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Image of back of neck with red indicating pain and hands lifted above the shoulders

Upper Back, Neck and Shoulders – ways to reduce tension and tightness

Experiencing discomfort in the upper back, neck and shoulders is incredibly common. For those of us who have our arms extended out in front of us to use a keyboard, to use our phone, to drive or to lift objects, for example, will have an increased chance of experiencing discomfort or conditions in this area of our bodies.

Although the actions causing this discomfort can vary widely, the symptoms are frequently the same and tend to be caused by overuse, or using this area of our body in a way we are not typically used to, such as holding an awkward position or overloading the muscles or joints.

Common symptoms are:

  • Tension and tightness in our muscles
  • Stiffness through our joints
  • Restriction in our range of movement
  • Compression in the spine
  • Nerve impingement
  • Changes in posture
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • General discomfort and pain

Corrective Action

Ergonomic Assessments - these are available through your employer and can be done in person or online. The Health and Safety Executive also have resources and checklists available:  https://www.hse.gov.uk/msd/dse/assessment.htm

Desk - It’s worth considering your overall desk set up as well as your posture - are you better suited to a sitting or standing desk? Or do you need to be able to do both? What kind of chair do you find comfortable and supportive - high back? additional supports and arm rests? Or a kneeling chair?

Vehicle - the seats in vehicles are generally poorly designed. They don’t offer any support to your neck and the lower part of the seat slants back, placing your knees higher than your hips, thereby compressing your lower spine. As your spine is a column, what happens at the bottom is reflected at the top and vice versa. Foam wedges are a good way of correcting the angle in your lower back and neck supports/cushions are available


There are 4 key stretches which can help loosen off any tension and tightness and get quick results:

1. Chin to Chest - Simply drop your chin down to your chest and hold for a minimum of 30 seconds. Repeat as desired. Please note, let gravity do the work. Don’t actively push your head down. Let the head hang and soon your head will drop a lot further than you think, giving a nice deep stretch.

2. Ear to Shoulder - gently tilt your head to the left, keeping your shoulders down and bringing your ear down to your shoulder. Hold for a minimum of 30 seconds. Repeat as desired. Do the same on the right side. To deepen the stretch, actively extend your right arm and fingers down to the ground, pushing down. You’ll feel a deeper stretch along the right side of your neck.

3. Chin towards Shoulder - turn your head to the left, keeping your shoulders down and facing forwards, extend your chin towards your left shoulder and tilt your head downwards. Hold for a minimum of 30 seconds. Repeat as desired. Do the same on the right side.

4. Head Back - slowly tilt your head backwards and gently push the chin towards the ceiling. You’ll feel a stretch in your neck and under your chin. Hold for a minimum of 10 seconds. Repeat as desired.


Sometimes discomfort and pain are caused by muscle weakness and changes in posture. For example, we can experience ‘round shoulders’ from the pectoral muscles in our chest getting tight and short and from our rhomboids between our shoulder blades, getting overextended and weak. Health Professionals such as Sports Massage Therapists, Physiotherapists and Osteopaths will be able to provide you with a bespoke assessment of any muscle imbalances, along with any strengthening exercises.


Pay attention to how you hold yourself - how you sit and stand in particular - and whether you are moving enough. Are you wearing suitable shoes? Do you take regular breaks at work? Are your workouts or exercise activities moving your body in a balanced way, or are they overworking certain areas? Pilates and Yoga are great for strengthening and rebalancing your body, as well as Massage and Osteopathy.

Useful Equipment

Foam Wedge: https://putnams.co.uk/collections/sitting-wedges

Physique Be Confident written logo in blue and redAll of the below equipment is available from our Partner Providers, Physique at 10% discount using the code: BODYMECHANICS


Please always seek medical advice before engaging in any form of treatment or rehab.

If you have any questions or feedback about this article, please send them to enquiries@bodymechanics.co.uk

Image of someone with their hands on their back just above their waist with redness indicating pain

Lower Back Pain – what is the best remedial action to take

Many of you suffer from lower back pain on an on-going basis due to an injury or condition, or intermittently, due to environmental factors or functional stress. This article will give you a quick overview of the most common causes and the best remedial action to take.

Condition or Circumstance?

Firstly, it's important to differentiate if your lower back pain is due to a particular condition/injury or whether it's due to your day to day activities or function.

Let’s be honest, we don’t always respect our bodies and we sit, stand, slump and lift in ways which aren’t necessarily the best for our backs. It’s only until our body tells us there’s a problem and usually by way of some form of discomfort, pain or change in mobility, that we pay attention to our problem causing behaviours.


The majority of the time, if your back pain is due to poor environmental factors/functional stress, an immediate and positive change in these will always produce a relatively quick and noticeable fix, in terms of alleviating your lower back pain.

If you do any of the following, it's time to make a few changes:

  • Sit on the sofa with your laptop on your lap, rounding your shoulders and straining your neck
  • Sit at a table which is too high or too low, meaning strain is put on upper back, neck, shoulders and the wrists and elbows
  • Sit in a slightly rotated position at your desk, causing incorrect spinal and pelvic alignment
  • Sit on the edge of your chair, without properly supporting your back
  • Work without taking regular breaks, meaning hip flexor muscles shorten and the hips and lower back get tight

Remedial Action:

  • Sit at a designated work space with an appropriate chair, desk and computer setup, to promote good posture and comfort
  • Sit in a central position with forearms running parallel to your thighs at a 90 degree angle. Ankles are to be stacked under the knees and elbows under the shoulders.
  • Sit with your back into the chair, to give your back full support, so you won’t slump
  • Take regular breaks, even if just for a few minutes to help maintain mobility and to prevent tightness


If your lower back pain is due to a condition or injury, recovery tends to take a little longer and any changes and rehab treatments are generally more targeted and considered. You will most likely be talking to other health professionals, such as your GP or a Musculoskeletal Consultant.

There are too many potential conditions and injuries to cover here, however, we do have a series of Condition Infosheets which discuss these in more detail. Click here to find out more.

Please ensure you stay consistent with your treatment and that you engage in some form of maintenance in between those treatments. Treatments alone will not be enough to resolve your lower back pain.

Why Do We Get Back Pain?

We often find that when muscles tighten, they pull the spine, pelvis, hips and sometimes ribs out of alignment, which can cause discomfort, aches and pains. Skeletal malalignment can also be caused by day to day activities or by a specific injury or condition.

Whenever there is a pain point in the body, we treat it as the mid point and look at the areas around that mid point to assess what is going on in terms of tension, tightness and alignment.

Key muscles to pay attention to:

By keeping these muscles in particular strong and in good condition, it will help to alleviate and minimise any lower back pain

Abdominals - stomach muscles at front of torso
QL or Quadratus Lumborum - muscle in lower back connecting to pelvis, lower spine and lower ribs
Gluteal Muscles - buttocks
Erector Spinae - long thick muscles running the full length of the spine from pelvis to skull
Hamstrings - back of thigh
Quadriceps - front of thigh

Remedial Action

Keep It Strong

Do exercises that target the glutes, lower back and core to keep your back healthy

Good examples are:

  • Pilates - matt or reformer. The later is highly recommended for faster and more targeted results in core muscle strength
  • Squats - normal, deep, sumo
  • Lunges - normal, walking and runners
  • Planks - forearm or extended arm
  • Sit Ups - low crunches, full sit ups and oblique crunches
  • Light cycling and walking


Keep It Stable

Regular Osteopathy appointments are recommended to ensure skeletal integrity and alignment.

Keep It Tension Free

Regular Massage treatments will ensure tension and tightness in your muscles are reduced, easing any unnecessary pressure on your joints. At least once a month is recommended.

Using a foam roller in between massages will also help you get the most from your treatments and promote reduced muscle tension and tightness for longer.

Maintain Good Posture

Pay attention to how you use your body. See how you can improve your seating position, your desk setup, the equipment you use, as well as how you lift and how you stand.

Working from home has brought the working environment to the forefront and it's worth giving your working environment the appropriate attention by way of ergonomic assessments. These are something with which your employer should be able to provide you. Ask your HR or Occupational Health Department.

If this isn’t an option, click on the following link from HSE: https://www.hse.gov.uk/home-working/employer/display-screen-equipment-at-home.htm, who will talk you through a tutorial on how to ensure your working environment, equipment and posture are set up correctly.

Useful Equipment

All of the below equipment is available from our Partner Providers, Physique at 10% discount using the code: BODYMECHANICS

Physique Be Confident written logo in blue and red

To Sum Up

Lower back pain can happen for a multitude of reasons, many of which may be caused through a lack of awareness or attention. In many cases, lower back pain can be resolved by focusing on your strength, levels of tension and tightness, flexibility, stability and your overall posture as referenced above.

If you do have a particular injury or condition, it’s important to understand the cause, the symptoms, the treatment and the (on-going) maintenance required.

However your lower back pain has occurred, consistency is key!

Please always seek medical advice before engaging in any form of treatment or rehab.

If you have any questions or feedback about this article, please send them to enquiries@bodymechanics.co.uk

Corporate Gym Packages Are So Last Year

Let's Get FIIT For Work

This article first appeared as a blog on https://fiit.tv/ and is by Tom Young, Fiit


Let’s face the facts. Traditional corporate gym packages don’t work anymore.

No one’s using them. They’re rigid. And they’re usually structured around the office. But, who’s planning on going back five days a week? Only 2% of people. That’s who…

At Fiit, we think it’s time the corporate gym package got with the times and adapted to a hybrid, flexible way of working.

It’s time to Get Fiit for Work – the health and wellness package that works where you do.


Fiit for Work is our version of the corporate health and wellness package. It’s more flexible, inclusive, social, and tailored to you and your work.

So, how can you convince HR to make the swap to the #1 rated fitness platform?

Well, we’ve got all the juicy stats and persuasive arguments your People & Culture team need to sell Fiit to the powers that be.


The idea of hybrid working isn’t new. But now, it’s the norm.

85% of people who say they feel productive anywhere say they plan to stay at their company for a long time. This is damn good news for employee retention if employers can get it right.

And with such a strong link between companies that offer employee wellness programs and increased productivity, Fiit for Work becomes the perfect solution – giving something for everyone at home, in the gym, at work, in the park, on holiday – wherever, whenever.


Fiit champions diversity and inclusivity. So, no matter who you work with, we’ve got their back.

Beginner? We have classes and training plans designed to help them train safely and steadily. Advanced athlete? You know we’ll level up their training. Remote worker? Fiit works wherever – so no matter where your colleagues are, you can all train together.

Plus, Fiit works around the tightest schedules. Even if you only have a spare 10 mins, we have strength, cardio, yoga, and pilates classes to keep your mind and body in check.


Work drinks. Awaydays. Daily coffee club. Culture exists when we’re together.

In the hybrid working world, fostering relationships through exercise, achieving something (and getting competitive), is an awesome way to build community and cultivate mental, physical, and social well-being.

Group classes. Scheduled team workouts. Company-wide challenges. Beating your CEO on the live leaderboard (my personal favourite). It’s all about connection and building healthy relationships through fitness.


Let’s be honest – it’s been a terrible time for people’s mental health.

We’ve outlined the positive impact physical health has on the brain before – with researchers suggesting that as little as one hour a week of dynamic exercise can make a massive difference. But right now, it’s more important than ever.

Modern neuroscience has shown that maybe the most important thing we can do for our brain — and therefore ourselves — is to be physically active.” — Dr. Anders Hansen, The Real Happy Pill


At Fiit, everything we do is backed by data. We’re a tech company after all.

Meaning (and this is something HR will go wild for) we can feedback anonymous and aggregated data to suit the needs of your company. Turning insights into bespoke company challenges, tailored group workouts or customised charitable initiatives are just a few examples.

And the data works! Just look at EY in the image on the right.

After their first 90 days, over 40% of employees had begun using Fiit – which is more than double average gym usage – and 26% of EY employees had integrated it into their weekly routines.

Click the link below to find out more and get your membership started:

Click here to get access to Fiit.

The Science Of Why It Hurts So Damn Good

This article first appeared as a blog on https://fiit.tv/

Could you imagine if we were one of those brands that said stuff like, The pain you feel today is the strength you feel tomorrow? We can’t.

But, with the launch of Boss Level, we thought we’d team up with Gede for a deep dive into the science of good pain. Look at why it’s sometimes good to ask our bodies to do difficult things. How to minimise muscle soreness. And find out why some of us just love to hurt.


Exercise is incredibly important. And inactivity is the fourth biggest killer worldwide. But, being fit can sometimes be a pain in the glutes.

Gede says: When we train we stress the body. This creates micro tears in our muscles called myofibrils. These are the ‘good’ kind. They promote muscle growth. And depending on the intensity of the workout, they can leave you feeling pretty sore.

This is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Or, DOMS. And when we exercise, it’s usually eccentric movements (the contraction while lengthening the muscle) that give us DOMS. For example, the lowering phase of a bicep curl or running downhill.

Not everyone loves DOMS. Sometimes sitting down can feel like hard work – let alone another workout. But know that it’s all a process. It’s your body learning and adapting. Next time you do that same thing, your body will know and you won’t feel so sore.


To be more. We have to do more. If we want to do 100 unbroken push ups – we need to do more push ups. If we want to run a marathon – we need to run more. And if we want to take our fitness to the next level – we need to train at the next level.

Gede says: Progress is made outside your comfort zone. It builds physical and mental toughness. And it’s not just about the mat. When you train your ability to deal with discomfort, you’re building trust that you can conquer hard things.

None of us will feel comfortable doing Boss Level. Not even me, Luke, Adrienne, Sean, Gus and Corinne – and we made this monsta! But that’s a good thing. For the whole Fiit community, this is a chance to prove what we’re capable of. And be proud of it!


If you’re going to train at the next level, you’re going to get DOMS. No matter what. But, there are a few things we can do to limit the pain. And make sure simple tasks like going to the toilet doesn’t become too torturous.

Gede says: DOMS can be reduced by sufficient warm-up and cool downs. If you are starting a programme or taking on a big session like Boss Level, it can be tempting to jump straight in. But it’s important to ease yourself in so it isn’t such a shock to the body.

While doing nothing for a few days seems logical, adding in some light active recovery can help. Whether that be yoga/mobility work, some low impact cardio or a light walk. Some easy movements can actually promote recovery – by driving blood into the muscles to repair and reduce the swelling.

When it comes to nutrition, the exact strategy will vary from person to person and you should always seek out nutrition advice from a qualified professional, but remember to refuel with carbohydrates, rebuild with protein and rehydrate effectively – especially while it’s hot.


Some people just love the pain cave. One of our founders, Ian McCaig, is an unapologetically unhinged human being. He ran across the Sahara Desert for fun. And while that isn’t necessarily ‘normal’ – turns out he’s not the only one who yearns for suffering.

Gede says: Research has found that people who sit most of the time – at work, on the couch, in the car – can really enjoy going beyond the limits. For instance, Ultramarathons are far more popular with people who sit in offices all day. And this is because stress forces our body to focus. It becomes a form of escapism – like reading or meditating.

Plus, exercise releases a whole bunch of delicious endorphins, which interact with receptors in our brains to reduce the perception of pain and make us feel amazing! This is why the lines between pleasure and pain are so often blurred.

Ultimately – pushing ourselves to the next level can be a tough ask. It comes with a few aches and pains. But for many of us, DOMS is a glorious part of progress.

So, learn to love them. Focus on recovery. And only run across the Sahara if you really, really, really want to.


Ready to push yourself to the next level?

Click here to get access to Fiit..

Guest Contributor: Shannon Hoskin – First Swim Centre Manager

The trepidation sets in as you approach the water...how cool will it feel on my skin today? There is nothing better than getting my head under the water, pushing off the wall, and banging out a few laps. But how do you fit it into your daily life? Work (which has me in the water, teaching little ones to swim or watching my team of teachers teach), the kids, life admin, the extra activities, including sitting on pool side now for 5 hours a week with my two! I don’t swim anywhere near enough, which is frustrating given I’m in a pool environment 7 days a week. But I made myself a promise, that when the kids went back to school, I would go swimming for myself twice a week. I’ve managed that so far (week 2) and I plan on sticking with it. Why this time, unlike the million times before? I decided I deserve the time and space to do something for myself - I am worth it! Such a simple change in my mindset, with an unbelievably positive outcome for me first and foremost, but those around me too.

Swimming is a winning exercise – it lowers stress levels, reduces anxiety and depression, and aids sleep, therefore making it in my eyes, the perfect activity to do with babies. It also improves heart health, lowers blood pressure, and improves lung capacity. The biggest bonus - it doesn’t pound your body, so if like me you have back issues, it is wonderful to swim as it doesn’t load your already half broken body!

Having said all that, so many people still don’t swim. Did you see the latest stats by Swim England last week, stating that only 3% of children in London, aged between seven and eleven, can swim competently?! Across the UK, more than three million children were found not to be competent swimmers. This is frightening if you ask me. Swimming is not just an extra weekly activity, it’s a life skill. It’s essential to learn to swim. That’s why it’s included in the school curriculum.

I want my children to become competent swimmers. They are both on their way to achieving this, which reminds me daily to put the effort into myself. Be kind to yourself and if you can’t find the time to swim for yourself because there are one too many balls to juggle now, then bring your baby or toddler to swim with us and you at First Swim. We are based in Chiswick and Twickenham. Our lessons focus on gentle swimming progression, nothing is forced. There is also a sofa with your name on it for a post swim drink and cookie.

Want to book your kids in for classes? Get in touch with First Swim:

Phone: 07951936806 (Twickenham)

Phone: 07377998823 (Chiswick)

Email: info@firstswimlondon.co.uk

Guest Blog: Everything You Need To Know About Parkrun

Been wondering what a parkrun looks like? Where do you go? What do you do? How do you sign up?

Whether you’re looking to join for the first time, or a more seasoned parkrunner that just needs your memory refreshed, Parkrun have put together this handy guide to everything you need to know.

Firstly, all you need for parkrun is your barcode and something comfortable to wear!

How do I sign up for parkrun?

Signing up for parkrun is free and easy, you sign up once, print your barcode, and then just turn up! Any location, anywhere around the world, any weekend you want.

Here’s a link to our registration page: https://www.parkrun.org.uk/register/

Next up, you just need to decide where you’re going to parkrun.

How do I find an event?

Finding your local event is really simple with our map, which you can find here.

Each event has its own course page where you’ll find:

  • Contact details of the Event Team if you have any questions
  • A map that shows the course and the start and finish areas, as well as some handy tips for getting there, including nearest bus stops and train station, as well as the event postcode
  • Details of the Volunteer Team and how you can get involved.
  • Upcoming cancellations and other parkruns nearby

Many events also have their own social media pages where you can get in touch with the team, give them a search on Facebook and Twitter.

Do I have to complete 5k?

Parkrun can be whatever you want it to be. There are ways to get involved that do not involve completing 5k, and there is no pressure to complete the whole course if you’ve started and don’t feel able to continue (although we think you’ll surprise yourself!)

You can also just head down to your local parkrun event and watch what’s going on, soak up the atmosphere and get to know your local team.

For anyone starting out on their parkrun journey, or thinking about building up to the magic 5k distance, our simple and easy walking plan Strive for Five can be found here. You can do that anywhere, any time.

There’s also the option to get involved as a volunteer.

Volunteering is super easy, loads of fun, and there’s no training or experience required, one of the event team members can just show you what to do on the day.

To volunteer just find your local event on the map and drop the team an email at the address on the course page, or via social media.

What does parkrun look like?

Parkruns are friendly, relaxed environments, where there are people of all shapes and sizes, abilities and backgrounds.  Some people will be in sports kit, some not, some people will walk and some will run, many will just be there to enjoy the morning.

So, please don’t feel any pressure.

There’s a short First Timer’s Welcome for anyone who’d like a little more information on the day.

We can’t promise a safe space to leave your belongings so please bring as little as possible. All you need is your barcode and something comfortable to wear.

What happens after parkrun?

You’ll feel fantastic!

Whether you’ve walked, jogged, ran, volunteered, or gone along to watch, you’ll have set yourself up for the rest of the weekend.

Once the results have been processed (and if you’re volunteering someone will help you with this) you’ll get a text and an email from parkrun with all the details of your participation.

Everyone has their own record on our website, where you can track your progress and see all of the parkruns you’ve been to. Just sign in online with the details you created when you registered and all the information is always there.

You can reprint your barcode from this page on the website too, as well as update your details, or change your communication preferences.

We can’t wait to welcome you to a parkrun very soon. Make sure you get in touch to tell us all about it using our Feedback from the field link here.

Practitioner Spotlight: Dani Mavi – Yoga


At 21, I decided to begin my yoga journey and completed a 200 hour teacher training here in the UK, with a highly respected yoga school ‘Yoga London’, one of the most successful, largest teacher training schools in Europe.

Still eager to learn more, I then travelled to Rishikesh, India ‘The Capital of Yoga’ to study at ‘Shiva Yoga Peeth’ which is highly recommended by Yoga Alliance and top most positive rated school in Rishikesh. The intensive course of 13 hour days consisted of Cleansing, Pranayama, Meditation, Bandhas, Mudras, Teaching Practice, Anatomy and Physiology of Yoga Practice, Yoga Philosophy, Hatha Yoga/Ashtanga and Mantra Recitation. This was a life changing experience.

Photograph of Dani Mavi Yoga Instructor

I have participated in various workshops in London with guest teachers including David Swenson and Norman Blair.

Like many other teenagers, I became very stressed during GCSE and A level exams. I would revise on the floor with my back hunched over and stay there for hours at a time. My poor posture led me to having unbearable back and neck pain, along with lack of sleep due to stress.

Visiting Physiotherapists and Chiropractors, I was given stretching techniques and recommended to try yoga. I bought my first Ashtanga Yoga book at 16 and began self-practicing. At 17, I started attending yoga classes. I would recommend practicing yoga daily to feel the benefits, starting with 5-10 minutes each morning. I love being in tree pose whilst I’m brushing my teeth and holding triangle pose whilst I wait for the kettle to boil!

What is Yoga?

Developed over thousands of years, Yoga brings balance and harmony to both body and mind, through postures and breath.

How can it Help?

Yoga helps to boost the immune system, encourage relaxation and correct posture alignment. Yoga offers physical and mental health benefits for people of all ages. If you’re recovering from surgery or living with a painful condition, yoga can become an integral part of your treatment and potentially hasten healing.

Doing yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which reduces the stress fight-or-flight response, thus reducing your stress levels. An important component of yoga is focusing on the present. Studies have found that regular yoga practice improves coordination, reaction time, memory and even IQ scores.

There are different types of yoga:

Vinyasa Yoga uses the synchronicity of breath and movement to challenge the body and mind. Blending graceful movements with strength building asanas, Vinyasa is a playful and energetic style that will tone and strengthen both your physical body and your mental resilience.

Iyengar Yoga is characterised by its precision and alignment in postures. Teachers are trained to a high level and are experienced at working with some injuries and modifying postures to your needs.

Hatha Yoga combines postures, breath control (pranayama), meditation, yogic philosophy and guided relaxation, which will help you to stretch and tone your body, whilst quietening your mind.

Ashtanga Yoga requires focus to move through the sequence, helping to still the mind and bring inner peace. The vigorous postures and focus on the breath create stamina and flexibility to the body.

Power Yoga takes yoga to a new dimension, where you feel your body worked hard with your mind focused.

Yin Yoga is a slow and deep practice, creating calm in meeting the intensity of a stretch, cultivating a healing and nourishing effect on the body, tuning in to the parasympathetic nervous system

Hot Yoga is practiced in a room which is heated to 37 degrees celcius. Hot yoga practice replicates the heat and humidity of India, where yoga originated. My favourite!

Yoga is a good way for people who don’t love weights to build upper body muscle and stronger cores, whilst improving flexibility. Improved sleep is one of the key benefits of yoga that nearly every practitioner can experience, no matter what their skill level. Studies have found that a consistent yoga practice can help improve depression and lead to significant increases in serotonin levels too. I highly recommend finding a yoga class and trying it for yourself. It’s changed my life in many ways, particularly my fitness and overall health and wellbeing. It can do the same for you too!

Guest Contributor: Sarah Banks – How I Found The Exercise That Works For Me

Sarah Banks works as an Online Business Consultant and has shared her journey to find exercise that works for her in this article.

I’ve never been a particularly active person. I’ve struggled to find the “exercise” that works for me, but I’ve always had a love for walking. Being able to enjoy exploring the countryside, meandering through forests, hills, and the coastline to see what nature had to show to me that day is so special. But, as with all good things, I never seemed to have the time to walk as often as I’d like.

Then I had a bright idea. As a businesswoman I was getting frustrated with traditional methods of networking and finding that “zoom fatigue” is a very real thing, I was looking for alternatives. That’s when I decided to combine my love for walking with networking. Having 1-2-1 walks with fellow self-employed business owners and freelancers then led to me starting a regular ‘netwalking’ club, where we walk for around an hour discussing our businesses, opportunities, and goals for the years ahead rounded up with a coffee and a chat. I find netwalking a great way to find new business owners to connect with to share the successes and challenges of working for yourself, all while getting some of the many benefits of walking in nature which include reducing stress and depression, lowering blood pressure, and helping you to think more clearly.

I learned that exercise doesn’t have to feel like exercise

I find being around nature is beneficial to my mental health, so I wanted to find new ways to get out and about in the countryside while fitting in some additional exercise. Although I lack in ability, I have always been a keen sea swimmer, it’s just so invigorating floating in the cold water!

I’d had a little dip here and there in local rivers but in April 2021 I decided I wanted to do more and so I went along to my first open water swim at my local water sports centre. They have two lakes there dedicated to swimming with courses set out so you can track how far you've swum. I'm pushing myself to complete the Lake 1 course twice or to swim Lake 2 and Lake 1, which are approximately 1 km per swim! For someone with little open swimming skill and who is, self-admittedly, unfit, it’s quite the challenge.

To enable this, I’ve changed my working hours to put aside Friday mornings to swim there weekly, which I’ve been doing since April and I’m planning to continue right the way through winter (although you can be sure that I won’t be in the water for long when it snows!)

The benefits of open water swimming

According to Open Water Swimming England, there are four key health benefits to this activity, so maybe I can persuade you to give it a go as I explain what they are.

Better sleep.
Many of us experience insomnia and difficulties getting off to sleep each night. Open water swimming helps your body to naturally increase levels of prolactin, a hormone that promotes REM sleep so you can doze off more easily.

Boosted immune system.
If you’re looking for ways to give your immune system a natural boost, open water swimming in colder water (i.e., in UK waters!) can reduce the over-production of some hormones in our bodies that can impair our immunity thus enabling it to be better at warding off infection.

Preventing long-term health conditions.
Chronic illness is something that can strike any of us at any time, often without warning. Open water swimming can reduce the chances of developing these conditions by making your body’s internal systems more efficient and effective as the cold water improves circulation. It also means if you are chronically ill, swimming in open waters can help you manage your symptoms and illness too.

Increased happiness.
For me it was boosting my mental health that was the main driver for starting open water swimming. On my first swim my anxiety was around 8/9 out of 10 and when I got out of the water it had dropped to just 2/3. This isn’t surprising as open water swimming has been shown to increase thyroid stimulating hormones by more than 50%, this leads to improved mood and increased happiness but can also help with regulating weight, body temperature and muscle strength too.

Not content with getting more active in 2 sports this year, I decided to throw in a 3rd challenge

As I was rapidly approaching my 40th Birthday I wanted to really get out of my comfort zone, and I did just that by trying Aerial Yoga! I have practised yoga for around 10 years (although not since 2020 when in-person classes stopped) and I figured that if I could do yoga how hard could aerial be!

I went along to my first class terrified but came out impressed with myself and the things I could get my body to do. 5 weeks on and I made it to every class, discovered muscles I have never had before and feel stronger. I have now signed up for another 5 weeks in September and am really excited about strengthening my core and upper body as I develop my skills further.

The benefits of regular exercise and spending time in nature are so good that it is important to try to make time to do this but finding that time can be hard when you have a family and are running a business. I have managed to flex my working day to work later/earlier so that I can fit my exercise in when the kids are at school or by taking them along with me at weekends when we head off for family walks.

You are never too old to try out new sports and types of exercise as even if like me there was very little you enjoyed in the past, you may find that something new will change your mind.

The Importance Of Fitness

Being active can bring many benefits to our health and wellbeing, but many people still struggle to make it work for them; trying to fit it into their busy schedules, being consistent and to find something they truly enjoy.

We take a look at the importance of fitness and how being active impacts both our physical and mental health and wellbeing, as well as the steps we can all take, to make fitness work for us as individuals.

The Physical Health Benefits

Physical activity is a great way to improve cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health - to strengthen both the heart and skeletal muscles, to boost circulation, to provide nourishment throughout the body and to increase our stamina and endurance. Engaging in activities such as running, swimming, cycling and circuit training will help enhance muscle tone, bone density, range of movement and flexibility.

But exercise doesn’t have to be a full-on, intense cardio session every time, where you’re left feeling exhausted. Even elevating your heart rate moderately for 30 minutes a day with a brisk walk, is enough to bring about noticeable improvements to our fitness.

Key indicators for improved physical health and fitness are being able to work more intensively and for longer periods, being able to breathe deeper and recover quicker and having a lower resting heart rate.

The Mental Health Benefits

Being physically active doesn’t just bring about physical health benefits, it’s also good for the mind - an excellent way to stay physically and mentally fit. Exercise releases endorphins, or ‘happy hormones’, which help to boost our mood and to alleviate stress. The mind-body connection is the very foundation of yoga for example - by focusing on the breath, you enter into a calm or even meditative state, whilst engaging in physical poses (asanas), enjoying both physical and mental benefits.

Exercising outdoors in nature is another way to enhance our mental health through physical activity. Going for a long walk and taking in the views and hopefully some sunshine, can help us switch off from the everyday stresses and ground our emotions.

So how can you incorporate more activity into your life, or discover activities that work for you, to improve your overall physical and mental fitness? We take a look at some key pointers on the next page.

Make it Work for You

Get more active - everyday activities count. A great example of this is the widely recognised goal of 10,000 steps a day. Walk instead of drive. Use the stairs, instead of the lift. Get off public transport one or two stops earlier. Incorporate a walk into your day at lunchtime or after dinner. Make exercise part of your daily routine and keep that routine active.

Exercise regularly - to make visible and lasting gains in your health and fitness, you need to be consistent. Exercising to a schedule and incorporating a level of flexibility, whatever that looks like for you, is key to making positive progress. Finding a way to fit exercise around your work, family and social life isn’t always easy, so why not try and combine exercise with family time or catching up with friends.

Mix it Up - keep it interesting by doing a variety of exercises and activities. Doing a combination of LISS (low intensity steady state) such as running, cycling, swimming, brisk walking that are lower intensity for 45-60 minutes at a time at least twice a week, alongside HiiT (high intensity interval training) like short, intense circuit training sometimes including weights for up to 30 minutes twice a week, with a mobility and stretch activity such as yoga or Pilates for between 30 to 90 minutes at least once a week, will give you variety of exercise and intensity, as well as a comprehensive workout routine.

Crunch the Data - get to know your stats - what they are now and what do you want them to realistically be. This needn’t be overwhelming. Buying a set of digital bathroom scales and a health and activity tracker such as a FitBit or an Apple Watch will give you the insights you need. For example, how much do you weigh? How tall are you? What is your BMI? What is your hip to waist ratio? What is your muscle mass and body fat percentages? What are your activity levels like? What should your daily calorie intake be? What are your daily nutrition macros - your proportion of protein, fat and carbohydrates? How much activity should you do everyday? What sort of exercises and activities will suit you best? Understanding all of these elements of your body and health, will give you a clear idea of where you are and what you need to do, to achieve better health and fitness.

Nutrition - as the sayings go ‘you are what you eat’ and ‘you can’t out exercise a bad diet’. Speaking with a Nutritionist will help you understand your current health and eating habits, your relationship with food and triggers to any bad habits, the foods you should avoid and include, working with any specific dietary requirements, clearly defining your calorie intake and food group macros. Good nutrition will provide your body with the building blocks it needs to stay healthy.

Therapy in Focus – Yoga

Exercise and relax both the body and the mind

What is Yoga?

By controlling the breath through a series of rhythmical movements, yoga gently encourages you to rediscover the mind-body connect. Yoga helps to keep the body in balance by using your own body weight to keep muscles and joints supple, by creating space through the spine using gentle stretches, thereby improving overall strength, posture and function. Using the breath as a way to ease into these movements and postures introduces a meditative element and helps calm the mind.

How Can Yoga Help?

Yoga is great for building both strength and flexibility; for increasing mental clarity and focus, promoting health and wellbeing overall.

Yoga can help with:

  • Mental fatigue or calming a busy mind
  • Muscle tension and tightness
  • Joint pain and discomfort
  • Stress
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Digestive conditions
  • Posture

What Does Yoga Involve?

There are many different forms of yoga which means it’s suitable for all age groups and fitness levels.

Prior to your yoga class, your Instructor will discretely discuss any health conditions and symptoms as appropriate, as well as your overall health and wellbeing goals.

Each class begins and ends with a short period of relaxation to calm the mind. Your Instructor will then lead you through a series of movements, postures and relaxation techniques, always focusing on the use of the breath. Variations of these movements and postures may be given depending on your flexibility and capability.

On-site yoga classes available before work, during lunchtime or after work.
Available as 1-2-1 sessions or classes of up to 15 people.

Online yoga classes are also available through our Partner Providers, Fiit.



Please always seek medical advice before engaging in any form of treatment or rehab.

If you have any questions or feedback about this article, please send them to enquiries@bodymechanics.co.uk