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HEALTH

Where to Buy Nonmedical Cloth Face Masks in the UK

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As of 24th July, it will be compulsory to to wear face masks in shops and supermarkets in England. This is in addition to the mandate announced by the UK government on 4 June making it mandatory to wear face coverings on public transport, including buses, trains, aircrafts, ferries, and when driving with Uber or Addison Lee. These precautions were put in place to prevent the spread of the virus by those who are infected with it and are asymptomatic.

For many before the pandemic, face masks were not a part of their at-home collection. Luckily, a selection of retailers have now made protective face coverings available for purchase. For those who do not have masks already or prefer not to make a face mask, buying one is an easy alternative.

In order to properly wear a face mask, it must fit closely against the face, be secured with ties or ear loops, include more than one layer of fabric, allow for breathing, and be able to be washed without getting damaged. It’s worth noting that while these cloth face coverings are not medical-grade masks like the N95 respirators and surgical masks, which are being reserved for healthcare workers, they are still useful to put on when out in public. Wearing a cloth mask will not ensure protection against ingesting droplets, but it’s a precautionary safety measure worth taking.

Ahead is a curated list of face masks that are available to buy in-store and online in the UK, including options from our favourite retailers like Boots, Superdrug, and Marks & Spencer, as well as companies and brands that are doing their part by donating proceeds and masks to charities and hospitals to help those working against the virus. If you don’t already have a mask or need another one for yourself or a loved one, shop these picks now and help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Additional reporting by Kara Kia and Ange Law



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HEALTH

Reusable Face Masks With Filter Pockets Available in the UK

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As of 24th July, it will be compulsory to to wear face masks in shops and supermarkets in England. This is in addition to the mandate announced by the UK government on 4th June making it mandatory to wear face coverings on public transport, including buses, trains, aircrafts, ferries, and when driving with Uber or Addison Lee. These precautions were put in place to prevent the spread of the virus by those who are infected with it and are asymptomatic, and it’s sent us on a search for comfortable, affordable, and reusable face coverings for ourselves and our families.

At the moment, we’re interested in face masks that have a filter pocket. They’re reusable, which is awesome, and as long as you replace the filter every time you use it, you’ll be good to go. These are cloth face masks, not N95 styles, but they’re still great options for going outside.

From sleek black masks to colourful patterns, these 9 masks are optimal if you have reusable filters. Just keep reading to shop our top picks.

Additional reporting by Sophia Panych



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HEALTH

Coronavirus: Face Masks Compulsory in UK Shops From 24 July

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A shopper with a protective face mask walking down Oxford Street as people in London, UK on July 11, 2020  prepare for the possibility of Face coverings becoming mandatory in shops and other public places across the UK.  (Photo by Jacques Feeney/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

As of 24 July, face coverings will be mandatory in shops and supermarkets in England, and shoppers caught not wearing one could face a fine of up to £100. Children under 11 and those with certain disabilities will be exempt from wearing a face covering — though health advisers encourage everyone to wear one if they can.

“There is growing evidence that wearing a face covering in an enclosed space helps protect individuals and those around them from coronavirus,” said a Number 10 spokesperson. “The Prime Minister has been clear that people should be wearing face coverings in shops, and we will make this mandatory from July 24.”

The decision follows days of conflicting advice from various MPs, including Michael Gove, who said that he doesn’t think masks should be mandatory as he believes people in England will display “basic good manners” after encouragement to wear one. However, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has advocated the wearing of face masks since the beginning of the pandemic and brought in compulsory face coverings rules on public transport on 15 June.

Despite the announcement, which many members of the public are in favour of, the government has been criticised by various health advisers on the decision to give 11 days notice prior to the rules being enforced. When asked to explain, Environment Secretary George Eustice told BBC Breakfast that the delay “gives people time to prepare”.

Where possible, people are encouraged to wear reusable face masks and wash them after every use, in order to reduce single-use waste. There are now plenty of places to buy reusable face masks, including comfortable fabric face coverings available on various websites, masks created for Boots by famous British designers, and also masks with filter pockets for extra protection, which can be found on Etsy. If you aren’t able to get yourself a mask, there are also plenty of ways to make a face covering at home using a t-shirt.

As for other parts of the UK, face coverings became mandatory in Scotland for public transport and shopping from 10 July. However, those living in Wales and Northern Ireland are not required to wear one, though it’s expected this will be under review following Boris Johnson’s announcement for England.

So, repeat after us before leaving the house: “phone, keys, wallet, mask“. Oh, and just a reminder, you can wear a face covering from today, you don’t need to wait until the 24th.



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FITNESS

Free Mental Health Services and Resources in the UK

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Free Online Therapy

Caring for your mental health has never been more important than it is right now, in a year where most people have experienced multiple psychological traumas at once. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our daily lives in immeasurable ways, and the fight for racial equality, which has led to widespread protests in almost every major city in the UK and around the world, has definitely taken its toll. There’s a lot going on, to say the least, and we understand that this year has been a tough one.

Thankfully, there are plenty of free mental health services and resources you can utilise today, if you need the extra support. There are a few different ways you can seek support, both for ongoing mental health support and for urgent care.

The list of mental health services ahead are a compilation of crisis helplines, live-chat services, and helpful online resources; however, if you’re seeking long-term support, teletherapy is the way to go. Adrienne Meier, PhD, and other therapists POPSUGAR has spoken to, do not consider crisis hotline services to be the same thing as teletherapy. Teletherapy is therapy sessions administered through phone calls or video sessions from a licensed professional. The same goes for messaging with a therapist on an app. It’s therapeutic, sure, and can absolutely be beneficial, but it’s not considered therapy in their eyes.

“If someone calls the hotline, we can provide them with support and listen and provide them with concrete coping skills to assist them in whatever mental health issue or crisis they’re experiencing,” Dr. Meier said. “It can still be really helpful to whoever’s calling in. It’s just a different type of help than we would perhaps offer in an ongoing therapy relationship.” Licensed mental health counsellor Sheina Schochet agreed. “It’s considered more of a one-time therapeutic consult as opposed to consistent therapy because you’re not getting the same therapist [each time] necessarily, and it doesn’t follow a consistent treatment plan.”

Ahead, see 10 free mental health resources that are available in the UK right now.

The NHS Urgent Mental Health Helpline

The NHS Urgent Mental Health Helpline service is a short, online quiz that helps you find the best mental health support in your area.

Every Mind Matters

Every Mind Matters is the NHS’s mental health initiative, which offers long-term support to those who need it. The first step is filling out the five-question quiz on the website, and from there, you’ll have a telephone consultation to determine the type of help you need. For example, some people may receive online resources for cognitive behavioural therapy to help combat anxiety, and others will receive a number of appointments with a clinical psychologist via video calls. Because this is a service offered by the NHS, it is extremely comprehensive and reliable. If you require urgent support, there are a number of recommendations on the Every Mind Matters website.

Mind Out

A mental health service designed to specifically support members of the LGBTQ+ community, Mind Out has an online instant messaging service that is completely anonymous and 100 percent judgement-free. Mind Out also offers peer mentoring programs and support groups to help you speak to people who have been exactly where you are.

ChildLine

ChildLine is a service for under 19-year-olds in the UK, offering a plethora of digital resources, including a “calm zone” and a detailed explanation of domestic violence, plus a step-by-step on creating a safety plan in these situations. Additionally, ChildLine has a portal for reporting underage nude photos, if you’re under 18 years old and learn that someone has shared a naked photo of you online, so they can be removed. You will be fully supported through this process by ChildLine.

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM)

CALM is a general mental health service that’s endorsed on the NHS’s Every Mind Matters website, so you can count on the fact that the information it provides is extremely reliable and up to date. The hotline and web-chat services are open between 5 p.m. and midnight every single day of the year, but if you require urgent help outside these hours, CALM suggests calling the Samaritans or 999. According to the website, CALM is experiencing a higher volume of calls and web chats than usual, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so there might be longer waits to speak to a professional. However, the CALM website also has an in-built search engine where you can search for support services that pertain to a specific concern.

Samaritans

Samaritans is one of the leading mental health services in the UK for people requiring advice. There are many ways to seek help with Samaritans, including by phone, email, handwritten letter (for nonurgent assistance), and the self-help app. The app is a fully self-guided process, where you can track your symptoms, create a safety plan to employ in times of crisis, and there is a catalogue of techniques so you can try to help self-manage your mental health at home. Due to the coronavirus outbreak in the UK, Samaritans have temporarily stopped their face-to-face appointments.

YoungMinds Crisis Messenger

YoungMinds is a support service with young people and their parents in mind. The YoungMinds Crisis Messenger is a free text service designed to provide emotional support for young people, whether it’s for a specific problem like bullying, coping with grief, or suicidal thoughts, or if you’ve noticed that you’re not quite feeling like yourself.

Mind Infoline

Mind is an online and telephone resource that doesn’t offer counselling but rather provides a safe space to anonymously discuss your mental health concerns. Mind will also help you find reliable information on where you can get help and discuss possible treatment options for long-term mental health solutions.

The Mix

A free mental health service for people under 25 years old, The Mix offers a range of short-term support options for getting help without ever leaving your home. Unlike many of the other resources mentioned above, The Mix has a telephone counselling option for under 25s and a one-to-one online chat service for 10- to 18-year-olds. Additionally, there is a crisis management text service that is free and available 24 hours per day, seven days a week.

Victim Support

Victim Support is a free service for children, young people, and their parents to help support children who’ve been affected by crime. In addition to a catalogue of written resources, there is also a virtual courtroom to help your child understand what to expect if they are going to be a witness in court; plus, there’s an interactive “Journey to Justice” tool that educates young people on what happens when a crime is reported and how decisions are made within the justice system. The Victim Support website also has information about local support teams, national phone helplines, and a live chat.

Additional reporting by Samantha Brodsky



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FOOD

Coronavirus: Guidelines For Travel Within the UK

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pone curly and beautiful woman wearing medical mask to prevent any type of disease or virus like coronavirus or covid-19 - airplane inside of her head at the background like risky vacations hazard

Nonessential international travel might not be possible this summer due to the Coronavirus, but you can still visit beautiful locations within the UK if you fancy a city break. On Monday, 11 May, 2020, the UK government released a COVID-19 recovery strategy that outlines how we’ll be resuming travel, work, and schooling for the forseeable future. The 50-page document states that it’s OK to travel by rail or car anywhere in England as long as proper social distancing is observed, but staying overnight at another home for holiday — including a second home — is currently not allowed.

If travelling by any form of public transport — whether rail, air, or shared private car — then it is beneficial to download and use the NHS COVID-19 contact tracing app to reduce the coronavirus reproduction rate.

Travel to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland From England

Nonessential travel between England and Scotland or between England and Wales is not permitted. Travel by ferry or air between England and Northern Ireland is allowed where passengers must self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in either country.

Travel in the UK by Rail

The UK Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Strategy states that “the Government is working with public transport providers to bring services back towards pre-COVID-19 levels as quickly as possible”. In the meantime, we should avoid public transport, but if travelling by rail, bus, tube, or tram is your only option, then you must follow the government’s guidance on social distancing by wearing a face covering.

Travel in the UK by Car

“People may drive to outdoor open spaces irrespective of distance [in England], so long as they respect social distancing guidance while they are there,” states the UK government’s COVID-19 recovery plan.

“If you have to travel with people outside your household group, try to share the transport with the same people each time and keep to small groups of people at any one time,” states the UK government’s advice on using private cars — including rental cars — for essential travel in England.

If travelling by taxi or private hire vehicle, it’s recommended that you follow the advice of your driver and respect social distancing where possible. “If you can, wear a face covering in an enclosed space where social distancing isn’t possible and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet,” states the UK government.

Travel in the UK by Air

There are currently no restrictions against travel by air within England, but the UK government advises to wear a face covering and be mindful of the shared surfaces that you might touch. Airlines are now taking bookings for domestic flights from 1 July, and Airbnb is resuming booking from 31 May. For more information on international travel guidelines and restrictions, check out our easy-to-follow POPSUGAR explainer.



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HEALTH

What Can We Do Now in Lockdown With New UK Coronavirus Plan

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On Sunday 10 May, Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed all four nations of the UK regarding the next phase in the fight against COVID-19. Thanking the British public for their “effort and sacrifice in stopping the spread of this disease”, Johnson revealed the government’s strategy for tackling the next phase of the pandemic, as well as a roadmap for lifting England’s lockdown, supported by a 50 page guidance document released earlier today.

Stressing that the recovery strategy is conditional based on the continuing decline of virus transmission, Johnson introduced the Covid Alert System, which is made up of five levels that influence what social distancing measures are in place. Level 1 indicates that the disease is no longer present in the UK, while Level 5 is the most critical.

When the UK entered lockdown, we were at Level 4 of the Covid Alert System and remained there as transmission of the virus continued to increase and the nation fought to contain it by staying at home. As we enter the second phase, the aim is to begin lifting measures step-by-step as we make the move down to Level 3, which will occur when the reproductive “R” rate of the disease (meaning the number of people on average that people pass it on to) is well below one. As of Sunday, Johnson revealed: “we have the R below one, between 0.5 and 0.9 – but potentially only just below one.”

The R and the number of coronavirus cases are what is used to determine the Covid Alert Level. As Johnson explained, we now all have a role to play in keeping the R down. “We must make sure that any measures we take do not force the reproduction rate of the disease – the R – back up over one, so that we have the kind of exponential growth we were facing a few weeks ago,” the Prime Minister said. If the data indicates an increase, however small, the dates provided in the roadmap will be obsolete, the Covid Alert System level will likely also increase and stricter lockdown measures will be reintroduced at short notice.

What Date Will Lockdown Measures Be Lifted in the UK?

From Wednesday 13 May in England, step one of the roadmap permits the following:

  • Workers who cannot work from home may travel to work if their workplace is open
  • Paid childcare may resume (for example nannies and childminders)
  • People can meet with one person from a different household
  • People can spend unlimited time outdoors and exercising
  • People can drive to outdoor open spaces irrespective of distance
  • Clinically vulnerable people should continue to take particular care to minimise contact with others outside their households but no longer need to be shielded

From no earlier than Monday 1 June in England, step two of the roadmap intends to reintroduce the following in phases:

  • Return to school for early years
  • Opening of non-essential retail
  • Cultural and sporting events to take place behind closed-doors for broadcast
  • Opening of more local public transport in urban areas
  • People to expand their household group to include one other household

From no earlier than Wednesday 1 July in England, step three of the roadmap intends to reintroduce the following in phases:

  • Opening of at least some of the remaining businesses and premises that have been required to close, for example personal care, hospitality, public places, and leisure facilities

What Does This Mean For the Rest of the UK?

It is important to note that the rules may differ or be adjusted on different dates across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as the level of infection and transmission varies from place to place. For example, from Wednesday 13 May in Scotland, people are now permitted to go outside more than once a day to exercise, but must do so alone or with members of their household only.

Across the UK, the priority to protect the public and save lives remains, and should there be an uplift in transmissions, tighter measures will be reintroduced. Unless specified in the guidance, social distancing must continue to be practiced whenever you leave the home. Those who have symptoms or live with someone who has symptoms should not leave the home and must self-isolate.

When Can I See My Friends and Family?

As of Wednesday 13 May, the government is permitting people in England to meet up with strictly one person from outside their household when outdoors or exercising. As per social distancing guidelines, you will need to remain two metres away from each other at all times and practice good hand hygiene.

Am I Allowed Return to Work?

If you are able to continue working from home, you must do so, however, as of Wednesday 13 May, those in England who cannot work from home are allowed to travel to work. Examples of sectors now permitted to operate with staff back on site include food production, construction, manufacturing, logistics, distribution and scientific research in laboratories. Staff should try to avoid public transport at all costs and all businesses should operate under the new “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines, ensuring the risk of infection at work is low.

Can I Use Public Transport?

Unless you are a critical worker or work in a sector outlined above and cannot get to work any other way, you should avoiding public transport at all costs. Instead, you should cycle, walk or drive. Those who do use public transport must adhere to strict social distancing and are encouraged to wear a face mask.



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FITNESS

How to Get Tested For the Coronavirus in the UK

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SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - MARCH 13: A medical Laboratory scientist tests vials of samples for coronavirus at the University of Washington Medicine virology lab on March 13, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. The lab is processing about 1,500 tests for COVID-19 daily and hopes to increase to 5000 in the following weeks. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

If you’re consuming as much media as I am right now, you’ll probably know almost as much about coronavirus as you do about yourself. Every time I refresh my newsfeed, there’s another article announcing the closure of schools or the closing of borders somewhere in the world, and while I can’t seem to look away (everyone deals in different ways, you guys), the more I read, the more confused I become. I just want facts. Like beyond coughing, what exactly are the symptoms of coronavirus? And, how do I get tested if I think I might have it? To help me (and you) sleep better at night, I talked to Alex Ruani, doctoral researcher in nutrition science education at University College London and chief science educator at The Health Sciences Academy, and Dr Claudia Pastides, London-based GP for healthcare app Babylon, to get a better understanding of coronavirus, and more specifically, coronavirus in the UK.

What is Coronavirus?

As Ruani explains, when it comes to coronavirus, there seems to be some confusion in the media surrounding the terminology that’s being used. “The novel coronavirus, the virus itself, is called SARS-CoV-2, which stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2. The infectious disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 is called COVID-19,” says Ruani. “In short: SARS-CoV-2 is the virus, and COVID-19 is the disease it causes.” The disease, therefore, can negatively affect your lungs, bronchi, and airways, and may further develop into severe pneumonia and sepsis in some instances.

How Does Coronavirus Spread?

“The COVID-19 disease is mainly spread through small, liquid respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks, or exhales,” Ruani explains. Yes, you read that right. Simply speaking or exhaling can cause the disease to spread. According to Dr Pastides: “If you breathe in these droplets, or if you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth after being in contact with objects or surfaces where these droplets landed, you are at risk of catching COVID-19.” Currently, according to Ruani, the droplets are believed to temporarily hang in the air for up to three hours when in a contained area.

What Are the Symptoms?

Understanding the symptoms of COVID-19 can be confusing. As Ruani explains, this is because “not everyone develops the same symptoms or with the same intensity.” Worse still, you can actually be infected without experiencing any symptoms, meaning that if you’re out and about, you could be spreading it without even knowing. “Symptoms to look out for include fever, a dry cough, shortness of breath, and tiredness. Some may also experience a sore throat, nasal congestion, or diarrhoea,” says Ruani. While most people will only have mild symptoms, which they can recover from at home — just as you would a regular cold — Dr Pastides points out that those over 60 and/or with underlying health conditions may suffer from more severe symptoms.

What Should I Do If I’m Experiencing Symptoms?

“If you believe you have coronavirus symptoms, the NHS advises that you stay at home for seven days. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy, or hospital as you need to prevent the spread of infection,” says Dr Pastides. Ruani adds: “The novel coronavirus is most likely to spread within the first three days of having symptoms, but less likely to spread after day seven.” In other words, the reason it’s so important to stay home and self-isolate is so you can protect not only yourself but others. There’s no need to contact 111 unless your symptoms are worsening or do not get better after seven days. If in doubt, head to the NHS 111 Online Service.

How Do I Get Tested For Coronavirus in the UK?

The NHS recently changed their guidance around testing in the UK, meaning only those who are suffering from severe symptoms and/or difficulty breathing are being admitted for testing. If this is you, call 111 or use the NHS 111 Online Service for a risk assessment. They will then tell you how, when, and where you can get tested if necessary. For those experiencing mild symptoms, you know what to do: seven days of self-isolation. There are no tests available at your local GP surgery, pharmacy, or hospital, and whether you’re experiencing mild symptoms, severe symptoms, or no symptoms at all, it’s crucial that you stay away to avoid putting those who are already unwell at risk.

How Can I Prevent Catching Coronavirus?

“There’s a misconception that coronavirus is airborne,” says Ruani. Remember, it’s transmitted through small, liquid respiratory droplets and what you want to be doing is reducing your risk of coming into contact with them. To reduce your chance of being infected:

  • Wash, wash, wash those hands! And wash them properly. “That means with soap and water. Not just your palms, also between fingers, under your nails, your forehands, and your knuckles,” warns Ruani. “The virus is removed through mechanical action, so go over every bit of your hands for about 20 seconds — roughly the amount of time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice,” she adds.
  • Always cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing, either with a tissue or your sleeve but never your hands. If you use a tissue, throw it out immediately.
  • Maintain a distance of at least 1 metre if anyone is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your face as much as possible.
  • Avoid contact with common surfaces and regularly clean your most used items, like your phone and laptop. According to Ruani, research is suggesting that the virus can live on surfaces for up to three days given the right conditions.

POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, the NHS, and GOV.UK.



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FITNESS

What Is the Delay Phase of the Coronavirus in the UK?

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If you’ve been following the news in the past or week or so (it’s kind of hard to avoid), you’ll know that the UK has entered the “delay phase” of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). But with so much content being shared across our various different social media feeds, it’s easy to be confused or a bit lost when it comes to understanding what that actually means. So I talked to Alex Ruani, doctoral researcher in nutrition science education at University College London and chief science educator at The Health Sciences Academy, and Dr Li Li, GP for healthcare app Babylon, to get a clear explanation.

What Is the “Delay Phase” of the coronavirus?

“The ‘delay phase’ is the second of a four-phase strategy devised by the UK government: contain, delay, research, and mitigate,” said Ruani. Basically, we’re now at the point where COVID-19 is unable to be contained, so instead, we need to try and delay it. “The goal of the ‘delay phase’ is to slow down the spread of coronavirus within the UK and minimise its impact during the cold season as much as possible,” she continued.

What Does the Coronavirus “Delay Phase” Mean For the UK?

In short, the coronavirus ‘delay phase’ means that the government will be issuing a series of measures to slow the spread. “Not all at once, but gradually,” said Ruani. “The first measure within the “delay phase” is to stay home and self-isolate for seven days if you develop a fever of at least 37.8 degrees Celsius or a new, persistent cough.” Measures, for example, asking those over 70 years old to self-isolate, will continue to be introduced in the coming weeks.

On Monday, 16 March, the government announced even more stringent recommendations as part of the delay phase, which include asking all UK citizens to avoid pubs, restaurants, theatres, and bars, and advising those who are over 70 or who have underlying health conditions to avoid all face-to-face interaction as much as possible.

According to Dr Li, the UK is currently attempting to build up a “herd immunity” by relying on the young who contract the virus to become immune and asking those over 70s to self-isolate. “As we see from the current data from China, 80 percent of the infected population have little or mild symptoms and recover well,” explained Dr Li. “People with underlying medical problems or the elderly are more susceptible to severe and critical infections (this is also evident by the UK fatality cases thus far).”

“We are hoping with the herd immunity, self-isolation of the over 70s, time, and warmer weather, we can delay and flatten the peak of the outbreak,” Dr Li added. “This will ease the pressure on the medical system, buying us more time to test for drugs/vaccines and get more experience in its management.”

How Does the Coronavirus “Delay Phase” Affect Me?

“We all have a part in the ‘delay phase,'” said Ruani. At this stage, we need to minimise our risk of getting infected and infecting others through measures such as regular hand washing, self-isolation, social distancing, and avoiding nonessential travel. “We need to take a personal and social responsibility approach,” added Ruani. “It is up to each of us and our own personal and social behaviours to reduce the rate at which the COVID-19 virus spreads so we can flatten the infection peak during the cold season.”

It’s also important that you “keep informed and up to date with the news — it’s like the British weather and can change quickly,” said Dr Li. However, as Ruani pointed out, “There is a lot of misinformation at the moment,” so you should only be looking to credible sources. She recommended the WHO, the NHS, and “authorities who are dealing with this pandemic head on.”

POPSUGAR aims to give you the most accurate and up-to-date information about the coronavirus, but details and recommendations about this pandemic may have changed since publication. For the latest information on COVID-19, please check out resources from the WHO, the NHS, and GOV.UK.



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Daily Burpee Challenge | POPSUGAR Fitness UK

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Like all good fitness challenges, it started with an Instagram post. My friend Julie, a bona fide badass and stand-up paddleboard champion, declared she was going to attempt 50 burpees every day for 30 days, inspired by a runner who noticed a huge improvement in her overall fitness after completing a similar challenge. “Who’s in it with me?” Julie asked in her post, and I knew I was screwed. I tagged my running partner in the comments and volunteered her to join the challenge as well because that’s the kind of friend I am. We’d start the next day (theoretically). At the risk of ruining the suspense, I’ll give away the ending: we did it. We did 50 burpees a day for 30 days and even recruited some other suckers to join us as well. Here are the key takeaways:

  1. Starting is the hardest part. Burpees aren’t easy. Doing 50 burpees at once is hard AF, and I’m not even going to lie about it. Throughout my 30-day challenge, however, I probably spent more time agonising over getting them done than I did actually doing them. There was always an available excuse for procrastinating: too hot, too tired, too sore, too busy, too hungry, too full, too good a hair day to get sweaty. Once I got that first set of 10 done on any given day, though, I knew I was in the clear — just a few minutes away from having one more day of momentum behind me. I learned to get started on my daily dose of burpees the second I thought about it. Don’t pass go, don’t collect £200, don’t run through the list of excuses or promise that I’ll do them later — just pull my hair back and hit the deck.
  2. Momentum is everything. I’m not talking about the physical momentum of doing a burpee — I’m talking about the metaphorical momentum of doing something every day. That whole “we’ll start tomorrow” thing? It took us three days after committing to the challenge to actually start. But once we had the first day under our belts, it got a little bit easier every day. I went 11 days in a row and felt kind of unstoppable . . . until I went camping, that is. After a seven-hour drive, I decided to skip a day. Over the course of the following seven days, I only did my 50 burpees once, even after I was back home with air conditioning and an indoor shower. Breaking my 11-day momentum had way more power than I anticipated. The good news? I started back up again and found my momentum. I tacked six extra days onto the end of my challenge and moved on.
  3. Burpees might be the most efficient exercise on earth. I’ve run two marathons, I’ve finished a handful of triathlons, and I teach Megaformer classes twice a week. Until this challenge, however, every time I’ve done burpees has generally been part of a HIIT class. Isolating burpees as their own workout highlighted how they target every muscle in my body and get my heart rate through the roof. My entire body was sore for the entire first week. I worked up a genuine sweat every single time, even on day 30. The next time I’m travelling somewhere without great gym access or just need to cram a good workout into a short amount of time, my go-to move is definitely going to be burpees. Lots of them.
  1. OMG, my arms. MY ARMS! So sore. I did a push-up at the bottom of every burpee, and it turns out that 50 push-ups is a lot on its own, much less combined with the other elements of a burpee. During the first couple of days, my arms were sorer than they’ve been in a while (I really hope my boot-camp trainers aren’t reading this right now), and that soreness lasted into the second week. Ouch. The flip side? My arms looked significantly more toned on day 30 than they did one day one. The above photo is from about day 20 of the challenge, and I almost accused the photographer of photoshopping someone else’s arms onto my body when I saw it. I tend to put on muscle somewhat easily, but even I was surprised by the end of the challenge. If you’re specifically looking to increase muscle tone in your arms, though, you might want to consider burpees (on burpees on burpees).
  2. Maintaining good form helps. I’m not claiming my burpee is picture-perfect, but 1,500 reps later, I learned two tricks that made perfect form slightly more accessible. The first is to avoid locking out the elbows when you shoot back into plank position, but instead to keep the arms fully engaged so you’re already halfway down into your push-up by the time your toes hit the ground behind you. The second is to be really intentional about engaging the abs during the squat-thrust component of the movement (jumping the feet from plank position up to to meet the hands), which not only protects the lower back but makes the entire movement more powerful and controlled. Remember how I said my abs and arms were sore for a full week? These “tricks” are likely to thank for that.
  3. It takes less time than you think. Fifty sounds like a big number. Most people’s initial reaction upon hearing that I was doing 50 burpees a day was something along the lines of, “That’s so many! I could never do that!” I didn’t time myself every day, but of the times I did set a stopwatch, I don’t think it ever took me longer than eight minutes. I think the fastest set was about five-and-a-half minutes. I always broke it down into five sets of 10, taking as much or as little rest between each set as I needed (usually less than a minute). Once I realised that even on my slowest, most unmotivated days I could get it done in less than 10 minutes, it felt easier. “It will be over in eight minutes” was often the pep talk I gave myself when I debated procrastinating. Considering the fitness benefits (see numbers two and three), eight-or-fewer minutes per day actually seems like a bargain.
  4. Accountability helps. My friend Julie roped me into the challenge, I roped my running partner in, and between all of us, we got a few more friends to join in. Several of us posted daily time-lapse videos in our Instagram stories of our burpees, and more than once, I was tempted to skip a day but knew I’d have hell to pay the next time I opened my DM inbox. I leveraged real-life accountability to my advantage as well, scheduling “burpee dates” after yoga sessions or a short run, letting my workout partner for the day know I’d be doing 50 burpees after our workout (and usually convincing them to do some or all of the burpees with me).

Doing 50 burpees every day for 30 days was both harder and easier than I expected — I was truly surprised at how quickly I could get it done every day and what an efficient full-body workout it was. I was also surprised at how much the challenge got in my head — how much time I spent dreading it, how I beat myself up for falling behind, and how the mental workout of learning to just get it done was probably just as valuable as the physical workout of knocking out 1,500 burpees in a month. That’s the thing I love about challenges like this: you never know what the takeaway will be. This time it was shredded arms and a renewed appreciation for the sacrament of starting. I’m not sure what the next challenge will be or what the takeaway will be that time, but I have a feeling there are more of these challenges in my future. Who’s in?



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FITNESS

The Tampon Tax Has Finally Been Scrapped in the UK

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Tampons on pink background

In the 2020 budget meeting on 11 March, the government officially announced that the tampon tax is finally being abolished in the UK.

Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, has scrapped the five percent VAT on sanitary products. “I can also confirm, now we’ve left the EU, that I will abolish the tampon tax”, he announced. “From January next year, there will be no VAT whatsoever on women’s sanitary products.”

Zero tax on sanitary products will come into effect on 1 Jan 2021, when the UK’s transition period for leaving the UK ends. This means there will be a 7p cut on a pack of 20 tampons and a 5p cut on a pack of 12 pads, which is said to add up to approximately £40 in a woman’s lifetime.

The abolishment of the tampon tax has been widely campaigned for years after the government deemed sanitary products a “non-essential luxury item” when the UK joined the Common Market in 1973. In 2000, the tax was reduced from 17.5 percent to five percent, however, EU law has prevented the tax being scrapped altogether, until now.

The news comes just a few weeks after it was announced that the Scotland parliament approved a bill to make period products free for all women, a world’s first.



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