Is Your Chair Fit For Purpose?

If you are sitting all day for work, you need an ergonomic chair, one that suits your size, your workstation, and the tasks you need to do.

A chair that ‘fits’ you properly will help reduce fatigue, lower the risk of tension, pain and injury in your neck, shoulders and back, and improve your concentration.

Not all chairs suit all bodies. A short, slim person, for instance, may find that a chair is too high and the arm rests too far apart to be comfortable.


Choosing a chair

Before choosing a chair, look at the following features:

  • Seat height range. The seat height should be adjustable to suit your height. Ideally you should be able to sit with both feet on the floor or on a footrest without pressure on the underside of your thighs.
  • Adjustable backrest. The backrest should be adjustable both vertically and in the frontward and backward direction, and have a firm lumbar support. It should not create pressure points, and it should be of a height and width to support you without restricting movement.
  • Seat depth and width. You should be able to sit in your chair without pressure at the back of your knees, with your back supported by the backrest, and support through your buttocks and thighs. The seat should be wide enough to allow you to have a comfortable and even pressure across the entire seat.
  • Armrests. If your chair has armrests, they should evenly support your arms and be adjustable both for height and width (distance from the seat). Sometimes armrests are not helpful as they prevent you getting close enough to the desk – if this is the case, adjust or remove them (if possible) as needed.

A chair is just the beginning

Even the best chair in the world cannot solve your ergonomic woes if you have developed bad habits. Ensure you also:

  • Sit up straight with weight distributed evenly between your legs – never cross your legs!
  • Have your keyboard and mouse close, so you do not have to lean forward to use them. Make sure you can type with your wrists straight and resting on the desk.
  • Place your monitor about an arm’s length away from you, with the top taskbar level with your eyes.
  • Invest in a laptop stand and separate keyboard if you use your laptop for prolonged periods.
  • Aim to take a break every 30 minutes or so – setting a timer can be helpful. This is the best way to reduce muscle fatigue.

Caring Quietly

The subtle art of offering help

It is hard to watch when people you care about are struggling while at the same time refusing assistance. What can you do to help someone who will not ask for it?

It is a delicate situation you might find yourself in more than you would expect.

Depending on your life stage, it may be a friend with a newborn, a colleague going through a tough time at work, or your elderly parents becoming frailer. What you do in each situation depends on your relationship with the person, but here are some ideas as to how to be a good friend.

Pay attention to the small things.

If it is a colleague and you know they always get a flat white at morning tea, perhaps grab one on your own coffee run and drop it off to them. Small gestures of care can help more than you realise.


Be available.

Your friend may not be asking for your help, but they may well value your presence. You might be a non-judgemental listener for their vent, or you might reach out via a no-pressure text message ‘no need to answer this, but I am thinking about you and wanted to say hi’.


Educate yourself.

If you know that your friend is going through a particular issue, learn about it. Not necessarily to tell them what to do, but more to help you understand their experience better.


Get specific.

Depending on your relationship, this may be as simple as taking a ‘just do it’ approach – drop by on bin night and take the wheelie bins out to the curb. Drop off some groceries to the front door. Offer a specific type of help “We drive past your street on the way to school in the morning, would it help if we picked up Sam on our way through?’


Be patient but remember your boundaries.

You can only control your own actions and responses, not anyone else’s. It can be frustrating to think you know what someone needs ‘if only they would listen’.

If it is getting too hard to continually cover the same ground, it is okay to recognise your limits and put in some kind boundaries. Equally, if you have offered help and they have said no, it is important to respect their decision.


What to ask yourself before jumping in

1. Why do you suspect they need help?

What feels like chaos to you may not be experienced by your friend in the same way. If it is simply a case of “I would not do it that way’, it is not necessarily helpful to step in. You cannot decide what is best for someone else and you cannot control others. If they are expressing distress or overwhelm and seem stuck, that is a different situation.

2. Why are they finding it difficult to ask for help?

Sometimes people have strong feelings about asking for help. They think it makes them seem weak or incapable of solving things for themselves. Sometimes they are so overwhelmed by their situation they cannot find the words to express their needs. Try to get a feel for whether they want help but do not know how to ask, or if it is more of a case they prefer to come to their own solution in their own time.

The Power of Intentional Hope

Many people think that hope is something you either have or you do not, but you can learn to be more helpful.

Hope can feel like a tricky thing to hold onto when things around you get hard. But it is at these moments that you need hope the most.

American Psychology Association spokesperson Kim Mills describes hope as ‘a necessity that helps buffer people against the stress and trauma of adversity’

Hope can be thought of as the belief that the future can be better than today and that you have the power to make it so. It has been shown to be linked to wellbeing and positive mental health while the absence of hope can feel devasting.

The building blocks of hope

Hope has been described as ‘optimism with a plan’, but it is more than just hoping for the best. Charles Snyder, a prominent hope researcher, outlines hope as having three main components.

This helps break hope down into its parts so you can see what skills to develop on your way to being more hopeful.


1. Goals: thinking in a goal-oriented way

Using goals as a tool to move forward rather than staying stuck is a practice you will be familiar with in many aspects of your life. To set goals, you need to have a good understanding of your current situation as well as the creativity to imagine new possibilities.


2. Pathways: finding different pathways to achieve that goal

Whilst creativity is important in setting goals, it is also vital to find pathways to your goal, especially if you come up against barriers along the way. Perseverance, problem solving, and flexibility will help you achieve your goal even if ‘plan A’ does not work out.


3. Agency: believing you can instigate change.

Having confidence in your ability to create change is at the core of agency, but without self-compassion it is entirely possible that you will fall at the first hurdle, and then stop trying out of shame or fear of failure. Self-compassion allows you to view your missteps more kindly, making you more likely to take necessary (calculated!) risks to get you where you want to go.


What gets in the way of hope?

Getting stuck thinking about difficult things that have happened in the past or worrying about the future are known to impact your ability to feel hope.

Practising mindfulness, grounding yourself in the her and now can help quieten those worry voices. When you start feeling overwhelmed by the ‘what ifs’, try asking yourself ‘what now?’.

Return your attention to the present moment, with the ‘5,4,3,2,1 meditation: name five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can touch, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste.

Calming your brain will boost your creativity and problem-solving, helping you build hope rather than staying stuck in fear.

Small Steps, Big Impact

How you can reduce your risk of diabetes

One in 10 adults worldwide live with diabetes and a further 541 million are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Those numbers may seem daunting, but there are things you can do to reduce your risk.

Officially called Diabetes Mellitus, diabetes is a condition where the sugar levels in your blood are too high. This happens when you either do not make enough (or any) insulin or the insulin you make is not being used effectively. Over a long time, high levels of blood sugar can damage nerves, blood vessels and organs such as the eyes and kidneys. The most common type of diabetes is type 2 and fortunately it is also the form of diabetes that you can reduce your risk of developing.

Type 2 diabetes risk factors

As with most things in life, there are some things you can change, others you cannot.

Factors like your age (type 2 diabetes risk increases as you get older), family history or ethnic background contribute to your risk of diabetes but are out of your control.

Your lifestyle is something you can change and is the thing experts want you to pay close attention to. Being overweight, smoking, lack of physical exercise, eating an unhealthy diet, and having high blood pressure are all risk factors you can do something about. Even small changes will reduce your risk of getting type 2 diabetes or improve your control of your blood sugar if you have diabetes.


What can you do?

Moving your body for 30 minutes every day will significantly reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A brisk walk, an online exercise class or playing sport are all simple and effective types of cardio exercise. Doing weights once or twice a week is also helpful as increasing your muscle mass improves your blood sugar levels.

Eat a healthy diet. Concentrate more on vegetables, fruit and wholegrains, lean protein like fish, lean meat, nuts, tofu and diary options like milk, yoghurt, or calcium-rich plant-based options.

Avoid highly processed food and try to reduce your saturated fat intake.

Do I Need to Take Digestive Enzymes?

If you could pop a pill for better digestion, reduced bloating, and increased nutrient absorption, you would be tempted, right?

These are the promises made by companies selling digestive enzymes, a growing category of supplements which may help the body break down compounds in food.

But the promises often go beyond helping digestive issues, with claims extending to weight loss, clearer thinking, a flatter stomach, and even the ability to eat foods you are allergic to.

What are digestive enzymes?

“Digestive enzymes are proteins your body produces and uses to break down food into energy and nutrients,” says US registered dietitian and nutrition writer, Christy Brissette.

Once you start eating, your body releases many digestive enzymes. Some are made in the mouth, others in the stomach and small intestine, but most come from your pancreas.

Some enzymes you may have heard of include amylase, which breaks down starches, protease, which breaks down protein, and lipase which helps break down fat. Lactase is another, which breaks down lactose, the sugar in milk and diary foods.

Once broken down into small molecules, these nutrients are absorbed through the wall of the small intestine and into your bloodstream.


When you do not have enough enzymes

Sometimes the body does not make enough digestive enzymes, meaning it cannot break down certain foods and absorb nutrients. People with conditions affecting the pancreas, such as pancreatitis and cystic fibrosis, often need to take prescription digestive enzymes which help the body digest food and absorb nutrients better.

Some people with diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, uncontrolled coeliac disease, or following weight loss surgery may also need digestive enzymes.

“When your body does not produce enough of certain digestive enzymes, undigested compounds can make their way into your large intestine and cause unpleasant symptoms,” says Brissette.

These include gas, belly pain or cramps, bloating, oily stools and unexplained weight loss. If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to a lack of enzymes. Talk to your doctor as they could be signs of gut irritation or a more serious condition.


Should I take them “just in case’?

“Unless you have a digestive enzyme production issue, you do not need to take digestive enzyme supplements,” says Canadian registered dietitian Abby Langer.

“Taking more digestive enzymes via supplementation does not help you break down or absorb your food better if your enzyme levels from your own body are not low.

“That being said, there are two more common digestive enzyme supplements that are more routinely used,” says Langer.

“Lactase for lactase deficiency which results in lactose intolerance, and alpha-galactosidase, which nobody’s body makes, but is the main ingredient in the product ‘Beano’. This enzyme can potentially help break down fermentable carbohydrates in foods like beans and vegetables,” she says.

“Both of these supplements may help with Irritable Bowel Syndrome in certain cases.”

Digestive enzymes may be natural, but they are not risk free. Some reported side effects include allergic reactions, interactions with medications, and abdominal pain. It is best to avoid digestive enzymes unless they have been recommended by a health professional.

Help Your Sleep With Morning Light

Getting a good night’s sleep starts the moment you wake up. Just as we need a dark environment to help us drift off, we need bright daylight first thing to set our natural body clock that makes us naturally tired at night, says podcaster and author Dr Rangan Chatterjee in his Friday Five email.

Here are a few ways Dr Chatterjee suggests getting your morning light fix:

  • Have your morning tea or coffee in your garden, balcony, or next to a window.
  • If you work from home, take a walk around the block or do a short workout outside before you start work.
  • If you need to drive in the morning, leave your car a 10-minute walk from your destination. The same can apply if you get the bus or train.
  • Walk your dog first thing in the morning (or offer to walk someone else’s).
  • Talk a morning break and spend it outside.

Pelvic Floor Health is Not Just For Women

Racing for the toilet, ‘leaking’ when you laugh or sneeze? You might need to think more about your pelvic floor.

Strong pelvic floor muscles are necessary for bladder and bowel control and good sexual function. Studies have found that around 300 million people worldwide experience incontinence, with around a third of women and 16 per cent of men experiencing pelvic floor problems.

Colorectal Surgeon Dr Sanjay Kariappa talks about pelvic floor issues and why we ALL need to care.

“Around 70 per cent of people experiencing incontinence will not seek help. Often, they are embarrassed, or they think it is a normal part of getting older. It is not. People feel self-conscious and may change the way they live. They might reduce their fluid intake, alter the way they eat, only go to familiar places where they know where the bathrooms are, or worst-case scenario do not go out at all.”

Pelvic floor muscles are like a hammock that stretches from your tailbone to your pubic bone. They support your abdomen, your bladder and bowel and, in women, the uterus. These muscles can get stretched or damaged by factors including surgery, chronic cough, heavy weightlifting, or long-term constipation.

How to strengthen your pelvic floor

Pelvic floor exercises are not just for women. Men can also benefit from learning to contract and relax their pelvic floor muscles.

  • Imagine you are trying to avoid passing wind or stop the flow of urine. Tighten those muscles at the same time for one second then release.
  • Repeat that 10 times, aiming for three sets altogether. If you are finding it difficult to locate your pelvic floor muscles, a pelvic floor physiotherapist is a great next step.

“My advice is that if you notice a change in your continence that is impacting your quality of life, please seek help sooner rather than later,” says Dr Kariappa.

3 “Healthy” Foods to Watch Out For

Do not be fooled by these three foods that appear healthy but may not always be beneficial for us.


Breakfast cereals

Australian consumer organisation Choice found that some of the best-loved cereals may not be as healthy as you will expect.

Depending on where you are, there may be guides on the pack giving you a quick way to see how nutritious a product is. These will usually take into account ‘good’ things like protein and fibre. But it will not tell you how natural or unrefined the ingredients are, whether the product contains artificial preservatives, colours and flavours, or how processed the product is.

“Highly processed breakfast cereals often have fibre and protein added to increase their health rating,” says accredited practising dietitian and Choice food expert Shadia Djakovic.

“Rolled oats have a high rating due to their naturally-occurring fibre content. But they have only one ingredient – oats – which means they have a higher rating without the need for any added nutrients to make them healthier.

“Look at the shape and colour, does it look like a natural product?” says Djakovic. “If it is far from natural-looking, chances are it is highly processed and needs things like salt and sugar to make it taste good.”


Watch out for salads, warns accredited practising dietitian Melissa Meier in body&soul. We think of them as a healthy option but they are not always the best thing on the menu, she says.

Salads contain vegetables, but may come loaded with refined carbohydrates and processed meats, says Meier. And store-bought dressings often contain way too much sodium (which may increase blood pressure), with some also high in added sugar and saturated fat.

The best bet is to make your own dressing, says Meier, with good quality oil such as extra virgin olive oil, a splash of vinegar or citrus juice, and some flavour in the form of mustard, pepper and dried herbs and spices.

Protein bars

Protein bars are promoted as a healthy snack to fill the protein gap in our diets and help build muscle.

But most people do not need extra protein as they get enough through their diet, says Dietitians Australia. For those who do need more, foods naturally high in protein like eggs, fish, yoghurt, nuts, tofu and beans are good choices as they also add nutrients.

Protein bars vary significantly in quality, so it pays to read labels. Many are full of sugar, salt, artificial sweeteners and colours, and oils and thickeners that add kilojoules without making you healthier.

Eat Smarter


Are you looking for dinner ideas that tick the healthy but delicious box? It might be time to consider octopus.

Octopus is rich in vitamins and minerals, is low in fat and is a good source of protein. Here is a closer look at what it has to offer.

Heart health

Octopus is a good, affordable source of omega-3 fatty acids, commonly known as ‘good fats’. These fats can reduce blood pressure and lessen the buildup of cholesterol plaques in blood vessels. This in turn can lower your risk of stroke and heart attack.

Octopus also contains an amino acid called taurine which reduces blood pressure and cholesterol.



Taurine is also an antioxidant. It protects cells from damage often associated with inflammation and cancer. Octopus contains other antioxidants such as selenium, vitamin B12 and folate.


Brain health

Octopus contains magnesium which can help support healthy brain function. The omega-3 fatty acids found in octopus may lower the risk of developing depression.

Note: While for many people octopus is a healthy choice, some people need to avoid or approach with caution.

  • If you have a shellfish allergy, you need to avoid octopus as well.
  • Octopus has a higher salt content than some other lean protein sources. Factor this in if you are watching your sodium intake.

Is It Bad to Drink Coffee on an Empty Stomach?

For most of us, the answer is no. But your symptoms may worsen if you have a sensitive stomach, are predisposed to certain gastrointestinal conditions such as reflux, or already have damage to your stomach lining, says Kim Barrett, professor of physiology and membrane biology at the University of California at Davis’ School of Medicine, in The Washington Post.

The caffeine in that first shot of coffee may also increase the effect of cortisol, which is usually highest in the morning. Cortisol is the stress hormone that produces the fight-or-flight response and can also raise blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes and love your morning coffee, you might want to make sure you are combining healthy carbs with protein to balance out your blood sugar levels.

Even though coffee can be acidic and stimulate the production of stomach acid, this is not likely to be a problem for most people, and the stomach is “extremely well equipped to protect itself,” said Barrett.