Darsnek Gmbh https://darsnek.com Curated Native Austrian Books Thu, 13 Dec 2018 18:52:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.12 The closing of American bank branches https://darsnek.com/the-closing-of-american-bank-branches/ Sat, 29 Jul 2017 13:00:25 +0000 https://darsnek.com/?p=2024 WINDSOR, a community of 6,200 people two hours outside Albany in New York state, offers many of the amenities commonly found in a small town, including a bakery, a car-repair outfit and several restaurants. There is just one thing missing: a bank. The town’s only financial institution, First Niagara Bank, shut its doors in October.

Towns like Windsor are becoming ever more common in America. Since the financial crisis, banks have closed over 10,000 branches, an average of three a day. In the first half of 2017 alone, a net 869 brick-and-mortar entities shut their doors, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence, a research firm. Some fret that branch closures risk turning poorer neighbourhoods into “banking deserts”, cut off from current accounts, loans and other basic services.

Not long ago, the notion that Americans might lack sufficient access to bank tellers would have seemed absurd. In the years leading up to the crisis, bricks-and-mortar branches grew by about 200 each month. By 2009, according to the World Bank, America had 35 branches for every 100,000 adults, twice as many as Germany. Since then, however, ultra-low interest rates and thickets of new regulations have squeezed bank profits. They have responded by trimming branches from a peak of about 100,000 to roughly 90,000.

Bank bosses maintain that they are “optimising” their branch networks to fit changing customer habits. But the cuts have not been made evenly. Data from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) show that the top fifth of all postal codes by household income lost around 3% of their branches between 2009 and 2016. During this period, the bottom fifth saw their branch numbers decline by 10%.

Community organisations worry that if branches continue to close in poor areas, many neighbourhoods could become reliant on payday lenders and cheque-cashing stores. In June the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis estimated that there are now more than 1,100 banking deserts—defined as census areas at least ten miles from a bank—in America. That figure could easily double if small community banks continue to close. In May the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a non-profit group, published a report showing that the number of banking deserts in rural areas has increased by 86 since the crisis.

The situation may be less dire than it seems. An analysis of FDIC data by The Economist shows that banking deserts, using the Fed’s definition, are home to just 1.7% of the population. For most of the country, banks are still within easy reach—typically just two miles away. Nine out of ten Americans live within five miles of a bank; half live within one mile.

Even if banks remain accessible to most, branch closures can take a heavy toll. “The loss of a bank has a significant impact on communities,” says James Chessen of the American Bankers Association. The cost is greatest for small businesses, which often lack audited financial statements and other information that can be analysed remotely. “At the local community level, so much of that business is driven by relationships,” says Chris Vanderpool of S&P Global Market Intelligence. “The farther out you are, the harder it is to manage those relationships.” A study in 2014 by Hoai-Luu Nguyen, now at the University of California, Berkeley, estimates that when branches close, new small-business lending falls by 13% in the surrounding area. In low-income neighbourhoods, such lending contracts by nearly 40%.Even if financial regulation loosens and interest rates rise, branches are likely to thin further. JLL, a property firm, reckons that by 2027 the number of bricks-and-mortar branches could have declined by another 20%. The risk of widespread banking deserts may be a mirage. But small-business lending could still suffer.

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Can data predict fashion trends? https://darsnek.com/can-data-predict-fashion-trends/ Sat, 29 Jul 2017 12:51:12 +0000 https://darsnek.com/?p=2018 IN THE film “The Devil Wears Prada”, the character of Miranda Priestly, whose role is based on a feared Vogue editor, scolds her new assistant for not understanding fashion. Fashion, she tells her, is whatever a select group of designers and critics says it is. What she does not say, however, is that their judgments are themselves often influenced by another group: fashion forecasters, who predict what will be “in”. Might these seers of style in turn be undone by artificial intelligence (AI)?

Fashion forecasting has always been a peculiar profession. The business came into its own in Paris in the 1960s when agencies began releasing “trend books”, collections of fabrics and design ideas. Retailers use these books for inspiration as they put together designs.

The biggest of these forecasting firms is WGSN, with a market share of 50%. It employs 150 forecasters who scour the world’s catwalks, bars and clubs to spot the next big thing. Their findings are then combined with other data, from economic indicators to political sentiment. Petah Marian, a senior editor at WGSN, is confident that the methodology works. She says her colleagues often exclaim “I forecast that!” when visiting clothing shops.

Ms Marian’s confidence may seem surprising, given the lack of clear correlations between fashion and macroeconomic data. Not much evidence supports the theory of George Taylor, an economist, that hemlines rise with stocks, and Leonard Lauder’s suggestion that lipstick sales increase during a downturn. Even the co-founder of WGSN, Marc Worth, who sold the firm to set up a rival service, once stated: “Nobody can really predict or forecast trends.” If forecasters can claim accuracy rates of up to 80%, it is because their predictions are often self-fulfilling. Most major retailers buy trend books. For designers, they are a form of insurance: as long as they are widely used, the risk of being wildly out of step with the market is modest.

The business of forecasting is menaced by data-driven analysis, however. The clothing industry’s supply chain is becoming more digital and more flexible: Inditex and H&M, for example, aim to take an idea and turn it into a finished product ready for mass production in two weeks. In response, forecasting agencies are making use of data collated from retailers’ IT systems and have added short-term predictions to their portfolio of services. In 2013 WGSN launched INstock, a retail-analytics service, which uses past sales figures to predict upcoming bestsellers. EDITED, a competing service, provides “solid metrics” in fashion, claiming to use machine learning, an AI technique, in order to predict short-term sales trends.

Chanel RTW Fall 2016

Such offerings notwithstanding, the marriage of AI and fashion is still in its infancy. A study in 2014 found that the best predictive models get it wrong nearly half the time. But forecasters are likely to face rising competition as technology firms enter the market. Google, an online giant, now has a “Trendspotting” division. It releases a regular “Fashion Trends Report” based on the firm’s vast trove of search data. So far the results are basic: in 2016 slim “mom jeans” were on the rise while baggier “boyfriend jeans” were on the way out. But Olivier Zimmer, the project’s data scientist, says that the goal is to produce more sophisticated combinations of search and other data.

The dull edge of intelligence

Whether AI will ever truly replace the woolly methods of fashion forecasting remains to be seen. Some worry that using AI may dull design. The business has already become “pedantic” and a matter of percentages, says Michael Bennett, a former forecaster. But Julie King, a fashion expert at the University of Northampton, expects the ingenuity of exciting couturiers to prevail over the homogeneity of data-driven algorithms. If so, the Miranda Priestlys of the world won’t stop dictating what’s hot and what’s not.

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The world’s largest online-travel company https://darsnek.com/the-worlds-largest-online-travel-company/ Sat, 29 Jul 2017 12:46:09 +0000 https://darsnek.com/?p=2012 NOT since the dotcom boom at the turn of the century have technology shares been on such a tear. On July 19th the S&P 500 index of information-technology stocks hit a record high, closing above its previous peak in March 2000 (see Buttonwood). As titans like Google, Facebook and Amazon hog the limelight, other firms can go unnoticed. One that deserves more attention is Priceline, the world’s largest online-travel company.

Those old enough to remember the dotcom boom may still associate Priceline, which was founded in 1997, with its “name your own price” feature, which let consumers bid for hotel rooms and flights. Today it is a Goliath. Its stable of online sites for booking hotels, cars, flights and restaurants spans the world and includes Booking.com, Kayak, Agoda and OpenTable. Over the past decade Priceline’s pre-tax earnings have grown at a compound annual rate of 42%, faster than Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Alphabet (see chart). It also boasts a 96% gross margin. Its share price has risen by more than 50% over the past 12 months, about four times faster than the broader stockmarket. On July 26th the firm’s market value rose above $100bn.

Perhaps because Priceline is based in Connecticut, not Silicon Valley, it is often overlooked by geeks and technology investors, who revere Airbnb, a platform for booking overnight stays in other people’s homes which is valued at around $30bn. Ask an entrepreneur in San Francisco about Priceline, and you are likely to get a blank stare. Insiders know better. “There’s nothing you can point to and say, ‘That’s something no one else could have done’,” says Adam Goldstein of Hipmunk, another online-travel firm. “It’s just that Priceline did everything better in every way.”

The most important reason for Priceline’s success is shrewd dealmaking. In 2005 it paid around $135m to buy Booking.com, a Dutch website that aggregates hotel inventory, and merged it with another acquisition, a British travel site called Active Hotels. Today Booking.com has the world’s largest supply of hotel accommodation and accounts for the lion’s share of Priceline’s revenue and market value. Booking.com was one of the best deals “in the history of the internet”, says Mark Mahaney of RBC Capital, an investment bank.

Priceline’s focus on accommodation helps explain why it is more profitable and more highly valued than Expedia, a rival online-travel company that operates sites such as Orbitz, Travelocity, Trivago and Hotels.com. Expedia does more business booking flights, but these are not as lucrative. Online-travel firms take a meaty commission of 15-18% of a hotel room’s price, compared with a slim 3-4% for airfares, according to Brian Nowak of Morgan Stanley, another investment bank.

Unlike Google and Amazon, Priceline does not aim to be on the cutting edge of technology, but it does make clever use of it. Booking.com excels at bidding for online-search keywords. It is rumoured to be the world’s top spender on Google: last year it spent $3.5bn on “performance marketing”, which is mostly related to search advertising. Booking.com is also constantly trying new features: it runs around 1,000 tests a day to see what makes users more likely to click “book”. Some of these experiments, such as free cancellations and ranking hotels by the strength of their Wi-Fi, have become permanent features.

Steady management has helped the company, too. Glenn Fogel became Priceline’s boss in January, after the previous boss, Darren Huston, resigned for having an affair with an employee. But Mr Fogel, a former investment banker and trader, has worked at Priceline for 16 years and is credited with initiating the Booking.com deal. Asked about his firm’s success, he attributes some of it to letting acquired firms go about their business. Kayak, an aggregator of travel listings that Priceline purchased for $1.8bn in 2012, for instance, still retains separate headquarters in Connecticut, six miles away from Priceline.

And then there are the lessons of the firm’s own history. One is not to try too many things at once. During the dotcom boom the firm took the “name your own price” concept to extremes, allowing people to bid on petrol, groceries and even mortgages. The ensuing bust was bleak: Priceline’s market value dropped by more than 99%, to $190m (the share price is up by 30,000% since that trough). That experience taught management to prize discipline and profitability. The corporate ethos today is one of a “workhorse, not show-pony”, says one person close to the firm.

If analysts have their numbers right, the future looks bright for Priceline. Last year travel accounted for an estimated 10% of global GDP, or $7.6trn. But only around a third of that is booked online. This share is expected to rise by a couple of percentage points a year over time, about the same pace as e-commerce more broadly. And as people become wealthier, they tend to travel more; many in emerging markets are venturing abroad for the first time.

New markets beckon, too. The concept of “alternative accommodation”—rentals of apartments, villas and homes—was popularised by such firms as Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO (the last two are both now owned by Expedia). But Priceline is bulking up in this area: last year it offered 568,000 “alternative accommodation” listings on Booking.com, nearly 50% more than a year earlier. Airbnb lists 3m, but many of those are individual rooms for rent in a larger home, whereas Priceline mostly offers entire properties, many of them professionally managed.

Mr Fogel argues that Priceline’s approach of offering both hotels and other accommodation makes sense, because people like having a variety of choices available in one place. But Priceline will increasingly compete with Airbnb, which is expected to go public next year and is hungry for growth. Airbnb is said to have plans to add more listings of boutique hotels and bed-and-breakfasts to its own service and has suggested it could offer flights, although it has not offered any details.

Priceline and Airbnb will also compete over more of consumers’ budgets when they travel. Earlier this year Airbnb started selling local “experiences” with guides. Booking.com is experimenting with selling tours and other on-the-ground activities in several cities. The idea is to offer a “holistic system” for travel, says Mr Fogel, so people can use the Booking.com app to check into hotels without queuing, enter their room by swiping their phone as they do to board an airline, and make dinner reservations through OpenTable. Such features are meant not only to increase the company’s share of consumer spending, but also to ensure that customers continue to book on Priceline’s sites rather than directly with hotels and restaurants.

But becoming a one-stop-shop for all travel needs won’t be easy. Priceline’s least successful acquisition was OpenTable, for which it spent $2.6bn in 2014. Last year Priceline wrote down around a third of its value, acknowledging that the restaurant-booking service was not expanding as quickly as had been expected. This suggests that consumers may be comfortable using all-purpose sites to book hotels and flights, but still want to use real-life concierges for local recommendations.

Airbnb is not the only rival Priceline has to worry about. Technology firms will launch more pointed attacks. Google already offers consumers the ability to research flights and routes, directly taking on Priceline’s Kayak. The search giant can use its vast trove of data on consumers to push more deeply into the travel business.

The most dangerous rival, however, may well come from somewhere else entirely. “We’re all waiting for the moment when a big Chinese company comes in and tries to take market share,” says Erik Blachford, a former boss of Expedia. Ctrip, a giant based in Shanghai and worth an estimated $30bn, is the obvious candidate. But if it indeed makes a move, Priceline will not necessarily suffer. Not only is its Chinese business growing nicely, but it has also invested nearly $2bn in Ctrip’s debt and equity. Small wonder that some analysts consider Priceline the best-run internet company after Amazon.

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The Real Reasons Why People Join a Gym https://darsnek.com/the-real-reasons-why-people-join-a-gym/ Sat, 29 Jul 2017 12:37:38 +0000 https://darsnek.com/?p=2006 People join a fitness facility to get fit, lose weight and stay in shape. Right? Yes, but there are other reasons driving the purchase of a gym membership or personal training package. Know what your customers need and want, and make it your mission to serve them.

Education, Expertise and Trust

Why do people give up after contemplating a healthy lifestyle change? Confusion–it’s that simple. There’s so much information, advice and opinion available to the consumer—it’s easy to see why it can be so overwhelming. When potential exercisers meet with information overload, oftentimes the result is that they don’t take action at all. It’s just easier.

It’s clear that many people are still not exercising, so there’s a high probability that your next member will be a nonexerciser. Why does this person step through your front door? Primarily for the expertise your facility offers. It seems simplistic, but trust is essential when people perceive that they’re taking risks. Customers no longer want to be sold to; rather, they want to know that your service is a good fit and that you have their best interests at heart.

This may seem obvious, but it may not be your customers’ perception when they’re making a buying decision. If frontline staff are mainly motivated and/or directed to sell instead of educating potential members, your approach could appear inauthentic and hollow. Here’s an alternative plan, and it may not be easy to organize: Make your personal trainers available to answer the questions and concerns of new members and prospects. The more you educate and empower your customers, the more you get back.

Strengthen Community Ties

The next issue that’s becoming increasingly important, especially as our population ages, is community . Social isolation is a serious issue, and can lead to many health-related problems that have a wide-reaching effect. One reason people join a fitness facility is to feel they are part of a social network. In addition to having a fun place to meet people, members are engaging in healthy activities. Make sure your facility creates an inclusive environment where all people feel welcome. Take a look around and analyze what’s working to create a sense of community and what’s not. For example, do you have a nice office space with a comfortable couch where staff and members can sit and chat? Are there opportunities for members and staff to interact outside of the gym? I used to take my staff to art gallery openings and book readings. This helped create interesting conversations, and we saw each other as a community, not just staff and customers.

The relationship between personal trainers and clients becomes even more important as clients enter their golden years. Mix young, energetic trainers with older clients; it is good for both parties. It’s equally important to have older people on staff to reflect how everyone at every age contributes to a sense of belonging. An older workforce brings wisdom and fosters mentorship, which strengthens community.

The Happiness Quotient

Ultimately, people want to be happy. In most cases, a buying decision is rooted in the desire for happiness, whether the purchase is a vacation, a new car, a better house or new shoes; the underlying motivation for spending money is happiness. When someone is considering buying a membership or personal training package, she is imagining a healthier body. Why have a healthier body? To be happier and more satisfied with life. A healthy body is important to overall happiness and peace of mind. It’s hard to be happy when the thought of clothes shopping causes despair or when you’re in constant pain and discomfort. Some people even fear pursuing happiness because they believe the pursuit is selfish, impossible or both.

When you understand this fear and the desire for happiness, it’s easier to have empathy for customers and support them on their journeys to health and happiness. This desire for happiness is not only a possibility; it’s a necessity for a fulfilling life! Happy people create more happiness. Examine the need for happiness closely, and bring it up at staff meetings. Ask employees for ideas about how to make members happier, and also ask them what would make them happier. Recognize and acknowledge the many ways your staff is creating a healthier, happier world.

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Which Stretching Program Is Best for You? https://darsnek.com/which-stretching-program-is-best-for-you/ Sat, 29 Jul 2017 12:32:46 +0000 https://darsnek.com/?p=1994 In nearly 40 years as a fitness educator, I have never been sidelined by a significant injury, in spite of decades of high-impact classes, rigorous weight training, participation in competitive aerobics, and group exercise schedules that sometimes exceeded 25 hours per week. I attribute my longevity in this grueling business to one thing—cross-training all aspects of fitness, including flexibility.

We place great emphasis on cross-training cardiovascular and resistance conditioning, but flexibility is still an afterthought on many schedules. Although most facilities provide some kind of flexibility-oriented programming, options are often limited. Yoga is popular, and participants enjoy various degrees of flexibility while practicing it. However, while yoga improves range of motion and some aspects of flexibility, cross-training this aspect of fitness would lead to greater gains.

Today’s workouts are dominated by high-intensity, physically challenging movements. The rise of these programs has led to more injuries. A more effective stretching regime could help to minimize damage from overuse. On the other end of the spectrum, sedentary people may be dealing with muscle dysfunction and atrophy, along with limited ROM in some areas of the body. A varied stretching routine may remedy many of their difficulties. Regardless of fitness level, flexibility training is vital. Fascia makes up as much as 30% of a muscle’s total mass, and accounts for about 41% of a muscle’s total resistance to movement (Rahman et al. 2015). Fascial restrictions contribute greatly to mobility limitations, so a comprehensive program that includes a variety of stretching techniques should be part of any fitness regimen.

Stretching Techniques

There are many different stretching options to choose from, and the right program depends on genetic makeup, personal preferences, injury history, age, gender, weight, body type and activity level. Because movement occurs through many planes, not just forward and backward, it’s beneficial to stretch in as many positions as possible. Not all techniques are right for everyone, and some stretches are contraindicated for people with specific injuries; however, mixing and matching leads to the best results. Here are some of the most popular choices:

    • Ballistic stretching uses a fast bounce to push the body beyond its normal ROM. While this practice may be beneficial for certain athletes, it can increase the risk of injury for average fitness enthusiasts.

    • Dynamic stretching employs active movements through full ROM to stretch and prepare muscles and joints for activity. It helps to increase blood and oxygen flow to soft tissues prior to exertion.

    • Active Isolated Stretching involves extending a muscle, holding that position for 2 seconds and then returning to the starting position. This targets and lengthens the muscle without triggering the protective stretch reflex and subsequent reciprocal antagonistic muscle contraction, since the isolated muscle achieves a state of relaxation. If stressed too far too fast, however, the body will react. Therefore, AIS calls for multiple repetitions to build the body’s awareness.

    • Passive stretching uses outside assistance to achieve results. This “assistance” could be body weight, a strap, leverage, gravity, another person or a stretching device. The key is to relax through the stretch while continuing to maintain pressure as the muscle lengthens.

    • Reciprocal inhibition involves stretching a muscle and then actively contracting the opposing muscle group. With this technique, you relax the muscle you’re trying to stretch, and you rely on the opposing muscle(s) to initiate the stretch.

    • Static stretching requires holding a stretch in a challenging but comfortable position for a period of time, somewhere between 15 and 90 seconds.

    • Isometric static stretching involves no movement. The technique is based on tensing the muscles that are being stretched.

    • Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) is a more advanced form of flexibility training that involves stretching and contracting targeted muscles. It consists of a passive stretch, then a muscular force or contraction, and finally a second, deeper passive release.

  • Myofascial release uses stretching, compression, direct pressure and other techniques to release restricted areas of fascia, ideally creating a biochemical and mechanical change that allows for more efficient movement. Foam rollers and other niche products assist in targeting and releasing the tissue.

Stretching

Share the following cues and tips with your participants for best cross-training results:

  • Combine stretching techniques and see which ones work best for you.
  • Breathe in a manner that feels natural or enhances the techniques. Do not hold your breath.
  • Test your flexibility, and document any positive or negative changes to keep things in check.

Create a journal or take pictures/video.

  • Take your muscles only to a position where you can remain relaxed, never to a point of intense pain.
  • Stretch both sides of the body equally. If there is a need to focus on one specific area, add isolated work.
  • Regardless of the technique, start slowly and add intensity appropriately. The body will adapt, and tolerance will increase.
  • Don’t stretch tendons and ligaments to a significantly greater length, as this could compromise joint stability.
  • Be cautious and use good judgment when using myofascial release techniques. Going too hard or overworking a particular area can cause damage and inflammation. If you are sore days after you roll, or you are bruised, back off.
  • Stay well-hydrated.
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How Pilates Helps Athletes https://darsnek.com/how-pilates-helps-athletes/ Sat, 29 Jul 2017 12:23:17 +0000 https://darsnek.com/?p=1987 Professional athletes of all kinds have discovered that adding Pilates to their training can improve performance, reduce injury, speed recovery and help their hardworking bodies stay balanced and healthy (Caple 2016; Knowlton 2016; Knowles 2016; Saxon 2016). For recreational athletes or simply athletic clients in general, Pilates can provide the same benefits professional athletes enjoy. A well-rounded program, particularly one offered in a fully equipped Pilates studio, can do wonders for athletic clients of almost any age, ability or sport. Let’s look more closely at the advantages.

Multiple Benefits for Recreational

Pilates is a whole-body exercise system that can develop strength, functional flexibility, coordination and balance in athletes wanting to improve their skills or in clients returning to an activity after an injury or a hiatus. Here’s how.

Builds a Good Foundation

According to Jonathan Hoffman, PT, developer of the CoreAlign® training system that categorizes exercise methods as foundation training, fix techniques or fun activities (Hoffman 2016), Pilates is a type of foundation training.

Foundation training denotes an exercise method that works to consciously improve movement quality in a safe, effective manner. It is distinct from the fix techniques used in rehabilitation and from fun activities performed with minimal conscious thought. As foundation training, Pilates helps clients improve their movement patterns by engaging the mind to change the body. Helping clients to feel their imbalances and teaching them how to improve them is a key element of Pilates and of mind-body training in general.

One good case study of effective foundation training involves a client of mine I’ll call Alice. She was moderately overweight and walked with her hips in external rotation. Alice decided to join Team in Training and work toward running a marathon. She had never been much of a runner or an athlete, and she was 38 years old. Through Pilates, she worked on aligning her legs in a more parallel position, stabilizing her core, and developing strength and endurance in her lower body. Pilates, combined with the coaching she received from her Team in Training mentor, allowed her to run a full marathon 8 months later without significant injuries.

Improves Core Strength and Lumbo-Pelvic Stability

Pilates teachers often use lumbar stabilization exercises and concepts in their sessions, and many Pilates exercises incorporate lumbar or lumbo-pelvic stabilization. In athletic clients, greater stability in the lumbo-pelvic and hip regions can increase flexibility, generate power for throwing or rotational sports, and decrease lower-back pain and injury. A comprehensive Pilates mat or studio-equipment program designed to strengthen the trunk in all planes of motion can improve dynamic stability in the core. The emphasis Pilates places on the core, or “powerhouse,” provides an environment for safely developing a base level of lumbo-pelvic stability (Kloubec 2010; Phrompaet et al. 2011). As athletic clients improve their skills, challenges such as standing exercises, plank-based exercises, free weights and unstable surfaces can be added to provide a higher level of difficulty.

Develops Sport Skills

Coaching in specific sport skills may be limited or nonexistent for recreational athletes. A good Pilates teacher with skills or experience in a client’s activity of choice can act as a coach to help the client develop particular skills and optimize movement patterns. For example, if a client who played baseball or softball in college decides to join a recreational league in his or her late 30s, a Pilates teacher can work on leg alignment, strength and balance for running and core support and can help to develop balance in rotation for throwing. A good teacher who understands the demands of an activity can analyze the strength, range of motion, coordination and movement patterns necessary for success and can use the flexibility of the Pilates environment to tailor exercises to the client’s sport. A Pilates expert can also address any physical limitations that may hamper the client’s chances of success.

Balances the Body; Counteracts the Effects of Training

Many recreational or occasional athletes develop muscle imbalances and poor posture from combining a sedentary occupation with their sport. For example, bicycling has become the sport of choice for many middle-aged men and women. Cycling has obvious cardiorespiratory, strength and endurance benefits, but as a repetitive activity it puts strain on the lumbar spine, neck, shoulders, arms and legs. Combining daily work sitting at a desk with hours on a bicycle in deep hip flexion can decrease flexibility in the hip flexors and lower back, leading to stress in these areas. An appropriate Pilates program would emphasize hip, lumbar and thoracic extension to counteract the effects of repetitive stress in a seated position.

The same principle applies to rotational athletes such as tennis players or golfers. The asymmetrical nature of their activities can lead to misalignments and strength imbalances on either side of the body. A specifically designed Pilates program could target the neglected side of the body or work on the opposite movement pattern to cross-train the body and improve symmetry.

For more information (including a segment on injury prevention), plus a full reference list, please see “Pilates for Athletic Clients” www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/pilates-for-athletic-clients in the online IDEA Library or in the April 2017 print edition of IDEA Fitness Journal. If you cannot access the full article and would like to, please contact the IDEA Inspired Service Team at 800-999-4332, ext. 7.

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Short On Time? Never Miss Another Workout Again! https://darsnek.com/short-on-time-never-miss-another-workout-again/ Sat, 29 Jul 2017 12:18:58 +0000 https://darsnek.com/?p=1982 During my long career as a personal trainer, I’ve heard just about every excuse there is for not working out on a consistent basis, but the biggest and most repeated excuse I hear is “time.” People always tell me they don’t have enough time—I’m here to tell you, time should no longer be an excuse. If you’re having a hard time fitting in a workout, try implementing these tips into your daily or weekly routine:

    1. Put it in pen (or in your smartphone).
      Much like using a “to-do” list, writing down a time to work out or setting a reminder in your phone will serve as a visual cue that you must get it done. Try keeping your list short and prioritize it based off importance. I personally put my workout at the top of my list because it’s a great way to start the day and ensure that I get my workout in, no matter what. If you’re not sure where working out will fit in your schedule, it might mean waking up a little earlier or going to bed a little later—either way, it’ll be worth it!
    1. Know that 30 minutes is all you need.
      You don’t have to put a lot of time into your workouts, but you do have to put in the work. Whatever your fitness goals are, short and more frequent workouts will provide you with health benefits you can feel and results you can see. Plus, 30 minutes is only a very small fraction of your day. You don’t have to work out every day, but I recommend working out at least 3–5 times a week. If you want to adopt a healthier lifestyle but feel you don’t have the time, the best advice I can give you is, “Make the time.”

  1. Do it at home.
    Plenty of successful workouts can happen in the comfort of your own home. I know what you’re thinking—your home looks nothing like a gym and you have no idea what to do or where to start, but it’s really a lot simpler than that. Have you heard of online personal training? What if I told you there’s a way you can work out from the comfort of your home, in real time, with an elite personal trainer via laptop, desktop or mobile device. Sounds a little too good to be true, I know, but I’ve recently partnered with a company called gymGO that allows you to do just that. You can work out with a personal trainer and receive two-way, real-time feedback at a time that works for your schedule and your budget. The best part is, you don’t even have to leave your house.

Remember, getting fit starts with you. Time might seem like it’s not on your side, but there are ways that you can start making your workouts work for you. Try these tips and commit to checking your workout off your “to-do” list. All it takes is 30 minutes, three or more times a week, in or outside of the gym. It’s never too late to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Check out gymGO and start training today—it’s GO time!

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Why Government ‘Nudges’ Motivate Good Citizen Behavio https://darsnek.com/why-government-nudges-motivate-good-citizen-behavio/ Sat, 29 Jul 2017 12:01:23 +0000 https://darsnek.com/?p=1977 Research by John Beshears and colleagues finds that psychological nudges can be a cost-effective way for governments to get citizens to do the right thing.

Most governments aren’t subtle when they want citizens to do something. The United States spends close to $1 billion annually on advertising–trying to convince citizens to do everything from taking flu prevention shots to reporting unattended suitcases at the airport. But now agencies are finding that subtle “nudges” can motivate behavior much better than ads, fines, or deadlines.

Nudges, or small changes to the context in which decisions are made, are the subject of a new analysis by Harvard Business School Associate Professor John Beshears and colleagues, recently published in the journal Psychological Science . The paper, Should Governments Invest More in Nudges? answers its own question with a resounding “Yes.”

“We suspected that nudges on an impact-per-cost basis would be superior to traditional approaches such as a financial incentive or an educational campaign,” says Beshears. “But we were surprised to see the extent to which it is true.”

According to behavioral scientists, nudges are dollar for dollar a hugely cost-effective way of causing people to change behavior and do the kinds of things that government wants them to do, like save for retirement—which are both for the good of society and for their own good.

Here’s an example. On the first day of a new job, the paperwork is coming at you fast and furious, including a packet of information about how to sign up for the retirement savings plan. What is more likely to make you fill out the sign-up form, information about the importance of saving for your golden years or a deadline that requests you fill it out within 30 days? If you are like most of us, it’s the latter.

“In the flurry of activity in starting a new job, it’s easy to say, ‘I’m going to fill it out later,’” says Beshears. “But then there is never a convenient time.” Providing a deadline, even one that isn’t strictly mandatory, cuts through the procrastination cycle, spurring employees to action.

Nudges are less expensive and more productive

According to their analysis, money spent on nudges can in some cases be more than 40 times more effective than the next most effective method, a dramatic result for governments dealing with scarce resources.

“If you take a particular policy objective as a given, nudges give you a lot of bang for your buck,” Beshears says.

A nudge, as defined by behavioral economists Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, is a way of changing the environment in which decisions are made without meaningfully changing financial incentives.

“It could be changing the way information is presented or the process by which you select from the available options in such a way that it tends to lead people toward a certain path,” Beshears says. “But it doesn’t coerce them in any way or remove any options from the menu. They still have freedom of choice.”

In the past several years, governments across the world have been creating “nudge units” to identify policy domains where such prods can be effective—starting with the United Kingdom and spreading to include Germany, Australia, the Netherlands, and the United States. Until now, however, no one had ever systematically analyzed their effectiveness in terms of impact per dollar spent.

Beshears is part of an informal group of behavioral scientists who, a few years ago, discussed doing just that. Spearheaded by UCLA’s Shlomo Benartzi, and including Beshears, Thaler, Sunstein, and the Wharton School’s Katherine Milkman, among others, the group settled on four areas of particular interest to nudge units in the United States and United Kingdom—retirement savings, college enrollment, public health interventions, and energy consumption. They then identified a single metric of success in each of the four areas and reviewed every paper that was focused on that success metric and that was published in a top academic journal in the last 15 years.

Analyzing the results, they didn’t always find that nudges were the most effective ways of moving the needle—when money was no object, financial incentives were often more effective in making people take action. “It’s no surprise that if you pay someone thousands of dollars to do something, they will do it,” says Beshears.

On the other hand, nudges are often cheap to implement—sometimes consisting only of changing the way a particular form is written—making them much easier on the budget. The most dramatic impact the researchers found was in the area of college enrollment. In an effort to increase the number of students applying for higher education, federal and state governments have put large amounts of money into grants and tax breaks to decrease the cost of college.

But Beshears and his colleagues found the most cost-effective way to increase college enrollment was just to make applying for financial aid easier. A 2012 study worked with tax preparer H&R Block to pre-fill the FAFSA, the federal form required for financial aid, at the same time individuals filed their taxes.

That simple intervention led to an increase of 1.53 students enrolled in college for every $1,000 spent on the program. The next most effective method, providing monthly stipends to students, led to only a .0351 increase per $1,000—a 43-fold difference—while tax credits were almost negligible in tipping the scale.

“When we are making the decision whether to go to college, it’s not staring us in the face that we will get a tax credit,” Beshears says. “So, it’s not entering into our calculations at all.”

The researchers found similar, if less dramatic, results in other categories. A nudge on energy conservation that compared households to their neighbors led to almost twice as many kilowatt-hours saved per dollar spent as traditional education and incentives. A nudge to schedule flu shots led to almost a 50 percent increase in vaccination take-up per $100 spent over an education campaign.

Nudges are less effective in motivating polluters

Beshears attributes the effectiveness of nudges to the way they target our thought process. He takes a page from Princeton psychologist Daniel Kahneman, who identifies two types of thinking: System 1 decision-making is fast and intuitive, while System 2 decision-making is slow and deliberative.

As much as we might want to believe we are thoughtful, rational creatures, the truth is that humans spend most of their time in System 1 thinking. “Most of what we do day in and day out is act on autopilot as a way to conserve our cognitive resources,” Beshears says. “If we used System 2 the entire day, we’d get too tired.” Nudges tend to work with System 1 thinking, he says, because they make certain choices the more natural and convenient option.

That isn’t to say that nudges are always the most effective way for governments to make their citizens do the right thing. In cases like enforcing pollution regulations, for example, fines are likely more effective, in part because the decisions that go into building a factory are slow and deliberative, taking into account all of the incentives using System 2 thinking. For everyday decisions made by citizens, however, governments should at least consider nudges as a way to supplement—if not replace—traditional incentives.

“When governments are thinking about how to deploy scarce resources, it’s important to do this kind of cost-impact analysis to think about the merits of different policies,” Beshears says. “Doing so makes the case that nudges are often a particularly fruitful avenue to invest in.”

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5 Economic Concepts Consumers Need to Know https://darsnek.com/5-economic-concepts-consumers-need-to-know/ Sat, 29 Jul 2017 11:54:51 +0000 https://darsnek.com/?p=1970 An understanding of economics isn’t seen as being as vital as balancing a household budget or learning how to drive a car. However, economics has an impact on every moment of our lives because, at its heart, it is a study of choices and why and how we make them. In this article, we’ll look at some basic economic concepts that everyone should understand.

Scarcity

You implicitly understand scarcity, whether you are aware of it or not. It is the most basic concept in economics, and is more of a solid fact than any abstraction. Simply put, the world has limited means to meet unlimited wants, so there is always a choice to be made. For example, there is only so much wheat grown every year. Some people want bread; some people want cereal; some people want beer, and so on. Only so much of any one product can be made because of the scarcity of wheat. How do we decide how much flour should be made for bread? Or cereal? Or beer? One answer is a market system.

Supply and Demand

The market system is driven by supply and demand. Take beer again. Let’s say people want more beer, meaning the demand for beer is high. This demand means you can charge more for beer, so you can make more money on average by changing wheat into beer than grounding that same wheat into flour. More people start making beer and, after a few production cycles, there is so much beer on the market that prices plummet. Meanwhile, the price of flour has been increasing as the supply shrinks, so more producers buy up wheat for the purpose of making flour – and on, and on.

This extreme and simplified example does encapsulate the wonderful balancing act that is supply and demand. The market is generally much more responsive in real life, and true supply shocks are rare – at least ones caused by the market are rare. On a basic level, supply and demand helps explain why last year’s hit product is half the price the following year.

Costs and Benefit

The concept of costs and benefits encompass a large area of economics that has to do with rational expectations and rational choices. In any situation, people are likely to make the choice that has the most benefit to them, with the least cost, or, put another way, the choice that provides more in benefits than in costs. Going back to beer, the breweries of the world will hire more employees to make more beer, only if the price of beer and the sales volume justifies the additional costs to the payroll and the materials needed to brew more. Similarly, the consumer will buy the best beer he or she can afford , not, perhaps, the best tasting beer in the store.

This extends far beyond financial transactions. University students perform cost benefit analysis on a daily basis, by focusing on certain courses that they believe will be more important for them, while cutting the time spent studying or even attending courses that they see as less necessary.

Of course, everyone knows someone who has seemingly made a poor life choice. Although people are generally rational, there are many, many factors that can throw our internal accountant out the window. Advertising is one that everyone is familiar with. Commercials tweak emotional centers of our brain and do other clever tricks to fool us into overestimating the benefits of a given item. Some of these same techniques are used quite adeptly by the lottery, showing a couple sailing a yacht and enjoying a carefree life. This image and its emotional message (“this could be you”) overwhelm the rational part of your brain that can run the very, very long odds of actually winning. Cost and benefits may not rule your mind all the time, but they are in charge more than you think – especially when it comes to the next concept

Everything Is in the Incentives

Closeup low angle view of male hand signing subscription form, legal document or business contract. Focus to the tip of the pen.

Incentives are part of costs and benefits and rational expectations, but they are so important that they are worth further examination. Incentives make the world go round, and sometimes go wrong. If you are a parent, a boss, a teacher or anyone with the responsibility of oversight, and things are going horribly awry, the chances are very good that your incentives are out of alignment with what you want to achieve.

We’ll take a safe example, however, of – you guessed it – a brewery. This particular brewery has two sizes of bottle: one 500 ml bottle and a 1L bottle for couples. The owner wants to increase production, so he offers a bonus to the shift that produces the most bottles of beer in a day. Within a couple days, he sees production numbers shoot up from 10,000 bottles a day to 15,000. However, he is soon deluged with calls from suppliers wondering when orders of the 1L bottles are going to come. The problem, of course, is that his incentive focused on the wrong thing – the number of the bottles rather than the volume of beer – and made it “beneficial” for the competing shifts to cheat by only using the smaller bottles.

When incentives are aligned with organizational goals, however, the benefits can be exceptional. Some incentives have been proven so effective that they are common practice at many firms, such as profit sharing, performance bonuses and employee shareholding. However, even these incentives can turn disastrous if the criteria for the incentives falls out of alignment with the original goal. Poorly structured performance bonuses, for example, have driven many a CEO to take temporary measures to juice the financial results enough to get the bonus – measures that often turn out to be detrimental in the longer term.

Putting It All Together

Scarcity is the overarching theme of all economics. It sounds negative, and it is one of the reasons economics is referred to as the dismal science, but it simply means that choices have to be made. These choices are decided by the costs and benefits that impact the choice, leading to a dynamic market system where choices are played out through supply and demand. On a personal level, scarcity means that we have to make choices based on the incentives we are given and the cost and benefits of different courses of action. This is a very broad look at what is, believe it or not, a very compelling subject. These concepts feed into others, like comparative advantage, entrepreneurial spirit, marginal benefit and so on. The world is wide with choices, so the field of economics is wide with theories, laws and concepts that explore those choices.

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FDA Issues New Rules on Sunscreens https://darsnek.com/fda-issues-new-rules-on-sunscreens/ Sat, 29 Jul 2017 11:43:23 +0000 https://darsnek.com/?p=1964 Label changes include curbs on certain products claiming to be ‘sunblocks’ and cancer-preventing.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday it will require new labeling for sunscreens to identify products that are best for reducing the risk of skin cancer, early skin aging and helping to prevent sunburn.

Under the new rule, sunscreens that protect against both ultraviolet A rays (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays can be labeled “Broad Spectrum.” UVB rays and UVA rays both can cause sunburn, skin cancer, and premature skin aging; UVB rays are the main source of sunburn, FDA officials explained.

The new rules will also require sunscreens to have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or more or they won’t be able to claim that they help prevent sunburn and possibly reduce the threat of premature skin aging and skin cancer — if used with other measures to protect against the sun.

“Sunscreens that meet the new test for Broad Spectrum protection and are also SPF 15 or above can, for the first time, include the statement ‘used as directed reduces the risk of early skin aging and skin cancer when used with other sun protection measures,’ ” Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation, said during a Tuesday morning news conference.

The new labels will, for the most part, not been seen until next summer, she said.

Sunscreens with a SPF of 2 to 14 can be labeled as “Broad Spectrum,” but only those Broad Spectrum products with an SPF of 15 or more can claim they reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging, according to the new regulation.

Any sunscreen that is not Broad Spectrum or a Broad Spectrum sunscreen with an SPF between 2 and 14 will have to carry a warning saying the product has not been found to prevent skin cancer or early skin aging.

Sunscreens labels will also have a “Drug Fact Box,” Woodcock said. And, sunscreens can no longer be called sunblocks, she said, “because we don’t want to give the impression that complete protection is provided.”

In addition, sunscreens can no longer claim they protect for more than two hours, without approval from the FDA, Woodcock said. The products will also no longer be allowed to state that they are waterproof and sweat-proof. Products can, however, claim to be water-resistant for 40 to 80 minutes. The amount of time the product remains effective must be stated on the label, Woodcock added.

One expert applauded the FDA move.

“Consumers need simplified and user-friendly guidelines to help them choose an effective sunscreen. The new guidelines will make it easier for dermatologists to make recommendations about sunscreens and for consumers to choose an effective sunscreen to protect their skin,” said Dr. Jennifer A. Stein, assistant professor in the department of dermatology at NYU School of Medicine in New York City. “These new guidelines are a major step in the right direction to help better protect Americans from the dangers of sunburn and helping them reduce their risk of developing skin cancer in their lifetime.”

Dr. Jeffrey C. Salomon, an assistant clinical professor of plastic surgery at Yale University School of Medicine, said, “The new FDA guidelines for sunscreens reflect the confusion for both consumers and health professionals in the realm of sunscreen efficacy.”

“It is welcome news that the term ‘Broad Spectrum’ now specifically endorses the concept of UVA and UVB protection in a sunscreen product,” said Salomon.

The FDA is also proposing another rule that would limit the maximum SPF value on sunscreen labels to “50+”. The reason: SPF values above 50 have not been shown to give any better protection than an SPF 50 product, Woodcock said.

The agency is asking the public to submit data on the effectiveness and safety of sunscreen sprays and to suggest possible warnings that might be applied to the labels of these products. It is also providing information to the makers of sunscreens to help them comply with the new rules.

Finally, the FDA is starting to look into the safety of the active ingredients in sunscreens, Woodcock said.

The American Cancer Society lists skin cancer as the most common of all cancers, responsible for nearly half of all malignancies suffered by Americans. More than 2 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancers are diagnosed each year. Melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer and potentially lethal, is diagnosed nearly 70,000 times each year.

Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are classified as non-melanomas, usually starting in either basal cells or squamous cells, which are found at the base of the outer layer of the skin or cover the internal and external surfaces of the body. Basal cell or squamous cell cancers are quite curable if detected and treated early, according to the cancer society.

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