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Five Core Stock Market Investing Beliefs

Five Core Stock Market Investing Beliefs

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I wished to share the fundamentals of this investing channel by sharing my 5 core stock market investing beliefs:

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  • the markets are not efficient - the efficient market hypothesis doesn't really work in the long-term and is something we can take advantage of.
  • long-term attitude - everybody is so focused on the short term and not on the long-term but the long-term really matters. Of course you can't forecast what will earnings be in 5 years, but you can forecast what will be the competitive advantages, the growth, the fundamentals, the risk etc. A long-term perspective tells you what will likely be the better investment in 5 years, that is all you need.
  • value or growth? Why not both? Growth is an essential part of value!
  • Research, research and research - the more stones you turn, the more ideas you can find that the market doesn't even see because it is myopic.
  • Hyperbolic discounting - everybody wants to double their money in two 3 years - if you want to double your money in ten years, you have an advantage and you will likely double it in 5, buy you must keep targeting doubling it in ten, not five. that is crucial.

5 Core Stock Market Investing Beliefs

Transcript

Good day fellow investors. We have recently passed an amazing number which is 71,000 subscribers on YouTube. And to introduce myself to all the new subscribers and future subscribers, I thought that I would share my five core investing beliefs, which is probably the reason why you are subscribed to this channel and why you like this content. And therefore one video where I summarise what is the fundamental thought of this channel, I think will be enjoyed by you all.

So the fundamentals of what I do are, knowing that the markets aren't efficient, so that's one. Then having a long term view, having a long term investing view, which means from beyond 2-3 years because all the market is focused on next earnings quarters, where will the price of oil go next six months? What will happen to the man next year and I'm thinking more okay, what will happen to oil in the next 5, 10, 20 years and how will that impact my investing? That's what I do. And that has given great rewards to me over the past. And I'll also discuss a little bit about myself and my historical investing journey and how I came to those five investing beliefs. Further, there is still research, research research, the more research I do, the more I know, the more I understand what's going on. And then one more technical little thing that comprehends everything, and that is hyperbolic discounting. Which we'll see how it works, and how it gives you an advantage as an independent investor.

So let's start with the efficient market hypothesis. It was created 60s-70s by Eugene Fama, Kenneth French, and promoted mostly by them, and it states that the stock price reflect all available information at that moment, and that there is no point in doing anything. You just have to accept the stock price. And the reward will be given by the market, you cannot beat the market, you cannot know what will happen in the future. And anything you do any thinking is worthless. That is the efficient market hypothesis works perfectly with people that are lazy. That's the majority of people. So, okay, I don't have to think, thank you, you're giving me something that I don't have to think about. Give me a pill to cure all my illnesses so that I don't have to think about being healthy. I don't have to exercise. And that's typical. And that's why it works so great. It's easy, it's simple, and everybody loves it.

However, as what Buffett say in his 1988 letter to shareholders, in any sort of a contest, financial, mental or physical. It's an enormous advantage to have opponents who have been taught that it's useless to even try. And then the funny thing is that this also reflects in French and farmers data they have analysed they have said okay, the markets are efficient, then they have analysed, what's the difference if I buy value and if I buy growth stocks based on price to book values, what's the difference in long term returns? And the answer is that if you buy value, you have better returns, which means the markets are not efficient, as they think they are. They have improved their formula later with the 5 factors. But still, if you are an independent investor with a long term objective, you can do better.

If we just take a look at their data. If we in 1926 invested in growth stocks, growth stocks are categorised in their data as stocks with the highest price to book value the 33% of the market with the highest price to book value $1 would turn into something like $100 in the last, what, 95 years, however, if you invested in value stocks price to book in the lowest 33% of the market, $1 would turn to more than what a 100, probably something like 100,000 on this chart, I don't know the exact data. And now it's probably a little bit less because growth did well. But this tells me that over the long term, I can do well and I can do better the market, if I follow certain guidelines, which we'll discuss in a moment and if I work hard on doing research.

So as what Buffett say it pays a lot to just work hard, and it pays even better if everybody else thinks that there is no point in working. Now let me explain this. My simple, common sense application as we said, grandma style or fat Tony and style is are you buying the stock or the business. Everybody looks at these stock prices. Stock priice is going up and down. Of course, that's efficient in the short term news, stock price goes up, you can do nothing about it. But if you simply change switch your mindset and say, okay, I'm going to buy a business. Just think of a restaurant down the street, of a hotel. Well, maybe not now, but long term or something like that. Something that creates cash, monthly yearly basis, that there is no quote on it. Okay, I'm the owner of the business or you are owner or I don't know what, and then you say, okay, what's the value of that business? What's the business return? Then you don't really care about what happens in the market, except for when you want to take advantage of the market situation.

For example, this is the S&P 500 earnings. You see the trend is clear the red line, however, the earnings depending on the economic situation went up and down constantly. So that is normal businesses are volatile, nothing is linear. But the long term trend is pretty clear. And this crisis shall pass too. Just to emphasise this, these are the corporate profits after tax in the United States, look at that volatility, look at the drops that are normal, but also there is a clear exponential compounding trend and that's what you are investing in. When you are happy with the business return, then you are an investor. And then as an investor, you look at the long term and the long term earnings, and that's pretty stable line. But the market will give you opportunities to buy low, and if it's really exuberant to sell high.

Let's just take another look at the s&p 500 over the last 40 years. We have a clear trend of growth, but as everybody is focused on the short term, let's try to beat the market in the short term. Which I agree you can. The markets are relatively efficient in the short term, but extremely inefficient in the long term. This was also the topic of my PhD. The longer the period I used to make an analysis, the more inefficient the market was, or the more efficient for me as a common sense investor. Just look at the trend, the growth, and then you see how irrational investors are in 2007-1999. They were happy to pay 1500 points for American businesses in the S&P 500, just two years later, they were unhappy to pay 700 or 600 points. That's 50% lower. Why? Just because the outlook there was a recession which is normal things in nature. And then also depending on interest rates, what else is there, they are happy to pay 3000 points a few months ago, now a little bit less, then a bit higher, and it's really so volatile. But as an investor you look at the businesses. You own what you own, you know that, I don't know, if you own a house and you're renting it out, you know that 90% of the time it will be used, but 10% it will be vacant. Every real estate investor knows that, that 10% of the time, you won't get the money for the renting out. So that's something you have to implement into your calculation. There goes the value of the house. And that's how investing is done. And if you have such a mindset, then you can beat the efficient market.

We don't know what will happen in the next six months. When will this situation ease, when will be come to normal. Somebody says it will take three years somebody says it will take 12 months. And everybody's panicking and you see all these situations. Just comment on the oil price, which is interesting today, over supply, no demand, and then simply the price goes into negative to $35. That's common just in an energy market. In Germany if it sunny and if the wind is strong, then energy prices are usually negative, because it doesn't pay to stop those windmills and solar panels to shut them down. And it's simply based to sell the oil for a lower price. The oil market there are plenty of traders, gamblers, whatever, crazy and if those get margin calls or something like that they were forced to sell and then you have this drops back. When the situation stabilises, it's likely that there will over the longer term be, again, a good balance with oil prices, a fair balance for producers and purchases. You just need to see the long term and have faith in the world. And that requires patient research. And if you think long term you have the advantage to see what others don't be greedy like in 2009 when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy.

Now the first pillar of my content is value. I call myself a value investor and then you think okay, but growths and what about growth? Well, value growth is an essential part of value. When I value a business, I look at the cash flows from today till Judgement Day As with Buffett say. If those cash flows will be growing, then I have to implement the growth into my calculations, and that increases my fair value. So, when somebody says value or growth, I say, both, and that's also in life, if you have a both mentality, you have so many more options. So, of course, not growth this company is losing money, but it's growing 50% it will probably never break even but it's growing. Let's buy that. No. As I said, both value and both growth in a good business model and if I look good, you'll see that you can find growth and value at the same time and those are usually the best investments.

How to find both value and growth, well, it all boils down to research. Buffett was once asked how does he find those great investments? And his answer was, well, I usually start with the ace. So that's what I do. This week, I'll be researching the steel market, steel stocks to see how those feeds long term opportunities, long term investment opportunities. And then next week, next week, something else I have Norway also on my list, good businesses, etc, etc. And the more I researched, the more I know as investments so that investment knowledge compound for the long term, and I'm happy to share this on this channel, where we do stock analysis. One stock market news with a long term twist per week, and we discuss investment mindset, as we are doing now. So if you haven't, please subscribe to this channel and click that like button for the YouTube algorithm to support the channel. Thank you.

Then the final, a little bit more technical explanation that takes into account everything that I do, as said the market is focused on the short term. So they value everything in the short term more than that they value something in the long term. And here you have two lines. One, the red one is the hyperbolic discounter. And you'll see how it doesn't make a difference much more into the value that comes into the future. However, that is what compounding is, that is what investing is. And the exponential discounter doesn't really apply much value to something in the short term, a big difference. But you know that in the long term, the value starts to compound in what happens 3-5-10 years really matters. The market doesn't care what will happen in the next 2, 3, 5 years. If some company is making a great investment now that will pay in 2, 3, 5 years. down the road, the market doesn't care. If some company I don't know has issues now with the oil prices down, and they will model the all the environment, all the stocks as the recession and oil prices will stay down or negative forever. And that's something so surprising when things are bad, analysts are pushing down their estimations of prices of valuations. When things are going good, they're pushing them up, instead of doing the opposite, and trying to find a long term balance. And that's also connected with hyperbolic discounting.

We as humans are wired to focus more on the short term and give more value to the short term instead of the long term. And I think when it comes to investing the discrepancy is somewhere between 2-3 years. I look at businesses. I look when I find a great business that will be great from year 3 to year 10 from now, then I know I might find some real undervalued gems. And you'll see how that works just in a moment. So this is when I started investing in 2002. I come from Croatia lived the first 30 years in Croatia. And I started investing when the stock market was at 1000 points. It was already 3x up from the bottom in 1999. But I was looking at businesses, found a business that I liked. So I think the first businesses was the price earnings ratio of 7 and dividend yield of 5% and 10% growth that is what was I buying in 2002. 2002 to 2004-5, nothing happened then I was just buying more and more and more because I wanted to be an investor I wanted to have a million in stocks have 5% dividend and retire at 25, 30, 35 whenever I hit that threshold. Fortunately for me, the market suddenly changed. And by 2006, Sven was 23 and extremely rich, the dividend didn't grow that much, but my stocks went up five to 10 times that was a crazy environment.

I sold both the boats, started the PhD, invested a little bit in myself, in my education and invested also a little bit in the United States, was down like everybody else. 30% in 2008, when I sold some brought back to my own market and I was buying big from 2009 to 2014. Because I again, so nice businesses, this was my best stock 70% of my portfolio. 2009 from 2012 I remember buying it exactly that dip 2009 a little bit and then when I had the money up till 2014 a little bit higher, I will went in buying because it was a great business 10% growth per year price earnings ratio was really low. 7 or something, the dividend yield was 8% and I thought, okay, that's something I like, that's something I can own forever. So I'll just keep buying, putting paycheck by paycheck by paycheck. And then the market again rewarded me by pushing the stock up 3 times. When we decided to move to London, we decided to do other things. And then of course, I sold we bought the house, invested more in education, etc, etc, invested in other businesses, other stocks. And the moral of the story is always when you find a business that you like, and you want to own it forever. You buy it, and especially if it's a great long term business, and that's why everybody's saying long term, because most people don't see the long term. That's why they are focused on the short term they have to pay, who knows what their mortgage, they are selling, putting the prices is down in panic and that's the best time when you can buy and that's what I did and I keep doing that. And I think that sooner or later I'll be reward. Lead by owning great businesses that I never have to sell or buy a change in valuation that if it happens good, if it doesn't happen also good.

And in 2017 I started this YouTube channel so really having a lot of fun happy sharing, doing a bit different, I started writing articles in 2015 when I was an accounting professor in Amsterdam. The summers were free so I said okay, this summer I'll write try to write the book some articles share my research. And from then I started to write more, more research more, do more, resign as a teacher and do this as a full time stock market researcher. Thank you for watching. If you have any question, you can always send me an email or contact me or check my page. There is more about me. My book free investment course for everybody where all this educational content, I tried to put a video and also write it in a paper so that you can always come back and learn more about investing. There is also my stock market research platform for those who are interested in my portfolios, and I'll talk more about those tomorrow. Thank you and I'll see you in the next video.

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Nonprofit Blood Donation Service Starts Matching Unvaccinated Patients With Donors

Nonprofit Blood Donation Service Starts Matching Unvaccinated Patients With Donors

Authored by Allan Stein via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Swiss…

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Nonprofit Blood Donation Service Starts Matching Unvaccinated Patients With Donors

Authored by Allan Stein via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Swiss naturopathic physician George Della Pietra believes people worldwide should be free to choose whether to get a COVID-19 vaccine injection or not.

He believes the same should hold for those receiving transfusions with “vaccinated” blood.

“The problem is right now we have no choice,” said Della Pietra, founder of the nonprofit Safe Blood Donation service in 2021, matching unvaccinated blood recipients with donors in 65 countries.

“It was very clear from the beginning that the COVID hype was way out of control,” Della Pietra said. “It was not as dangerous as they say it was.

“As a naturopath, I can make no sense of this pandemic, which was never really a pandemic. It leaves space for so many explanations.”

Della Pietra believes that an mRNA injection is more dangerous than the pharmaceutical companies are willing to admit. He said the growing numbers of adverse reactions are reason to question their safety and effectiveness.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that vaccinated and boosted people made up 58.6 percent (6,512) of the COVID-19 deaths in August—up from 41 percent in January.

We can no longer say this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Cynthia Cox, the Vice President of the Kaiser Family Foundation told The Washington Post in an article on Nov. 23.

Nearly 70 percent of the world’s 8 billion people have received at least one mRNA injection for COVID-19 since the vaccines began rolling out in 2021 at the height of the virus’s spread.

Each of the three primary mRNA COVID-19 vaccines contains COVID-19 “spike protein” fragments, which bind at the cellular level to stimulate an immune response to the virus.

Della Pietra believes these spike proteins produce “classic symptoms”—namely blood clots—that “horrified” him.

“I’ve never seen anything similar—and I’m not talking only about spike proteins,” Della Pietra told The Epoch Times in a phone interview.

It’s unbelievable because we never had this problem before. It’s been only two years. They want to keep the narrative [that an mRNA vaccine] is not dangerous.”

A man looks at his phone while donating blood at Vitalant blood donation center in San Francisco on Jan. 11, 2022. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Although donated blood and plasma must undergo a cleansing process before transfusion, Safe Blood Donation says this is not enough to remove all mRNA ingredients.

“I’m talking about graphene oxide and non-declared inorganic components in the vaccine, which we can see in the blood. When I see them, I have no idea how we can get rid of them again,” Della Pietra said.

Looking at the abnormalities in vaccinated blood, he said, “OK, we have a problem.” People are receiving the vaccine “more or less through the back door.”

“You can not avoid it anymore.”

In the United States alone, there are approximately 16 million units of donated blood annually. Of those units, about 643,000 are “autologous”—self-donated—and the number is increasing yearly, according to BloodBook.com.

Della Pietra said that, to his knowledge, Safe Blood Donation, based in Switzerland, is the first unvaccinated blood donation service of its kind.

“So, there is no blood bank with mRNA-free blood yet, not even with us,” Safe Blood Donation states on its website.

“And, although we have already asked hundreds of clinics, at the moment—at least in Europe—all of them still refuse to allow the human right of free blood choice with them—or at least do not want to be mentioned because otherwise, they fear reprisals.”

A nurse works as employees donate blood during a blood drive held in a bloodmobile in Los Angeles on March 19, 2020. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Della Pietra said the main goal of Safe Blood Donation is not to start an mRNA-free blood bank. Rather, it is to make it possible to match unvaccinated blood donors and unvaccinated recipients, “which we bring together in a clinic (medical partner) that allows the choice of blood donor.”

Medical website Seed Scientific said that blood banks and biotech companies will offer as much as $1,000 monthly for blood donations.

While Della Pietra said there are no unvaccinated blood banks, he sees the demand for unvaccinated blood rising.

This is why I decided to do [SafeBlood Donation]. I wanted to make a network for unvaccinated people looking for a blood donor because they need it—whether they have scheduled surgery or an emergency,” he said.

Safe Blood Donation began working in the United States about a month ago, building an infrastructure of medical partners.

However, in the current medical environment, central blood banks such as the Red Cross do not segregate their blood donations based on their vaccinated or unvaccinated status.

Rendering of SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins binding to ACE2 receptors. (Shutterstock)

“The American Red Cross does not facilitate designated donations for standard blood needs, as this process often takes longer and is more resource intensive than obtaining a blood product through our normal process,” the Red Cross told The Epoch Times in an email.

In a small number of situations, there is an exception for rare blood types where compatible blood types are extremely difficult to find. A rare blood type is defined as one that is present in less than 1/1000 people.

“We want to emphasize that the Red Cross adheres to all donor and product requirements as determined by the FDA to ensure the safety of the blood supply and is committed to continuing to provide life-saving blood products for patients across the country.”

The National Library of Medicine said that “across study sites, the average hospital cost per unit transfused was $155 and the average charge per patient was $219.”

Still, the Red Cross, which provides 40 percent of the nation’s blood donations, said “no studies” demonstrate adverse outcomes from transfusions of blood products collected from vaccinated donors.

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Tyler Durden Sun, 12/04/2022 - 20:55

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Wokeism Is Costume Elites Wear To ‘Signal Virtue’ And ‘Hide Greed, Corruption’: Former Levi’s Executive

Wokeism Is Costume Elites Wear To ‘Signal Virtue’ And ‘Hide Greed, Corruption’: Former Levi’s Executive

Authored by Ella Kietlinska and Jan…

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Wokeism Is Costume Elites Wear To 'Signal Virtue' And 'Hide Greed, Corruption': Former Levi's Executive

Authored by Ella Kietlinska and Jan Jekielek via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

The pose of wokeness is a costume that the left liberal elite puts on to virtue signal that they care about social justice and to hide their greed and corruption, said the former executive of a major brand-name apparel manufacturer.

Jennifer Sey, former Levi Strauss and Co. chief marketing officer and brand president, as well as author of “Levi's Unbuttoned: The Woke Mob Took My Job but Gave Me My Voice," in Denver on Nov. 20, 2022. (Jack Wang/The Epoch Times)

Jennifer Sey, former chief marketing officer and brand president of Levi Strauss & Co., told EpochTV’s “American Thought Leaders” program that she had “pushed back” on the public school closures due to COVID-19 for two years, and in the end, she was pushed out of the company for her advocacy.

Sey, who was sending her children to public schools, believed that prolonged school lockdowns were harmful to children and started speaking out against them at the beginning of the pandemic.

Sey said she and her husband were reading the data that was coming out of Italy at the start of the pandemic, a country heavily hit by the disease, and the data showed that the median age of death due to the disease was over 80.

Nobody was bothering to look at actual data or adhere to the pre-pandemic playbook, which said you never shut schools down for more than a couple of weeks,” Sey pointed out. “It was from day one that me and my husband, we both said, ‘Hell no, this is wrong. People are going to be harmed.’”

An aerial view of the schoolyard at Frank McCoppin Elementary School in San Francisco on March 18, 2020. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

In September 2020, Sey’s company warned her that her advocacy against school closures could be considered speaking on behalf of the company, “the implication being, there would be reputational harm to the company caused,” she said.

At the same time, her peers began sending their kids back to private in-person schools, Sey continued.

“I was so angry that these people would dare to say to me while sending their own kids to in-person school: ‘You can’t advocate for poor children to be in school.’”

Sey said it was atypical for her peers—and even for employees two or three levels below her in the corporate hierarchy—to send their kids to public school in her city of San Francisco.

I thought the lightbulb would go off, and people would see the hypocrisy if I just made it clear in a calm, nice way. But they didn’t, because the hypocrisy, in a sense, is the point.”

“This pose of wokeness, it’s a cloak they wrap themselves in to signal virtue … to hide greed, corruption, keeping all the good stuff for themselves,” she said.

It’s this costume that the left, liberal elite wraps around themselves to say, ‘I care about social justice. I care about all these causes. I am a good person.’ If you threaten to expose that, you need to be banished.”

Sacrificed Career for Speaking Out

Around the time of the new year in 2022, Sey was told that there was no longer a place for her at the company.

“You can’t be the CEO because of the things you’ve been saying and doing. Therefore, you can’t sit in your current chair because that is the role that ultimately becomes the CEO, so you need to leave,” Sey said she was told.

She was offered a $1 million severance package, which she decided to turn down because it would come with the signing of a nondisclosure agreement.

“What the nondisclosure agreement would require is that I never speak about the terms of my ousting. I was not OK with that,” she said.

In February, Sey resigned from her post at Levi Strauss & Co. after almost 23 years with the company.

The Epoch Times reached out to Levi Strauss & Co. for comment.

Sey said the illiberalism that has traveled from college campuses into companies and taken hold of corporations across the country is “incredibly dangerous.”

“If you insist on a culture where free speech is not tolerated, not only is it non-inclusive, which is problematic in and of itself, but I actually think it’s fraught and rife with the potential for corruption and fraud, like we’ve seen with Theranos and FTX and Enron,” she said,

Theranos, a company that claimed to provide blood testing lab services with a single drop of blood, defrauded its investors in a multimillion-dollar scheme. Its founder, Elizabeth Holmes, was recently sentenced to 11 years in prison.

FTX, a Bahamas-based cryptocurrency exchange, recently went bankrupt along with more than 130 affiliate companies due to insufficient liquidity. FTX users are potentially facing $8 billion in cumulative losses, while investors in the company are likely to lose their entire investment as a result of the bankruptcy.

Enron, a Texas-based energy-trading company, went bankrupt in 2001 due to fraudulent accounting practices and conflicts of interest. Within a year, Enron’s stock price plummeted from about $90 per share to 26 cents per share, which caused billion-dollar losses to investors, thousands of job losses, and the liquidation of more than $2 billion in pension plans.

There were people in those companies who knew what was going on, but they didn’t feel they could say anything,” Sey said.

“If you cannot have a conversation in the company about what is working and what is not working, what is true and what is not, you can’t innovate. You can’t move forward,” she said. “It stands in the way of progress when we can’t have these conversations because we’re all just adhering to propaganda.”

 “It is a violation of the spirit of the First Amendment,” Sey added.

Jennifer Sey (R) is seen at the Levi’s Times Square Store Opening in New York City on Nov. 15, 2018. (Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for Levi’s)

Wokeism Is an Ideology

Being “woke” during the 1940s through the beginning of the 1960s meant “being awake or alert to the fact that there was racial inequality, and being part of the movement to change that,” Sey said. “It’s admirable, I have no issue with that.”

However, in the last 10 or 15 years, and especially in the last three to five years, those beliefs have been corrupted and commodified “into an ideology which can never be questioned,” such as gender ideology, race ideology, or body positivity, Sey explained.

Sey said that she was very supportive of transgender people working in her team. “I would never want a person to be discriminated against for anything, including being unvaccinated.”

But someone who questions whether an 11-year-old should be on puberty blockers, when there is no research on the mid- to long-term impacts of this therapy, is considered evil and must be banished for violating this ideology, Sey said.

“[Wokeism] has become religious in nature. Woke capitalism is really just an attempt to profit off of this ideology and the passion behind this ideology amongst primarily Gen Z and millennial consumers,” she said.

Another example of ideology that cannot be questioned is the idea of “body positivity,” which touts that the size of the body does not affect its health, Sey said.

We couldn’t say during COVID that it was dangerous to be overweight. I said it, and that made me a fat-phobe,” she said.

“We can’t say that, because the mantra is ‘healthy at any size.’ It’s ideological. And you have to be pure in the belief of that ideology, or you are evil and must be shunned.”

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Tyler Durden Sun, 12/04/2022 - 20:20

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Pedestrians choose healthy obstacles over boring pavements, study finds

Up to 78% of walkers would take a more challenging route featuring obstacles such as balancing beams, steppingstones and high steps, research has found….

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Up to 78% of walkers would take a more challenging route featuring obstacles such as balancing beams, steppingstones and high steps, research has found. The findings suggest that providing ‘Active Landscape’ routes in urban areas could help tackle an “inactivity pandemic” and improve health outcomes.

Credit: Anna Boldina

Up to 78% of walkers would take a more challenging route featuring obstacles such as balancing beams, steppingstones and high steps, research has found. The findings suggest that providing ‘Active Landscape’ routes in urban areas could help tackle an “inactivity pandemic” and improve health outcomes.

[A copy of the paper and images can be downloaded here]

Millions of people in the UK are failing to meet recommended targets for physical activity. Exercising “on the go” is key to changing this but while walking along a pavement is better than nothing it causes no significant increase in heart rate so only qualifies as mild exercise. Walking also fails to significantly improve balance or bone density, unless it includes jumping, balancing, and stepping down.

But would adults opt for such ‘fun’ routes if given the choice? A University of Cambridge-led study published today in the journal Landscape Research suggests that with the right design, most would.

Previous research on ‘healthy route choices’ has focused on people’s likelihood of walking instead of using transport. But this study examined how likely people are to pick a more challenging route over a conventional one and which design characteristics influenced their choices.

Lead author, Anna Boldina, from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Architecture, said: “Even when the increase in level and extent of activity level is modest, when millions of people are using cityscapes every day, those differences can have a major positive impact on public health.”

“Our findings show that pedestrians can be nudged into a wider range of physical activities through minor changes to the urban landscape. We want to help policy makers and designers to make modifications that will improve physical health and wellbeing.”

Boldina began this research after moving from Coimbra in Portugal – where she found herself climbing hills and ancient walls – to London, which she found far less physically challenging.

Working with Dr Paul Hanel from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex, and Prof. Koen Steemers from Cambridge, Boldina invited almost 600 UK residents to compare photorealistic images of challenging routes – variously incorporating steppingstones, balancing beams, and high steps – with conventional pavements.

Participants were shown images of challenging and conventional tarmac routes and asked which route they would choose. The researchers tested out a range of encouraging / discouraging parameters in different scenarios, including crossing water, shortcuts, unusual sculptures and the presence / absence of a handrail and other people. Participants were asked to score how challenging they thought the route would be from 1 (as easy as walking on level tarmac) to 7 (I would not be able to do it).

Eighty per cent of the study’s participants opted for a challenging route in at least one of the scenarios, depending on perceived level of difficulty and design characteristics. Where a challenging option was shorter than a conventional route, this increased the likelihood of being chosen by 10%. The presence of handrails achieved a 12% rise.

Importance for health

The WHO and NHS recommend at least 150 minutes of ‘moderate’ or 75 minutes of ‘vigorous’ activity spread over a week, including a variety of activities aimed at enhancing bones, muscles, and agility to stay healthy. In addition, adults over 65 are advised to perform strength, flexibility, and balance exercises.

Boldina said: “The human body is a very complex machine that needs a lot of things to keep working effectively. Cycling and swimming are great for your heart and for your leg muscles but do very little for your bone density.”

“To improve cardiovascular health, bone density and balance all at once, we need to add a wider range of exercises into our routine daily walks.”

Psychology of choice

Co-author Dr Paul Hanel said: “Children don’t need much encouragement to try out a balance beam but we wanted to see how adults would respond, and then identify design modifications which made them more likely to choose a challenging route.”

“We found that while embarrassment, anxiety, caution and peer pressure can put some adults off, the vast majority of people can be persuaded to take a more challenging route by paying careful attention to design, safety, difficulty level, location and signage.”

The proportion of participants who were willing to pick a more challenging route varied from 14% for a particular balance beam route to 78% for a route involving wide, low stepping stones and a log with a handrail. The least intimidating routes were found to be those with wide, steady-looking balancing beams and wide steppingstones, especially with the presence of handrails.

The researchers suggest that routes that incorporate more difficult challenges, such as obstacle courses and narrow balancing beams, should be placed in areas more likely to be frequented by younger users.

The participants expressed a range of reasons for picking challenging routes. Unsurprisingly, the study found that challenging routes which also acted as short cuts appealed. Up to 55% of participants chose such routes. The researchers also found that the design of pavements, lighting and flowerbeds, as well as signage helped to nudge participants to choose more challenging routes. Many participants (40%) said the sight of other people taking a challenging route encouraged them to do the same.

The participants who picked conventional routes often had concerns about safety but the introduction of safety measures, such as handrails, increased uptake of some routes. Handrails next to one steppingstones route increased uptake by 12%.

To test whether tendency to choose challenging routes was linked to demographic and personality factors, participants were asked to answer questions about their age, gender, habits, health, occupation, and personality traits (such as sensation seeking or general anxiety).

The researchers found that people of all levels of activity are equally likely to pick a challenging route. But for the most difficult routes, participants who regularly engaged in strength and balancing exercises were more likely to choose them.

Older participants were as supportive of the concept as younger ones but were less likely to opt for the more challenging routes for themselves. Nevertheless, across all age groups, only a small percentage of participants said they would avoid adventurous options completely.

The study applies the idea of “Choice Architecture” (making good choices easier and less beneficial choices harder) plus “Fun theory”, a strategy whereby physical activity is made more exciting; as well as some of the key principles of persuasion: social proof, liking, authority, and consistency.

Future work

The researchers hope to run experiments in physical test sites to see how intentions convert into behaviour, and to measure how changes in habits improve health. In the meantime, Dr Boldina continues to present her findings to policy makers.

Critics might question the affordability and cost effectiveness of introducing ‘Active landscape routes’ in the current economic environment.

In response, the researchers argue that installing stepping stones in a turfed area can be cheaper than laying and maintaining conventional tarmac pavements. They also point out that these measures could save governments far greater sums by reducing demand for health care related to lack of exercise.

Reference

A. Boldina et al., ‘Active Landscape and Choice Architecture: Encouraging the use of challenging city routes for fitness’, Landscape Research (2022). DOI: 10.1080/01426397.2022.2142204

Media contact

Tom Almeroth-Williams, Communications Manager (Research), University of Cambridge: researchcommunications@admin.cam.ac.uk / tel: +44 (0) 7540 139 444


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