2016 has certainly been a year of political uncertainty, and as it draws to a close, the only thing we can be sure of is that this is set to continue for some time to come.

The result of the EU referendum has, ironically (given that the role it played in the arguments of the 'leave' campaign), put even more pressure on an already struggling National Healthcare Service. One way that people have been responding to this situation has been to take control of their conditions and bring some of the monitoring work, quite literally, in-house.

Often with the support of their GP, patients will invest in fingertip pulse oximeters (like the CMS50DL, which is our most frequently GP-recommended oximeter), portable ECGs like the Contec PM10, and blood pressure monitors like the 08A, in order to keep track of trends and better plan their treatment. This is something which diabetics have been doing for decades with blood glucose monitors and home test strips, but is a relatively recent - and growing - phenomenon for people with cardiovascular conditions such as atrial fibrillation or a history of angina or coronary artery disease, hypertension, COPD, asthma, and even athletes looking to fine-tune their bodies and achieve optimal performance.

"One way that people have been responding to this situation has been to take control of their conditions and bring some of the monitoring work, quite literally, in-house"

For a relatively small investment, individuals can empower themselves. Just like the politics of 2016, our health can be puzzling and unpredictable. One treatment plan or lifestyle change might not yield the results we were expecting. Indeed, our bodies can often behave in a 'Trumpest' fashion, responding in the most paradoxical of ways.

As an echocardiographer, my patients tell me regularly of treatments that should work but didn't (cardioversion, drugs, exercise plans), or shouldn't work but did. I hear stories of miraculous recoveries, just as I hear the heart-wrenching stories which highlight the often incomprehensible injustice of life, and the sobering reality that our minds rely so heavily upon our bodies - indeed, that the two are interconnected even more intricately than we sometimes like to admit, which has been discussed in a number of posts previously - for example, on sports motivation, and on the interplay of physiological and psychological stress.

Despite the nuiances of every condition, though, we are paradoxically united by the one thing that makes us all different: by our uniqueness. By the journey to understand ourselves, our minds and our bodies. Our own struggles and battles, which are never precisely the same as anybody else's.

Linked to this journey is another commonality, found across all of my patients and all of our customers here at Lift Your Way:  resiliance. There are good days and bad, but there is always that willingness to fight on, whether for their spouse, their children or grandchildren, their pets, their hobbies, or just their own stubborn refusal to give in or have their lives defined by their conditions.

"we've focused on sports research that looks at the unique responses of previously ignored groups of people, the largest group of which is - remarkably - the entire female population of the planet"

No two patients, and no two athletes, are the same. That is why, this year, we've focused not only on sourcing the best medical devices for our customers, but also on sports research that looks at the unique responses of previously ignored groups of people, the largest group of which is - remarkably - the entire female population of the planet. With the possible exception of some of the most elite athletes in the world, the vast majority of women are still training and being trained as though they were men. This is not to imply that women are fundamentally different in the exercises they can perform, or the strength and performance gains achievable, but it is becoming increasing apparent that the optimal way of training for women differs from men. Women's muscles have been found to have greater stamina than men's, such that low-rep explosive sets may not be playing to a woman's advantages. Women's most influential muscle-building hormone is oestrogen, not testosterone, and it's important to understand how to structure workouts and rest periods most effectively within this context.

This is not to pander to common misconceptions that women are somehow slaves to their hormones. Men, too, will structure their workouts based on peaks and troughs in their hormone production. The morning vrs evening workout debate still rages on bodybuilding forums and Men's Health style magazines, and pre- and post- workout nutrition is all about optimising the release of hormones. And when it comes to sports performance, weight loss or bodybuilding, 'optimisation' really is the key word. When your goals are lifelong health and fitness, it's all about experimentation, and finding the right formula that fits with your life and your goals in a way that you can sustain (see our previous posts on avoiding psychological overtraining).

"the only thing which truly unites us is our individuality"

If we are to take any positive message from the political events of 2016, it's to realise that it's time to take action and reject the rise of the herd mentality, and embrace our differences. Realise that the only thing which truly unites us is our individuality, our uniqueness.

Our health or fitness may not always be predictable. Things may not always go the way we planned, and it may seem unfair. But in an environment where very little seems to follow logic or reason, we can take back just a little control. Through greater knowledge of our bodies and transparency of our conditions -  from the ability to document arrhythmias to feed back to our doctors, to the independence parents can get from a handheld oximeter like the CMS60D - we travel together into 2017 with a renewed passion to rely less on that which we cannot control, and more on what we can. To lift ourselves up, our way.

All that remains is for me to thank all of our clients from 2016. Your inspirational stories, your hard work (paramedics, police, first responders, firefighters, nurses, doctors), your feedback and suggestions define who we are as a company, and shape our future.

Keep on taking control! #LiftYourWay

Are you looking for something to help you in 2017? We always want to hear your ideas. Please get in touch!