for for the industry? to coin a phrase ” Things can only get better”

How does the fitness industry standardise the quality of personal training…. Is certification enough?

How does the fitness industry standardise the quality of personal training…. Is certification enough?

How does the fitness industry change?


Fitness Industry Licence


The fitness industry now offers a variety of time frames in which to qualify as a personal trainer – questioning the true value of this quick win and turnover process. Are we not in danger of contradicting ourselves? Along with not solving the concern, but purely creating the problem…. What problem I here you say…

A variety of abilities portraying themselves as the next best ‘guru’ who will change your life and way of exercising…  A fire after all is not created with a match, it needs substance – additional material to show its strength and range.

Should our PT’s not be the same? Less online and more face to face material and REAL teaching – designed to enhance the industry reputation not dent it.


Are PT licences a way forward?

Each year hundred’s if not thousand’s of newly qualified PT’s appear in gyms, companies or standalone in the crusade to get a healthier nation.

Sadly for many, this is a fleeting visit for a multitude of reasons; lack of support, financial expectations not met, stability of income and poor business management to name a few.

So, back to my question of licences – to pass a driving test you need to meet a three pronged assessment; theory and practical – simple – pass the theory, including the hazard perception. Then drive for an assessed period before in many cases meeting the desired standard to be granted a licence.


A PT licence could follow suit. Pass your course and then over the next 3 – 6 months have assessments/mentoring designed to help develop and enhance your skills. These can be centred around the key areas mentioned earlier. The aim is to support a PT in their transition and pathway, not stifle innovation or creativity. Given these extended tools for success, the turnover could reduce with the standard of personal trainers and provision may improve to support the growth rate of the industry and therefore the PT demand.

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