2013 – Year of the Snake and…Year of the ‘Fun Run’?

Featured

Jade McCudden 

Sunday saw the ringing in of the Chinese New Year, celebrating the year of the snake! According to Chinese customs, your behaviour on New Year’s Day will set the tone for the year to follow, so for 20,000+ Sydney-siders, Cube team included, 2013 is set to be the year to embrace the ever-increasing popularity of the ‘fun run’.

Cube kicked off the Chinese New Year with the Swisse Color Run, battling the heat to complete the #happiest5k run, and that it was! The event did not disappoint and if our clothes were anything to go by, not to mention the blondes in the office and their stained pink hair, Cube definitely got in on the colour fun.

So if you want to train for a milestone fun run, raise money for a charity or just simply have a good time, we suggest earmarking some (or all?) of the upcoming fun runs in your diary and getting in on the action.

Remember, you don’t have to be a marathon runner to get involved – most events are open to all fitness levels and having a goal to work towards is always a good thing! A few suggestions for upcoming events are made by TimeOut below.

For those up for the 2013 ‘fun run’ challenge – Goodluck, we might see you there!

  • Spartan Race – Sat March 16
  • Surf Swim – Sun March 17
  • Nike She Runs the Night – Sat May 4
  • City2Surf 2013 – Sun August 11
  • 2012 Parkinson’s NSW Unity Walk and Fun Run – Mon August 26
  • Sydney Running Festival 2013 – Sun September 22
  • Mud Run – November 30-December 1

Post to Twitter Post to Yahoo Buzz Post to Delicious Post to Digg Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

One month on – ‘Pinning’ down that New Year’s Resolution

Featured

If 2012 is anything to go by, it seems young Aussie women who’ve pledged to eat better and lose weight as a part of their 2013 New Year’s resolution may need a helping hand to reach to their goals.

The ‘Young Women’s Nutrition Study’, commissioned by the Dietitians Association of Australia, revealed that although around two in three tried to lose weight in the past year, 80 per cent did not achieve what they had hoped and would still like to lose more.

The study also found that this year 68 per cent of 18-24 year-old Aussie women have resolved to eat healthier and 42 per cent are hoping to lose weight.

So now that the first month of the year has come to a close, why not try a new approach to make those newly-found health commitments year-long habits, and consult the digital realm?

Virtual pinboard Pinterest exploded in popularity during 2012, and could be a solution for those who find themselves visually inspired.

According to website Social Media News, about 650,000 Australians were using Pinterest by the end of 2012, making it the 10th most popular social media site. This is a significant increase from the end of 2011 when there were fewer than 48,000 users.

Whether you’re after healthy recipes, exercise tips, weight-loss stories, motivational mantras – or all of the above – to help you stick to your 2013 resolution, you’re sure to find it on Pinterest.

But be warned: the most popular pin of all time is a recipe for cheesy garlic bread, with almost 97,000 pins at last count. If you’re worried such temptations may derail your 2013 health strategy, or are new to Pinterest, refine your search by heading straight to the ‘health and fitness’ category.

Alternatively, below are a few of Cube’s top health and fitness pin-boards to get you started. Happy health-pinning!

 

Post to Twitter Post to Yahoo Buzz Post to Delicious Post to Digg Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

You are what you eat? Online and offline consumption

Featured

The internet is increasingly influencing our diet and attitudes towards food – from online advertising about the latest diet plan, to accessing nutritional information about what you’re eating, ordering take-away via a smartphone and mobile applications able to assist with developing a grocery list.

The recent media discussions regarding traffic light food labelling have made nutrition a hot national topic – even more so now information about any kind of food is available at the press of a button. We’ve also seen an explosion of apps designed to help us make considered decisions about food and avoid the danger of eating hidden fats and sugars.  One that was launched this week is ‘food switch’- positioned as a tool to empower Australian shoppers to make healthier food choices. The app allows users to scan the barcode of packaged foods using their iPhone camera and receive easy to understand nutritional advice.

New Year resolutions

January is typically the month to kick-start our healthy eating resolutions and the nation’s dietitians are encouraging Australians to take part in a healthy ‘pledge’ campaign in tangent with Australia’s Healthy Weight Week (22-29 January). This social-media based campaign encourages users to publish their pledges via a Facebook page and Twitter profile. Ten years ago, such a supportive and motivating digital platform would not have existed, but in today’s social media environment, we are able to benefit from immediate, interactive digital programs.

Facebook

Online support

Weight management is also big business online, with the availability of personalised online tools for those who want to access support and information in the comfort of their homes. This is particularly helpful to those situated in remote areas of Australia and who don’t feel comfortable attending a face-to-face meeting. Weight Watchers Online enables people to remotely track what they are eating, monitor their weight and develop an interactive shopping list.

The Government has also launched a number of digital initiatives providing nutritional support. There is the Healthy kids: Eat well, get active website, positioned as a ‘one stop shop’ of information about healthy eating and physical activity for parents and carers, teachers and childcare workers, health and other professionals and kids and teens . There is also the Government’s digital Swap It, Don’t Stop It campaign encompassing a mobile app and website, helping users to make healthier choices.

Accredited practicing dietitian and infant nutritionist Kate di Prima says, “More often than not, patients I see are educated about food and what they’re feeding their families. A contributing factor is the plethora of information accessible via the internet. It’s important to use reputable sources – there is a lot of dialogue happening, which can sometimes seem overwhelming. The flip side is we’re inspired to cook more adventurously and use ingredients that we may not have previously considered.”

Fashionable nutrition

Indeed, examples such as the Create Nutrition blog and journalist/media commentator Sarah Wilson’s blog define modern, fashionable nutrition.

In this day and age, smartphones mean that every one of us is a potential food critic, having the ability to write immediate, online reviews, while seated in the restaurant. This in turn means that food standards need to be high.

Fruit

It will be interesting to see what the future holds and if the shelf life of online nutrition tools expires before the groceries go off!

Post to Twitter Post to Yahoo Buzz Post to Delicious Post to Digg Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

Keeping it real

Featured

Certified_organicIf the saying is true, and ‘you are what you eat,’ is it a case of organic best, chuck out the rest?

OR

Is the hype surrounding organic food just that- all hype?

Here at Cube, we’ve certainly dipped our toes in going au naturale. Sunflower seeds, carrots, liquorice (an office winner)…  the list goes on. In fact, you name it, we’ve tried it- the ‘certified organic’ sticker has been a star feature in the office for months. 

 

Yet when we got hold of a University of Sydney study that showed only a slight nutritional benefit in eating organic versus non-organic produce, we Cubans started to question our nutritional ways. If going organic is no healthier, yet considerably costlier, are we just suckers to the latest food craze? When an apple tastes like an apple, is it worth the extra $1 to go organic?

Not so fast….

The Biological Farmers of Australia (the experts should know best, right?) claim that eating organic may help us live longer. What’s more, the largest study into organic food, published in 2007, found that organic fruits and vegetables contain between 20 and 40 per cent more antioxidants than conventionally grown produce.

Presented with two sides of the coin, we decided to dig deeper.  

There’s lot of confusion about what constitutes organic. In Australia, there are currently 7 different organisations that certify (and label) organic products. What’s more, up until October last year, there wasn’t even a legal definition of the word ‘organic’- as long as a product wasn’t ‘certified,’ it could be labelled organic.

Thankfully, there is now a domestic Australian organic standard, which bans the use of fertilisers, pesticides and genetically-modified material. The only downfall is that the standard is voluntary, so it comes down to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to prosecute those who don’t comply. The Organic Federation of Australia (OFA) is pushing for one standard logo.

For the moment, as long as buyers pick products displaying one of the 7 logos, they can be sure their organic pickings are chemical-free- which can’t be a bad thing.

So, after a number of internal office debates, it seems we’ve come to a collective standpoint:

We like organic. In an age when everything is overly processed, there can’t possibly be any harm in ‘keeping it real.’

So, the organic stickers continue their domination in our home and office pantries, and it seems we’re not alone in our quest to go natural. Last weekend’s Organic Expo and Green Show  saw more than 8,000 visitors venture to the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre in Darling Harbour in search of all things chemical-free.

So, if you too are considering giving organic a go, here are a few suggestions:

Post to Twitter Post to Yahoo Buzz Post to Delicious Post to Digg Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

Has anyone seen my super? Start the search now…

Featured

With yet another interest rate rise just announced by the Reserve Bank, many will be starting to feel increasing strain on their finances. Now could therefore be a good time to check whether you have any missing funds in lost superannuation!

Did you know the Australian Tax Office (ATO) has around $13 billion in lost superannuation – some of which could be yours? 

Have you changed your job, address or name? If you answer yes to one or more of these questions, chances are you could have ‘lost’ or ‘unclaimed’ super. With over six million lost super accounts, it’s estimated this represents one in two working Australians – so it definitely pays to check.  It’s quick, easy and free!

Start by visiting the ATO website and use SuperSeeker to help you locate any lost funds. To do this, you will need your date of birth and have your tax file number handy, or you can call the ATO on 132865 for assistance.

Do you have hidden treasure in lost super?

Do you have hidden treasure in lost super?

You can also search via Australia’s Unclaimed Super Fund – AUSfund. Just perform a free search online or call them on 1300 361 798.

Another alternative is to contact your previous employers and ask them which funds your contributions were paid into; you can then contact the fund directly and confirm your account details.

We live in a world that increasingly focuses on the ‘here and now’. While not true for everyone, many Australians don’t always give superannuation and retirement the priority and attention it has enjoyed with previous generations.

Taking the time to review your super will pay-off, especially now!  As you may have heard the Government has given super a greater priority and will seek to introduce an increase of employer super contributions from nine to 12 percent over the coming years as recommended in The Henry Tax Review.

Start your super search now – happy hunting!

Ann Patrick is Finance Manager at Cube and a Certified Practising Accountant.

Post to Twitter Post to Yahoo Buzz Post to Delicious Post to Digg Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

Is brown the new green?

Featured

For those of us who awoke from our self-induced chocolate coma on Tuesday and waddled into work, only to hear an annoying workmate say “I just had one or two little chocies over Easter”, hold your head high – WE have done our health a world of good!

If you Google the ‘health benefits of brussel sprouts’ there are a mere 78,400 mentions. However, try ‘health benefits of chocolate’ and you’ll be deluged with a whopping 2,150,000! Clearly brown is the new green.

We all love hearing things that are bad for us may actually be good for us.

We’ve known for some years now that chocolate may be good for your heart. Cocoa beans contain polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that may protect against heart disease and cancer.

Last week the media focused on results of a German study which provided further evidence regarding this link. Published in a reputable journal, it included a large research population (almost 20,000 that was part of a larger cancer study) and was carried out by an independent foundation with no conflict of interest declared. The study ticked a lot of important boxes to be taken seriously.Age old question - is chocolate good for you?

‘The more chocolate the better’ was one of the timely pre-Easter messages.  Commencing my dance of joy I noticed the kicker – the difference between ‘more’ and ‘less’ in the study was a mere six grams of chocolate. That’s less than one small square of a 100g bar. And, it really needs to be dark chocolate. No dance.

Then there are the psychological benefits of chocolate. These articles always begin well – “An apple a day? Make that a chocolate bar.”  Whilst that probably sent dietitians around the country into apoplectic shock, it works for me! The smooth indulgence has been said to trigger the same chemical reactions as some anti-depressant medications. It also triggers the release of those feel good endorphins. When was the last time a celery stick gave you a warm fuzzy feeling? 

Surprisingly, chocolate has been found to contain a healthier saturated fat. Chocolate, on average, is approximately 30-45% fat of which around 20% is saturated fat and half of that is stearic acid which does not affect blood cholesterol levels.  In fact, an RMIT study found people who ate 100 grams of chocolate a day had smaller platelets in their blood after three weeks, which could help reduce the risk of coagulation.

And if that isn’t enough to convince you that brown is the new green, Japanese research found that the polyphenols in chocolate can actually prevent dental caries.

So the next time that workmate is sipping mung bean and lentil soup, let your endorphins run free, flash those pearly whites and rest easy in the knowledge that we chocolate lovers are simply oozing health!

 

Guest written by Maria Padua, PR consultant and chocolate devotee

Post to Twitter Post to Yahoo Buzz Post to Delicious Post to Digg Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

Going the extra mile for a good cause

Featured

If someone asked you to drive a rusty old car worth less than your TV set, don an Akubra and drive 3,500kms through the 45®C unforgiving Australian outback on just $500 worth of petrol, would you say yes? Well someone from Cube did, and for a good reason – to raise funds for Cancer Council NSW.

People from around the world are coming together to take part in the inaugural Sh*tbox Rally this month to raise funds for Cancer Council NSW. On 20 March, 17 teams will each drive an old car of less than $1,000 value – in other words, a sh*tbox – 3,500 kms from Sydney to Alice Springs. The challenge is to get there in one piece – both the cars and the participants!

The 2010 Shitbox Rally Route

The 2010 Shitbox Rally Route

From the gateway of the outback at Nyngan, to Broken Hill, up the Oodnadatta Track, onto Uluru/Ayres Rock and finishing in Alice Springs, the Rally will incorporate some of the most challenging roads in Australia. Participants range from their early 20’s to late 30’s and herald from the UK, Hong Kong as well as various states across Australia including VIC, QLD, NSW and SA.

One of Cube’s very own employees, Polly Lutter, is taking part: “The challenge will be to ensure our old car reaches the destination in one piece whilst raising as much money as possible. Sadly, we all know someone who has been affected by cancer and I wanted to raise awareness of the wonderful work done by the Cancer Council of NSW. It’s also a great way to see some of this amazing country whilst ‘roughing it’ a little along the way!”

Organiser and founder of the Sh*tbox Rally, James Freeman, who recently lost both his parents as well as his brother (five years ago) to cancer, hopes not only to raise funds for Cancer Council NSW, but also help support the greater community of people the disease affects. “Like me, the type of people that are doing the Rally want to make a bigger and more meaningful contribution to the fight against cancer.” 

Cancer Council NSW funds vital cancer research, prevention, information and support services like the Cancer Council Helpline. Help the team reach their fundraising goal by donating online at Everyday Hero.

Post to Twitter Post to Yahoo Buzz Post to Delicious Post to Digg Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

Stand up if you sit down too much

Featured

The working year is now in full swing – gone are the summer holidays filled with long walks, backyard cricket and swimming at the beach. We’re now at our desks and computer screens resulting in hours of sitting, slouching and stillness.

Australians are internationally applauded for a love of the laid-back lifestyle and viewed from afar as masters of the work-life balance. But did you know the average Aussie spends 1855 hours per year at work which The Australia Institute believes is the highest number of hours in the developed world?

With so many of us chained to the chair and staring at screens for most of the day it’s unsettling to learn the possible health ramifications of this ‘sedentary schedule’.

Is sitting down a health hazard?

Is sitting down a health hazard?

Perhaps the least surprising consequence was found in a study revealing sitting down as the culprit of headaches and back, neck, shoulder and arm pain.

More concerning is the fact that staying idle can also put us at risk of death from heart disease. In New Zealand, researchers discovered sitting at a computer for hours on end can cause fatal blood clots, just as long flights can lead to deep vein thrombosis. (Apparently they discovered the link when a 32-year-old man who sat at his computer terminal for up to 18 hours a day nearly died). 

It’s easy to assume going to the gym, running and participating in team sports before or after work will reverse the potential risks of a sedentary desk schedule – however they remain even if we exercise regularly.

According to Sydney-based personal trainer and life coach Rob Derbyshire, many of the aches and pains ‘desk devotees’ suffer from are caused by posture problems.

Poor posture is likely to be brought on by tight muscles (mainly the quads, hip flexors and abdominals (prolonged sitting is again responsible) and weak/lengthened muscles (such as the glutes, deep core muscles, and upper back including rhomboids & lower traps), which are relaxed whilst sitting and not regularly contracted to defy gravity.

As with any condition, prevention is better than cure, so to prevent postural problems it is important to possess a good amount of functional strength, flexibility and stability – and importantly core strength.

Here are Rob’s simple strategies to combat poor posture and move more at work:

  • Sitting on a fit ball 50% of the time
  • Stretching & moving around regularly throughout the working day – take the stairs, make a cup of tea or simply wander to colleague’s desk to say G’day
  • Setting up your desk to the correct ergonomic specs
  • Embarking on a posture improving exercise plan, like yoga, Pilates or a class run by a skilled personal trainer
  • Avoiding exercise that is contra-indicative to good posture such as, lots of sit ups and activities that repeatedly perform the same movement
  • Indulging in a massage or learn some SMFR (Self Myofascial Release) techniques

You’re probably sitting down at your desk right now…so get up, move and make 2010 the year you take your work health standing up, not sitting down!

Post to Twitter Post to Yahoo Buzz Post to Delicious Post to Digg Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

Will you be love sick – or love well – this Valentine’s Day?

Featured

As Saint Valentine shines his bow and sharpens his arrow in preparation for a pop at lovers around the world on Sunday 14th February, the question on everyone’s pursed lips is this: is love good or bad for your health?valentines_day

Take the time to Google the topic and you will come across a wide range of opinions – for some it can cure all our ills, yet for others it’s the very cause of them.

If you are a believer in love and its positive powers, you’d be forgiven for wondering why modern medicine exists at all. Expert comment and research draws conclusions including ‘love makes you smarter’ (as it improves memory by triggering brain cells), ‘love helps fight cancer’ (promoting killer cell activity), ‘love is good for your heart’ (makes it beats faster and increases blood supply whilst lowers blood pressure) and even the Holy Grail, ‘love makes you live longer’ (scarily, social isolation increases the risk of early death).

Based on this high-level science, how could anyone claim love is bad for you? Google doesn’t make it too easy to find scientific information on the lower points of love. But it does readily offer in one long list the plethora of popular music dedicated to the downsides of dating.

In 1960 The Everly Brothers were blunt in their summations (Love Hurts) and Jon Bon Jovi sang about love being ‘bad medicine’ in the 1980s. More recently, American Idol winner Jordin Sparks asked “why does love always feels like a battlefield?”

And we’ve all been party – directly or indirectly – to a conversation where one half of a couple claims emphatically that the other will in fact ‘be the death’ of them.

Whatever your relationship status perhaps it’s wisest to take note of Whitney Houston’s 1986 smash hit song – The Greatest Love of All – where she claimed it was simply learning to love yourself.

Well, at least until Johnny Depp or Angelina Jolie arrives. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Post to Twitter Post to Yahoo Buzz Post to Delicious Post to Digg Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon

Beating the back to work blues

Featured

back_to_work_stress

Beat the blues

It’s the first week of January and you’re back at work. After a fabulous Christmas and spectacular New Year, suddenly it’s all over and normal life resumes once again. So here are our top 5 ways to get you out and about in Sydney during January to shake those blues away…

1. Sydney Festival
There is so much going on with the Sydney Festival this month it’s hard to fit it all in, from family activities to music, dance and theatre across the CBD. Why not get a group of friends together and head down to the Domain, find a patch of grass, sit back and relax with a glass of wine and watch the vast array of entertainment.

2. Flickerfest
Flickerfest is Sydney’s first beachside cinema where you can watch up-and-coming stars from under the stars. The event screens the best short films from Australia and the world in a unique, relaxed summer environment. Gourmet food and wine of the organic variety can be purchased from the Beachside Bar at the Pavilion.

3. Australia Day
With your cork hat on and boomerang in hand, head down to Darling Harbour and join the excitement of Australia Day 2010. This year there will be a harbour boat parade, as well as live music from Leo Sayer and Australian Idol winner Stan Walker, followed by an amazing display of fireworks lighting up the Harbour.

4. Moonlight Cinema & Open Air Cinema       
Whether it be a romantic night out or a get together with your friends, book your tickets online for seats at the Centennial Park or Mrs Macquarie’s Chair outdoor cinemas. You can select from a range of old and new films with the breathtaking back-drop of the Opera House or Harbour Bridge… just don’t forget a warm jumper and insect repellent!

5. Sydney Fish Markets Seafood School
At number 5 in our list is the Sydney Fish Markets Seafood School in Pyrmont. At one of Sydney’s leading cooking schools you will be shown just how easy it is to cook and prepare seafood at home. You can impress your friends and family with your newfound skills learnt from one of the leading Australian expert chefs.

Post to Twitter Post to Yahoo Buzz Post to Delicious Post to Digg Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon