Posts Tagged “health”

6 Ways to Support Immune Health: Does CBD Help?

6 Ways to Support Immune Health: Does CBD Help?

6 Ways to Support Immune Health: Does CBD Help?

You’re rushing around to get Christmas gifts, the house needs cleaning, you have five-holiday parties to go to, and family is in town; does this sound familiar? The holidays can be a very stressful time, and excess stress has been known to weaken the immune system, thus making us more susceptible to falling ill. This paired with the fact we are exposed to more germs due to family visiting from out of town, it’s no wonder we are all getting sick during this time of year. Fortunately, there are several preventative measures you can take to make sure you’re doing the best to maintain overall well-being during this busy time of year.

CBD Health Benefits for the Immune System


As we have talked about previously, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is responsible for regulating most functions in the human body. One of these functions is our immune response. Cannabinoids (like CBD) interact with our ECS. When our ECS is active, it helps to aid our body in bringing itself back into balance (homeostasis). When our body is in balance, it is more likely to make sure proper immune function and regulation is occurring.

The immune system is extremely complex, and there is still much to be learned about it. We are excited to see more research being conducted about the relationship between CBD and the immune system. For now, though, it appears the ECS and CBD are very much involved in the maintenance of a properly functioning immune response.

Due to the complex nature of the immune system, there are many misconceptions when it comes to staying well as the weather changes. Let’s bust some of those myths before jumping into the best preventative measures you can take to keep sickness at bay.



Busting Myths About Immune Health

Many of us have heard the phrase ‘put a coat on or you’ll catch a cold!’ Although we may associate sickness with colder weather, research suggests our increase in sickness during the winter months is most likely due to spending more time indoors (to avoid the cold) and spending more time in close contact with others who may pass a virus to us.

Having busted this common misconception, let’s dive into some effective, preventative measures to keep you healthy this winter.


1. Manage stress

Stress is the single most important factor you can manage to avoid weakening your immune system. Stress wears down our immune system rapidly, making us more likely to fall ill when we are exposed to germs.

It’s not uncommon to be stressed out during the holidays, it can be a stressful time! You can help mitigate this stress by meditating, indulging in regular exercise, and practicing mindfulness. There are many various ways to manage stress over the holidays, so whichever option works best based on you and your schedule is great! We’re not so concerned HOW you manage stress, we’re merely advocating for you to do so!


We look at 6 ways to support immune health & ask the question; Does CBD help? We look at the endocannabinoid system & ways to stay healthy this winter.

2. Prioritize sleep (or make yours better!)

Getting your circadian rhythm in sync is crucial to a good nights sleep.

Our bodies repair themselves while we sleep – which is why it is so crucial to make sure we’re getting enough quality sleep. When we skip out on our regular amounts of sleep, the number of infection-fighting antibodies and cells in our bodies are reduced.

Supplementing with a CBD supplement before bed will help you relax and therefore get into a deeper sleep. There are several things you can do to ensure you get a better night’s rest, and it is in your immune system’s best interest to get quality sleep when you can. Read More on this topic

3. Support your body with herbs and supplements

At SFE Academy & MadeByHemp, we always recommend using a supplement as just that – a supplement to an already healthy lifestyle! Things like sleeping well and managing stress, will always make a more significant impact than a supplement, but we listed a few supplements that can help boost your immunity nonetheless.


As we mentioned before, CBD can be a powerful tool to help maintain balance in your body. Including CBD into your daily routine will be all-around beneficial – and will especially aid in activating your ECS and keeping you balanced this winter.

Reishi mushroom

Mushrooms are widely used in Eastern medicine and have been known to act as a powerful immune sidekick. Source high-quality reishi mushroom powder and try mixing it into your morning latte.


Echinacea has been shown to increase the number of white blood cells, which helps to fight off colds or infection. Try an herbal echinacea spray or a bag of tea that contains dried echinacea.


4. Load up on healthy foods

loading up on healthy foods to suppport your immune system - Good eating habits

Vitamins can help an infection from even happening in the first place. If you are eating a healthy, balanced diet, then you should not need to take a supplement – the vitamins are already in the food we eat! We know there are plenty of treats around this time of year and we are not suggesting you don’t indulge (because we sure do!), but that doesn’t mean you have to completely ditch your healthy lifestyle altogether. You can still eat healthy meals in between your holiday get-togethers, and squeeze in workouts when able.

Vitamin D

Due to the decreased amount of sunshine, vitamin D is an important supplement to add to your regime. You can either purchase a high-quality vitamin D supplement or look for fortified milk and cereals.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is probably the most well-known immune booster. You can get your dose of vitamin C by eating citrus (like oranges, grapefruit, or lemon), bell peppers, kale, and broccoli.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that will help the body fight infection. You can get vitamin E from nuts (like sunflower seeds, almonds, peanuts, or hazelnuts), avocados, mango, and kiwi!


Zinc is a mineral that keeps the immune system strong and aids in healing. You can find zinc in legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products.

 Prioritize eating a salad packed with vegetables, drinking a green juice, or even making your own vegetable broth before your next holiday get-together. Your immune system will thank you!

5. Stay hydrated

stay hydrated - Be that Personal Trainer

Making sure you stay hydrated aids your body in eliminating toxins and other unwanted bacteria. Soda, alcohol, and sugary drinks are not substitutes for water; if you need to, try herbal teas or add flavorings to your water to make sure you are getting enough.

As a guideline, to be properly hydrated, our bodies need ½ of our body weight in ounces per day to stay hydrated. If you weigh 150lbs then 75oz of water daily is what you need. We know drinking that much water isn’t always possible, but 35oz of water daily is better than zero. Do your best!

6. Wash your hands

One of the easiest tips of all, but we had to mention it! Thoroughly wash your hands, especially before handling food or after being in an environment with a lot of germs (like a Christmas work party or family dinner).

 These tips can help you avoid sickness this winter (or anytime in general). We want to show you how easy it is to integrate a wellness lifestyle into your already busy schedule. Wellness is a choice that everyone can make!

Stay well this holiday season from Made By Hemp!

This article originally appeared on in collaboration with SFE Academy 

Top 10 Fitness Trends for 2019/2020

Top 10 Fitness Trends for 2019/2020

Top 10 Fitness Trends for 2019/2020

Take a deep dive into the top 10 fitness trends for 2019 and the 10 fitness trends for 2020. sit back, relax and soak up the info! enjoy…


Exercise and fitness is a high priority for the UK government at the moment as the realisation  sets in that exercise can ameliorate some of the diseases that can develop as a result of our lifestyle habits. The cost to the NHS every year to treat some of these preventable diseases is huge. Recent estimates from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) suggests that a sedentary lifestyle costs the taxpayer in excess of £1billion every year. 

Year on year we are becoming more aware of the importance of exercise for our health and well-being. The American College of Sports Medicine the foremost academic authority on sport science and exercise physiology (ACSM) examined the responses of 200 health and fitness professionals for their opinion on what the fitness trends for 2019 will be. Take a look at the top 10 fitness trends for 2019. 

1. Wearable tech

ACSM define wearable tech as smart watches, heart rate monitors, fitness trackers and GPS tracking devices. Wearable tech has truly transformed the fitness industry, instead of having to go to an expensive and exclusive sport science laboratories to get valid and reliable data on your fitness and how your body is performing and coping with the exercise stresses you are putting it through.  Now you can simply wear the tech on your wrist and get real time feedback and analysis of everything from the distance and elevation of your running route to how your cardiovascular system is performing during your workout. 


Tech such as Loadsol a wearable  insole for your running shoe that wirelessly transmits a real time data on your gait is just one of the new and emerging wearable tech that goes beyond just analysing your heart rate during exercise. Recent developments in wearable tech mean that we are on the threshold of analysing a whole range of parameters that could only be done by expensive lab equipment. Examples of this are; immune responses to exercise, EMG,  acceleration, respiratory, metabolic and neuromuscular parameters. 


2. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

HIIT is defined as short bursts of exercise followed a short period of rest (ACSM) HIIT has been shown to derive benefits to your body composition. One of the main proponents of HIIT is the British 6 time MR Olympia Dorian Yates. We are not suggesting that HIIT will turn you into a Mr Olympia ( at least not overnight!) but we are suggesting that it can be an effective way to train if done correctly. Dorian Yeates honed his HIIT workout routine over many years, constantly experimenting with what worked for his body and what didn’t. Why not give HIIT a try in your next workout.

3. Group Training

Group training is defined an exercise with five or more participants with instructor  teaching and motivating the class. 

Group training is an excellent way to train socially. E are all social animals and we need company and sometimes competition to bring the best out of us. Training with a friend or friends can be a great way to exercise whilst developing other friendships and to also reduce dome of the self consciousness and  anxiety of exercising alone in a room full of strangers. The instructor worth their salt will be a good motivator, teacher and above all …qualified! This can help you to learn the basics of exercise whilst you develop your confidence and exercise habits.

4. Body Weight Training

As the name implies , body weight training is you using your body weight to perform different types of dynamic exercise. It is an inexpensive way to exercise but it does have its limitations. You may train to the point where your body weight is no longer sufficient to overload your muscles thus provoking them to adapt and become fitter. However, in some sports, body weight training is more than enough. 


More and more local councils are installing body weight training equipment in local parks. When you next visit your local park, o over a have a look at what equipment there is and then …have a go! body weight training is becoming so popular, we are confident that body weight training will make the 10 fitness trends for 2020 and beyond!


5. Fitness Programs for Older Adults

As we age, numerous genetic and hormonal changes cause our bodies to lose not only bone density but muscle mass too. Gerontologists are on the case in trying to unravel the mechanisms that cause this process to happen as we age. But what we do know is that exercise can increase bone density and muscle mass. Slowing the ageing process and reducing the risk of age related diseases that can really affect our physical and mental health later in life.  The best way to reduce the risk of age related diseases and to live healthy for as long as possible is to exercise regularly along with a healthy diet, good social network (not the FaceBook type!)

6. Employing Certified Fitness Professionals

SFE Academy is a training provider that trains and certifies fitness professionals. We really do understand the importance of the knowledge and skill when designing and delivering exercise programs. We train all of our fitness professionals to be able to train a diverse population of people from children to older adults and everyone in between. 


It is important that all fitness professionals feel comfortable in all environments and with all people. We recognise that that skill, knowledge and friendly manner go along way to get people the results they want. All of our students are vigorously tested so that they meet the highest industry knowledge and standards. You have a right to demand that of your fitness professionals too.


7. Yoga

Yoga has been around for an extremely long time. The health benefits are numerous. Including, developing strength, flexibility and balance. There are many different types of Yoga out there. There will almost certainly be a type for you.


8. Personal Training

It just so happens that we also train the next generation of personal trainers at SFE Academy too! 

ACSM has listed Personal Training in the top 10 since 2006! This is a sign of how important personal training can be  when it comes to exercise and fitness. Personal trainers are able to develop training programs tailored to your unique needs and targets. They are there to help motivate you and teach you about how the body adapts and develops during and following a period of exercise. They will also be able to provide you with nutritional advice and guidance and monitor you exercise program. 

9. Functional Fitness Training

When you think of functional fitness training, think of the training montage in the film Rocky! Functional fitness aims to develop your strength, coordination and balance by doing of simulating everyday tasks and movements that you may do at home or at work. This type of training is advantageous as it uses all of the muscles (the agonist, antagonist, synergist and fixator muscles) used in that movement. Therefore, replicating real life situations. An advantage over fixed resistance machines at the gym that only pull in one direction.

10. Exercise as Medicine

The paradigm is shifting Ladies and Gentlemen! The role and usefulness of exercise to reverse a number of preventable diseases is becoming more apparent by the day! The knowledge that exercise as a medicine is filtering into schools, colleges, the Government and the medical profession too. Going to your GP (after the long wait!) will be more about analysing you exercise habits and prescribing exercise as a modal of treatment. The benefits of exercise on both physical and mental health are numerous

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 (English as a second language) 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. 

In the Beginning: The Spending Review

UK education spending for all stages of education

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

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 blog 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. 


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. 

Target Driven Funding: The Right Approach?

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. 

Targets, Finance, Further Education and the Government

targets, finance , further education and the government

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.  

A New Way Forward?

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)   

Why are we so Surprised? Cause & 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:



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. 

Treading a New Path

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. 

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?
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”

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