A lot of things affect our ability to get a full night’s sleep.  Stress, relationships, responsibilities, work, bills, worries, parenting, travel, illness, health all have differing degrees of affect on each of us and our mental and physical well being.  You may not be able to control or eliminate all of these factors but you can create an environment that promotes a more restful night.

Research on sleep loss has told us that even one night with less than 7 – 8 hours of restful, full sleep cycle completion can have profound affects on our health. Get less than 6 hours and next day you are hungrier, have decreased insulin resistance and therefore are pre-diabetic, are more likely to catch a cold as a result of decreased immune system function, have an increased risk of injury or being in an accident, had less tissue repair overnight as growth hormone and testosterone secretion was decreased, your autonomic nervous system will be out of balance and your body will feel the same as if you were over-trained, you will be more emotional and less approachable, your alertness, decision making and memory will be decreased as a result of decreased cognitive function.

Less than 6 hours of sleep per night over 10 – 14 years has been shown to increase the risk of stroke, obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and death.   Research suggests there is the potential for loss of brain tissue, decreased ability to improve perceptual and motor learning processes and decreased hormone function.  Considering what one night of sleep loss does to the body, long term will have an even greater affect on your energy levels and therefore the decisions we make regarding our health and well-being.

We now know that a full night’s sleep allows our bodies to heal, repair, grow and create a better overall level of health and wellness.  Lack of sleep and therefore proper recovery makes it very difficult to achieve any training results.  In order to make changes the body must be working at or near optimal.  The goal should be to create an environment that allows for a full 7 – hours consistently each night.  Below is a list  that is not difficult, overly time consuming, expensive, or requiring a special talent.  A restful, full night of sleep and a fully functioning body can enhanced by…

1.  Create a bedtime routine that is the same every night.  Light pleasure reading, music, relaxation tape, a warm bath (unwinding activities) that occur at the same time each night.
2.  Don’t eat of drink large amounts less than two hours before bedtime.  Avoid foods that create upset stomach for you and decrease fluid intake later in the evening to avoid repeated trips to the bathroom.
3.  Avoid exposure to light from electronic displays 1 – 2 hours prior to bedtime as they can suppress melatonin by up to 22%.
4.  If you do get up at night avoid bright lights.
5.  Avoid caffeine and nicotine as they are stimulates.  Alcohol may help you fall asleep but it prevents restful and meaningful recovery.
6.  Regular daily exercise/physical activity increases the quality of sleep.  You should finish higher intensity exercise at least 2 hours prior to bedtime.
7.  Stop anything that requires high mental focus at least 1 hour prior to bedtime.  If you find it difficult to turn the brain activity down, create a list for the next day as this often is enough to put the mind at ease.  Journaling at the end of the day is a great way to slow the body and mind.
8.  Make your bedroom a cool, dark, quiet and comfortable place for YOU.  What ever works best for you is what you should do.  Special PJ’s, the proper pillow for you, ear plugs, humidifier, mattress, extra blankets, full/dark curtains – make it work for you.
9.  Limit daytime naps to 1 hour or less and no naps after 3pm.
10. Control pets that are in the house.  Can be as simple as closing the door or having kennels.
11.  Find a relaxation technique or a stretching routine that helps you to unwind.  There are so many options here from tapes to body movements to breathing exercises.  With a little practice they can make all the difference.
12.  Control health and wellness issues.  This should be obvious but it shocks me how many of my clients negatively affect their bodies and still expect things to work normally.  This can include drinking when you have gout, not eating on time when you have diabetes, eating spicy food, the list is endless.

For the most part all the above relate to mental and physical well being.  Take care of the body and mind and sleep should be yours to enjoy.  Not surprisingly the list on how to avoid sleep disorders is almost exact to the above.  Small changes to lifestyle habits in diet, exercise, daily routines, a positive outlook and a little planning can help you get the restful sleep your body needs.  If you have tried all of the above with little success and you regularly experience difficulty with sleep, repeatedly feel tired after getting 7 hours of sleep or have reduced or impaired ability to perform regular daytime activities it may be time to call your doctor.  In cases where sleep is disordered it is suggested that you keep a sleep diary to help find the correct solution for you.  This list makes it sound easy – and it is – if you don’t have a sleep disorder.

If you need help, seek it, sleep is vital to optimum health and body functioning


The healing process has three phases: 1. the acute injury phase 2. the repair phase and 3. the remodeling phase.

The acute injury phase starts immediately when connective tissue is damaged and can last 3 – 5 days.  The inflammatory response is important in that it is the cleaning process, removing the damaged tissues and bacteria and preparing the body for the next stage.  Proper care in the inflammation response phase follows the timeless “Rice” principle – Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.  Some textbooks change Rice to Price – the “P” standing for Protection as we control for swelling and pain.

The repair/regeneration phase starts as inflammation subsides, and can last for several weeks depending on the severity of the injury and amount of tissue involved. The body starts to lay down a matrix of collagen fibers (type III) and forms scar tissue.  The collagen in this stage is disorganized in orientation and has weak cross-linking and is susceptible to disruption and re-injury if activity if too aggressive.  Treatment continues to control for pain and inflammation early in this stage but is less required as the stage continues.  Once the new tissue becomes stronger treatment includes regaining range of motion, joint mobilization and scar mobilization.  Some cardiovascular activity and neuromuscular control exercises can be started at intensities that match the tolerance of the new tissue.  Activity during this stage should be very mild – even walking may irritate the tissues trying to heal.

During the last phase of the healing process, remodeling/maturation, the body lays down the stronger Type I collagen.  Type I collagen has much stronger cross-links, therefore it becomes very important to start increasing tension on the tissues to provide guidance for the organizing collagen.  Tension is important so that the collagen aligns itself according to the lines of stress to accommodate functional activities of daily life and recreational/sport performance.  Activities that provide this tension must be chosen carefully to match the ability of the still healing tissue.  The activities are progressive in nature and must allow the person to stop guarding and move toward normal movement patterns.  This phase can take months to years depending on the severity of the original injury.  An example we can use is a broken bone – we know that within 6 – 8 weeks most bones are healed enough for us to return to normal activities, however that bone will continue to heal for up to a another 12 – 16 months.  Yet one more example could be surgery to repair a torn ACL ligament of the knee.  Most post surgery protocols have athletes back to full participation with 6 – 7 months of surgery; however most of these athletes perform at a higher level 12 – 14 months post surgery.

Allowing the body the time and correct treatment protocols to heal after an injury is important for long term functioning.  I see many people who did not allow this process to occur after an injury, and many years later have great difficulty in creating quality posture and movement patterns.  In some cases, treatment protocols or exercises were given that did not match the level of healing or the age/ability of the patient/client.  I know some of you ignore proper treatment after an injury (physio, chiro etc) because, well, all they will do is put those machines on me and they do nothing.  Well, those machines and the people who run them understand the healing process.  The machines are only the start of your recovery, and as you progress through the healing stages the therapist will do a number of manual therapies (joint mobilization, scar mobilization, massage, ROM exercises, acupuncture, IMS) to get you to the point where you can start with weight bearing, balance, movement pattern and simple strength activities.  Only after you pass this stage are you ready to resume normal activity without risk of re-injury or long term biomechanical dysfunctions.


The brain is a 3-pound organ in our body, which, like any other organ, can be healthy or unhealthy. Uniquely, the brain is intertwined with our mind, emotions, behavior and the functions of all other organs. Fortunately, simple actions in daily life can have a great effect on maximizing brain health and minimizing degenerative brain diseases.


Find the article here


Last week we looked at the Canadian Sport Centres Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) program by explaining the FUNdamental stage.  The LTAD focuses on the general framework of athlete development with special reference to growth, maturation and development, trainability, and sport system alignment and integration.
This week we will look at Phase three, four and five of the process.

Phase three, for our purposes, includes Training to Train and Training to Compete.

Train to Train – this stage is defined by the onset to the end of the growth spurt.  We can now call them young athletes as they consolidate basic sport-specific skills and tactics.  During this stage there is accelerated adaptation to aerobic, speed, and strength training.  It is important to mark peak height velocity as this is the time when their bodies are fully prepared to develop the above training attributes.  It is important to maintain flexibility and mobility during this rapid growth period.  These young athletes may play to win and do their best, but they still need time for skill training and physical development.  Skill training should make up 60% of the athletes time with 40% on competition.  Competition focuses on the practice of technical/tactical skills as well as decision making.  This is the stage where coaches and parents can start to identify talent and start the specialization process.  The warning is that this is also the stage when many young athletes quit their sport due to burnout or excessive pressure from coaches and parents.  Make sure your athlete is mature enough to handle specialization…their is still time.
It is stated in the Canadian Sport for Life Long Term Athlete Development Resource Paper – “the Learn to Train and Train to Train stages are the most important stages of athletic preparation.  During these stages, we make or break an athlete!”

Train to Compete – is the stage where things get serious. The stage starts at age 15 for girls and 16 for boys and continues into the early 20’s.  Sport, event, and position specific physical conditioning, technical, tactical and playing skills under competition like conditions are implemented.  High volume and high intensity are introduced in year round programs.  The athlete may be training specifically 9 – 12 times per week.  The athlete needs the most skilled and qualified coaches to ensure physical, mental and emotional development.
Phase four is the Training to Win phase and for most sports starts at 18 for females and 19 for males.  This is the stage where elite athletes are training at the most intense levels to compete at the international level.  All training and preparation is world class and focused on the sport and athlete.
The last phase is Active for Life.  This stage can be entered at any age if physical literacy was developed efficiently in the early years.  The athlete moves from competitive sport to recreational and those who did not purpose sport as a child can still participate at a level that allows for health and wellness as a result of having the necessary motor skills and confidence.  Success in the fundamental and learning to train stages should allow the participant to choose from a large number of recreational pursuits.  Being Active for Life can set an example for our children and peers by modeling healthy lifestyles.
More information can be found at or ask me to see any of the Canadian Sport Centre’s resource material.


In an earlier newsletter we introduced the Canadian Sport Centres Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) program by giving a short overview of all of the stages.  The LTAD focuses on the general framework of athlete development with special reference to growth, maturation and development, trainability, and sport system alignment and integration.

Last week we defined Physical Literacy and discussed the importance of the development of movement and sport skills in the early stages of a child’s life.  Previous research has demonstrated that without the development of these fundamental skills, many children and youth choose to withdraw from sport and turn to more inactive and/or unhealthy choices during their leisure time.
Fundamental skills are typically broken into three movement categories including stability, locomotor, and manipulative.  The developmental process involves a sequence that sees stability skills develop first, followed by locomotor skills and finally manipulative skills.  Within each category there is a typical progression amongst the skills and between categories of skill development.  In other words gross motor skills develop prior to fine motor skills, rudimentary to mature form of a skill.
Stability skills include body rolling, dodging, balancing, bending, stretching, twisting, turning, swinging stopping, rocking, push, pull, rise, collapse, sway, spin and shake.
Locomotor skills include walking, running, jumping, hopping, galloping, sliding, skipping, leaping, chasing, climbing and fleeing.
Manipulative skills include underhand throw/roll, overhand throw, catching, kicking, striking, punting, dribble with feet and hands, volleying, trapping.

Phase one of the development of these skills is called Active Start and is for 0 – 6 year old’s. This stage is simply getting fun activity each and every day and not being sedentary for more than 60 minutes except sleep times.  A quick look at the stability skills above will indicate that our introduction to physical literacy starts at the very earliest moments of life and never stops its slow yet rapid progression.  In the first year of our life we will have some kind of interaction with almost all of the skills from all three categories.  Movement education, early gymnastics, combo sport programs, dance, skating, skiing, and swimming classes are excellent for this group.

Phase two as we are defining it includes the FUNdamental stage and the Learn to Train stage.  These two stages take us from age 6 to about age 11 or 12 and should see the child have basic competence is all fundamental movement skills and a good introduction to sport skills.   In other words FUNdamental movement skills and FUNdamental sport skills equal Physical Literacy.  It is also very important that these skills be developed before the onset of the adolescent growth spurt.  The basic movement skills of 3 activities provide the base for all other sports…Athletics: run, jump, throw; Gymnastics: agility, balance, coordination, speed; Swimming for water safety reasons and for balance in a buoyant environment.

The Canadian Sport for Life lists the fundamental skills for these stages as follows…

Travelling Skills: boosting, climbing, eggbeater, galloping, gliding, hopping, ice picking, jumping, leaping, poling, running, sculling, skating, skipping, sliding, swimming, swinging, wheeling…

Object Control Skills: Sending: kicking, punting, rolling (ball), strike (ball, puck, ring), throwing.   Receiving: catching, stopping, trapping.  Travelling with: dribbling (feet), dribbling (hands), dribbling (stick).  Receiving and Sending: striking (bat), striking (stick), volleying

Balance Movements: balancing/centering, body rolling, dodging, eggbeater, floating, landing, ready position, sinking/falling, spinning, stopping, stretching/curling, swinging, twisting/turning.

Exposing children 6 – 9 years of age to 9 – 12 years of age to all of these skills increases the childs ability to participate in sport and activity with success and fun.  Maybe more to the point, without this stage a child will never be able to compete – even on the community playground.  This is the start to a lifestyle that includes regular activity and healthy choices…

This list of skills is the same for children with a disability, again to increase their ability to participate in recreational and sport activities.

The FUNdamental stage is critical to create the foundation of many advanced skills.  Skill development during this time period is best achieved with a combination of unstructured play and quality instruction from knowledgeable leaders and coaches.  Children should be introduced to a wide variety of activities and sports.
The Learn to Train stage is the most important stage for the development of sport specific skills as it is a period of accelerated learning of coordination and fine motor skills.  It is often a time when children will enjoy practicing skills on their own.  It is CRITICAL to note that this period should include the greatest variety in activity and sport.  Specialization during this stage can often impact the child’s ability to compete at the highest levels later as they do not develop a full bag of skills if they specialize to early.

More information can be found at or ask me to see many of the Canadian Sport Centre’s resource materials.


In the booklet “Developing Physical Literacy: A Guide For Parents of Children Ages 0 to 12” Canadian Sport for Life defines Physical Literacy as the development of fundamental movement skills and fundamental sport skills that permit a child to move confidently and with control, in a wide range of physical activity, rhythmic (dance) and sport situations.  Physical Literacy also includes the ability to “read” what is going on around them in an activity setting and react appropriately to those events.  For full physical literacy children should learn fundamental movement and sport skills in each of the four basic environments: on the ground, in the water, on snow and ice, and in the air.

Being physically literate will give children the tools they need to take part in physical activity and sport.  It is widely known that being physically active through all of life’s stages depends on feeling confident in one’s ability in an activity setting.  This early confidence and active lifestyle through all the stages is more likely to create healthy life-long enjoyment and therefore a healthier Canadian population.

Developing movement skills early in life assists in the development of the whole child.  The Canadian Sport Centre states in “Physical Literacy Concept Paper” that early childhood educators have become increasingly aware that movement plays an important role in the healthy development of a young child.  In particular, previous research has demonstrated that the development of rhythmic activities during this critical period of development assists in the development of coordination, language and reading, voice reproduction, intelligence, and future complex movement patterns.

Fundamental movement skills are broken into 3 categories 1) stability, 2) locomotor and 3) manipulative and follow a developmental sequence that sees stability skills taught first followed by locomotor and finally manipulative skills.  (A specific list for each area will occur in a later newsletter.)

Fundamental sport skills involves the utilization of a series of fundamental movement skills in a specific way or for a specific purpose.  Running and kicking are examples of movement skills.  Running to and kicking a soccer ball toward a net or teammate is a sport skill. It is vital that movement skills come prior to sport skills.  Exposing participants to sport skills too early will often result in participants hitting a proficiency barrier.  This results in frustration, failure, incompetence and a decline in motivation.  This in turn is a major reason for withdrawal from physical activity and sport.

This means that we all have a role to play in the creation of movement and sport skills.  Parents and guardians must be the lead for their children but everyone from daycare, pre-school teachers, school teachers, youth leaders, recreation leaders, and coaches play a critical roll.  The optimum learning environment has lots of opportunity for play and practice with encouragement and instruction and the opportunity to use the skills learned leading to body and brain development.

More on Physical Literacy and LTAD in future newsletters.


Stroke is a sudden loss of brain function.  It is caused by an interruption of blood flow to the brain (ischemic) or the rupture of blood vessels in the brain (hemorrhagic).  A TIA (transient ischemic attack) is a mini-stroke that has a temporary interruption of blood flow to the brain.  The symptoms clear within a few minutes or hours.  A TIA is a warning sign for the increased risk of a full stroke.

The brain has 100 billion specialized cells (neurons).  Everything that we do is ultimately controlled by the brain.  The lack of blood flow in the affected area leads to death of these brain cells.  Once a neuron is damaged it cannot repair itself and brain cells do not duplicate.

The effects of the stroke depend on the area of the brain that is affected.
There are five key warning signs for stroke.  Sudden strength loss or numbness in the face, arms or legs, sudden difficulties with speech, sudden vision problems, sudden severe and unusual headache and sudden dizziness with loss of balance.  It is important to recognize these signs and seek medical attention as soon as possible.  The damage caused by a stroke can be minimized if emergency procedures are started within 3 hours of the onset of the stroke.  There are very strong clot-busting drugs that can greatly reduce the death of neurons.  Knowing this seems to make very little difference as only 20 – 25 % of people having a stroke seek medical aid within this 3 hour window.

Risk factors for stroke are the same as heart disease.  Factors such as age, gender, family history, Ethnicity, and previous history of TIA or stroke can not be controlled.  However, many factors such as hypertension, cholesterol, diabetes, being overweight, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, smoking and stress can be controlled.

Go to to learn more.  Early intervention can make all the difference.


Everyday we participate in activities that produce endless risks for sustaining a brain injury.  It is estimated that thousands of Canadians incur a traumatic brain injury each year the majority being young adults.

For More Click Here

The Concussion awareness training tool is a free online toolkit. The Concussion Clinical Toolkit for Medical Professionals and the Concussion Awareness Training Toolkit for Parents, Players, and Coaches.   Both websites provide up-to-date education, tools and resources to help prevent, recognize, treat and manage concussions as well as support decreasing the impact of concussion when they do occur.

For the Concussion Toolkit Click Here


This is a good time of year for parents to become familiar with the Canadian Sport Centres Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) program.  This program will assist us to understand how we can help our children to get the most out of their sports and activities.  Too many of our children are sitting on the sidelines not participating in regular activity or sport.  On the other end of the spectrum to many children are specialized into one sport far to early in the human development process.

The LTAD focuses on the general framework of athlete development with special reference to growth, maturation and development, trainability, and sport system alignment and integration.  The report states that the need for LTAD arises in part from the declining international performance of Canadian athletes in some sports and the difficulty other sports are having in identifying and developing the next generation of internationally successful athletes.  It goes on to say that participation in recreational sport and physical activity has been declining and physical education programs in the schools are being marginalized.  The movement patterns and skills that we learn from birth to approximately age 12 are invaluable to our later success whether are a weekend warrior or a high level athlete.  We all know the importance of regular physical activity, so I ask – why are we not finding ways for our children to participate on a more regular basis?   Regular activity is most important in the early years so that each child can develop the basic fundamentals of movement…these basic fundamentals make it so much easier to participate in activities at any age.

The LTAD consists of 7 stages.  The first 3 encourage physical literacy and sport for all:
1. Active start    2. FUNdamentals    3. Learning to train

Physical literacy – refers to competency in fundamental motor skills and fundamental sport skills

The next 3 focus on excellence:
4. Training to train    5. Training to compete    6. Training to win

The final stage encourages life long physical activity:
7. Active for life

This model is designed to identity and develop international level competitors for Canada.  It is very important to note that another goal of this model is to create skills that allow each and every Canadian to continue life-long participation in sport or to at least remain active for life in a variety of physical activities.

The first three stages of this model are for ALL children as having base physical literacy skills are important for basic health and wellness.  We will cover these skills in another newsletter – at this time it is important to note that these skills are used each and every day in all of our life stages.  I see rehab clients each day that struggle with these basic skills as a result of not being active and participating as children or at least getting proper instruction during this first developmental stage.  It is almost impossible to measure but I am sure this lack of physical literacy skills leads to some of the injuries and pains we have later in life.  Not having these skills also makes it much harder to recover from an injury – I have clients who tell me they can’t “feel” what I am asking them to feel…

The middle three stages teach young athletes how to train, then to compete and finally to win.  These stages are based on the athletes developmental age rather than chronological age and also includes proper recovery plans based on training age and biological parameters.  For the most part we specialize our athletes in one sport way to early in their young lives and then make another mistake by trying to train them as little adults.  Young athletes require coaches and trainers that understand growth and development and ensure proper loading and intensity for where they are on their own development path.  I see far to many young athletes who have incorrect movement patterns and then are trained with high intensity and heavy load and if I am seeing them it means they are in pain and injured.

The final stage is obvious as the more active we are the better health and wellness we achieve…all the skills and patterns we learn early allow us to feel comfortable participating in a wide variety of activities.

Over the summer we will look at a number of aspects that make up the LTAD program and see if we can learn from Canada’s top sport scientists…


Love, faith and humor –  promoted as health giving from the time of Hippocrates.  Yet the mainstream medical institution puts little or no value on these three things.  In his book “Gesundheit” Patch Adams claims that people craze laughter as if it were an essential amino acid.   The book also states that when asked what is most important for health, individuals and groups select humor over love and faith.

Although difficult to measure there is some research on laughter and its positive physical benefits to the body.  Laughter increases the release of catecholamines and endorphins (feel good chemicals), increases immune system function (increases natural killer cells, activates T-cells), decreases stress hormones (cortisol, dopamine, epinephrine), lowers heart rate and blood pressure, causes muscles in the upper body to stretch and relax, it can be a workout for the diaphragm, increases oxygen to the lungs, can decrease pain, improves brain function and elevates mood.

“Your sense of humor is one of the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and emotional state support good health.”
~ Paul E. McGhee, Ph.D.

THERE is no downside…it has been found to help combat allergies for up to two hours, may prevent a heart attack by preventing inflammation in the lining of the blood vessels in the heart, is an antidote to stress, is an effective social lubricant and researchers at Vanderbilt University found that 10 – 15 minutes of laughter can burn up to 50 calories.

Laughter has a mental health benefit as nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, eases anxiety and fear, adds joy and zest to life, enhances resilience, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert.

When laughter is shared, there is a social benefit as it binds people together and increases happiness and intimacy. It helps to strengthens relationships, attracts others to us, enhances teamwork, helps defuse conflict, and promotes group bonding.  We usually laugh when we are with others and the value of closeness and interaction to the human race is without comparison.
So whether laughter actually improves our health or boosts energy is not really important because it undeniably improves our quality of life.

Just like the scene in Mary Poppins when everyone is laughing and floating and singing…

I love to laugh
Long and loud and clear
I love to laugh
It’s getting worse each year
The more I laugh
The more I’m filled with glee
And the more the glee
The more I’m a merrier me.

Find some humor in your life everyday!!! Your health and well-being will improve.

For ideas on how to increase laughter in your life find small people and just wait or you can read “Gesundheit” by Patch Adams


Summer is here, or will be shortly and with that we increase our outdoor activities.  More time outdoors means more sun exposure.  We all need a small amount of time in the sun without sunscreen so that we can produce vitamin D.  This statement is supported by the World Health Organization, however the WHO also states that overexposure to UV rays greatly increases the risk for health issues. Somewhere in the middle there is a balance between enjoying the healthy benefits of being in the sun and overexposure.

It is estimated that 20 minutes in the sun without sunscreen (10 minutes per side) was more than enough to get all the healthy vitamin D benefits.  Darker skin colors may need a little more exposure to receive the same benefits, nevertheless, skin cancers do occur with this group and unfortunately they are often detected at a later, more dangerous stage.

Research has proven that vitamin D intake prevents breast, prostrate and other kinds of cancer at rates 30 times higher than melanoma occurs. Vitamin D also is important in preventing the incidence of multiple sclerosis, especially for us Canadians who live in more northerly latitudes, where we get less exposure to the sun’s beneficial ultraviolet B rays.  Other autoimmune diseases, like type 1 diabetes, are similarly affected.  Recent expert panels have concluded that to prevent fractures, older adults should aim for serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels that are higher than 75 nmol/L. To guarantee this level, adults need at least 2,000 IU a day of vitamin D.

The WHO states approximately 130,000 malignant melanomas occur globally each year, substantially contributing to mortality rates in fair-skinned populations. An estimated 66,000 deaths occur annually from melanoma and other skin cancers.  Worldwide some 12 to 15 million people become blind from cataracts annually, of which up to 20% may be caused or enhanced by sun exposure according to WHO estimates. Furthermore, a growing body of evidence suggests that environmental levels of UV radiation may suppress cell-mediated immunity and thereby enhance the risk of infectious diseases and limit the efficacy of vaccinations. Over the longer term, UV radiation induces degenerative changes in cells of the skin, fibrous tissue and blood vessels leading to premature skin aging, photodermatoses and actinic keratoses.

Health Canada suggest that the level of ultraviolet (UV) radiation reaching the earth’s surface depends on a number of factors.  The UV rays are strongest between 12 and 1pm when they have the shortest distance to travel.  UV intensity is greatest in the spring and summer based on the angle of the sun.  In areas where there is a decrease in the thickness of the ozone layer the UV increases.  Cloud cover can greatly affect the amount of UV radiation received at the earth’s surface. Clouds that are dark and heavily burdened with water can absorb up to 80 percent of the radiation. High thin clouds do not significantly affect the amount of UV radiation that will reach the surface. Scattered clouds can actually increase the amount of UV radiation at the surface of the Earth due to reflection.

The intensity of UV radiation also depends on which pressure system is influencing the weather. A high-pressure area results in a thinner ozone layer whereas a low-pressure area is characteristic of a thicker ozone layer.  Fresh white snow reflects about 85 percent of UV radiation while other bright surfaces such as sand, concrete, and water, reflect less. If skiing on a spring day at the end of March, for example, the UV index may only be 4, but due to reflection from the snow, the skier may experience a UV index of 7.  UV radiation increases with altitude because there is less atmosphere to absorb the damaging rays.  At an altitude of around 2,000 metres the amount of UV radiation can be up to 30% higher than at sea level.  UV is strongest at the equator where the UV index can reach about 12. In Canada, the UV index reaches its maximum in southern Ontario and is the least at the North Pole.

The SunSmart program in Australia lists the following ways to protect yourself and your family from overexposure…Shade, clothing and hats provide the best protection – applying sunscreen becomes necessary on those parts of the body that remain exposed like the face and hands. Sunscreen should never be used to prolong the duration of sun exposure.  Limit time in the midday sun as the sun’s UV rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.   Watch for the UV index as this important resource can help you plan your outdoor activities in ways that prevent overexposure to the sun’s rays. Use shade wisely, seeking shade when UV rays are the most intense, but keep in mind that shade structures such as trees, umbrellas or canopies do not offer complete sun protection. Remember the shadow rule: “Watch your shadow – Short shadow, seek shade!”

Wear protective clothing, a hat with a wide brim offers good sun protection for your eyes, ears, face, and the back or your neck. Sunglasses that provide 99 to 100 percent UV-A and UV-B protection will greatly reduce eye damage from sunfrom the sun.  Use sunscreen applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15+ or higher liberally and re-apply every two hours, or after working, swimming, playing or exercising outdoors.  Avoid sunlamps and tanning parlours as sunbeds damage the skin and unprotected eyes and are best avoided entirely.

The take home message is to use common sense…some sun exposure is important for our vitamin D levels but too much exposure has many risks.


The Canadian Mental Health Association’s 2015 Campaign is “Are you Fine or Phine?  CMHA is asking Canadians to GET LOUD about Mental Health as being phine is not fine.

Mental Health is more than the absence of mental illness, it is a state of well-being and it begins where we live, work and play.  Mental Health involves how we feel, think, act, and interact with the world around us.  It is about realizing our potential to cope with the normal stresses of life and make a contribution to our community.

Good Mental Health is about living well and feeling capable despite challenges.  We each have a different path with our own goals, challenges, talents and abilities to adapt and cope.  Each of us has a different support syttem that may or not may be of help.

The Canadian Mental Health Association lists these everyday tips to help maintain and improve mental health.

1. build healthy self-esteem – recognize your unique talents and abilities without having to compare to others.  We build confidence by developing weak areas while being aware of the things we are proud of.

2. build positive support networks – good relationships…all relationships take effort and courage to reach out and build trust.  Healthy relationships can provide emotional support, practical help and a point of view we may not have considered.

3. get involved – with things or activites that matter to you can can provide a feeling of purpose and satisfaction.  Being involved connects us with others and our community and helps us to build new skills.

4. build resiliency – the ability to cope with problems, stress, difficult situations like accidents, unexpected life changes and conflicts.  Resiliency is what helps you look at the situation realistically, take action when you can make changes, let go of things you can’t change, and recognize the helpful supports in your life. Your resiliency toolkit might include skills like problem solving, assertiveness, balancing obligations and expectations, and developing support networks.

5. recognize your emotions – feeling sad, angry, and anxious at times is part of being human. Emotional well-being involves expressing our emotions in a way that respects everyone.  Emotional well-being also includes recognizing what influences our emotions, discovering how our emotions affect the way we think or act, taking action when our emotional response isn’t helpful, and learning to accept our emotions—even the difficult ones.

6. take care of your spiritual well-being – spiritual well-being means getting to know ourselves, discovering our values, and learning to be at peace with who we are. It also involves finding and connecting to something bigger than ourselves and living with purpose.  It’s really about how we feel on the inside.

7. asking for help – while family and friends are important supports, there are other resources out there to help you as well. Many communities have information centres that can provide lists of available services. Or a public library might help.  Examples include websites, books, films, videos and audio tapes, courses and workshops offered through community centres, schools and universities and people you admire for their ability to find balance.  Maintaining your mental health sometimes means seeking the help of a professional.  Speak with your doctor, seek the help of a financial planner or debt advisor, speak to a career counsellor and make a career plan, to repair relationships with loved ones and friends, talk to an expert and work through the issues.

8. lifestyle – lifestyle is not from the CMHA website but CBH.  There is a huge amount of research on how lifestyle can affect our mental health.  We already have a strong idea of how exercise and activity promote the release of happy hormones.  We can also get a great sense of accomplishment from completing a tough workout or physical challenge.  There is a number of different programs, games, puzzles, etc that we can use to stimulate the mind and challenge and change our brains.  There is also a great amount of new research into what we eat and ow it affects our mental health.  Changing the food we eat can have a profound effect on a number of chronic diseases and conditions and mental health issues are no different.  If you want some suggestions for things to read please let me know and I can forward some suggestions.

The CMHA has some great resources to help monitor your mental health situation.  Check out the following by clicking on them…

Mental Health Meter
Work Life Balance Quiz
Stress index

The CMHA Website has so much more incredible information.  Check it out.


This article was first used in the newsletter last year and is still very pertinent today.  The beginning of May marks the 1/3 point in the year.  Yup, that means that 4 months have already passed us by.  Got me thinking about how I have utilized my time and resources to this point in the year.  So,
this week I am suggesting a quick glance back at the previous 3 months.  It is a good time to review the goals lists and the action plans that we laid out at the beginning of the year.  Hopefully, you are well on your way.

This is also a great point to do a time review…Martin Rooney (a high end strength coach) suggests that TIME is our greatest life gift and it is totally free.  In a recent article he wondered if we were spending our time or investing it.
Are we spending time in front of the tv, searching aimlessly on the internet, exercising without a purpose (just going through the motions), eating what is easy instead of what is correct for our body and hanging with people who are not helping to move us forward.  Are you spending time with no real hope of a positive return.  A truly successful life is not created just by spending time, it is created when we invest our time.

When we invest in something we expect a return…so invest your time in yourself wisely and purposefully.  Invest time in your exercise plan, what are your training priorities for the next 3 months, 1month, 1 week, tomorrow. Maybe this is a great time for a fitness test or a gait and movement assessment.
How are you currently investing in your nutrition.  Having good quality food available at the right time can often lead to much healthier choices.
Invest in your recovery and sleep.  Down time is critical to manage stress and sleep is the only way for our bodies to completely heal.  Take the time to plan each…there are even a number of devices that will measure the quality of our sleep.  Waking rested and healed can only increase our productivity.

Invest quality time with family and friends.  These bonds have such significance for our overall life that time spent here can continue long after the initial experience.
Invest in your network.  Strong relationships with our customers, employees, clients and colleagues can save a great amount of time when we are focused on the most important priorities.  This time should include all those we put in our fortress at the beginning of the year.

Invest time in activities that force you to stretch beyond your current comfort levels.  Continuous growth is from challenging activities helps us to develop our full potential.  To become our greatest self and then use our skills to make the world a better place.
Invest in your future by setting goals, having a purpose and taking step one in the action plan today.

Are you spending time or investing it…are you getting healthier…taking time now can make time later so much more rewarding.


Now is the time to start the spring/summer walking program.  The goal is to walk 10 000 steps a day…but why walking and why 10 000 steps?  It is estimated that the average person walks about 2 – 3 miles everyday to complete normal daily activities.  This average person roughly takes 2000 steps to walk a mile meaning that we take between 4000 – 6000 steps just to live.

A 30 minute brisk walk will more than make up the difference so that we can complete 10 000 steps in a day.  Research has conclusively shown that 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity will improve our health.  Some will say I do not have 30 minutes a day to walk – well that excuse does not work anymore.  Research also shows that the 30 minutes can be accumulated with three 10 minute sessions and we all can find three 10 minute sessions in almost every day.  If not, I believe you need to rethink the priorities in your life.

In 2001 Australia’s Queensland Health created the Rockhampton 10 000 Step Project to try and increase physical activity in an area that had low physical activity to start with.  The project was an exemplary model of an effective multi-strategy, multi-sector physical activity project that successfully motivates at the local community, workplace and individual level.  In 2004 Queensland Health increased the funding and expanded the project due to the results.

Regular walking at a brisk pace increases circulation, boosts energy, enhances mood, reduces depression, decreases stress, can increase muscle activation and bone strength, improves balance and flexibility, boosts immune function and improves sleeping patterns.  A brisk walk can burn up to 300 calories per hour helping with weight loss and weight maintenance improving health outcomes for overweight and obese.  After meals a brisk walk can help to regulate blood glucose, triglycerides and blood pressure. Regular walking decreases the risk of health issues such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, some forms of cancer, osteoporosis…as well as helping to manage many of these conditions.

Walking, like other regular physical activities, increases the ability of people with chronic disabling diseases (arthritis, MS etc) to perform activities of daily living.
The positive impact of walking goes beyond the physical as regular walking has cognitive benefits as well.  It improves memory and logic in seniors, increases brain function and academic performance in pre-adolescents.  It can be used to refresh and invigorate during meetings and work sessions leading to increased creativity and clarity.

Walking is a form of activity or exercise (depending on intensity of movement) that anyone can do.  There really is no excuse for not walking everyday, even if you have a busy schedule or are low on funds.  All you need is a good pair of shoes and a sidewalk or trail or park or path or mall.
We can increase the intensity of our walking and therefore healthy outcomes when we are ready by increasing the pace, pick a corner or sign and get there as fast as you can.  Walking hills are stairs are also easy ways to increase the intensity.  This can become an interval session by repeating the same hill or set of stairs 4 – 10 times.

For more information on starting a walking program or getting more information (ie. pedometer use) check out the Alberta Centre for Active Living


Cancer is a group of 100 + diseases characterized by uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells.  Cells typically grow, work, reproduce and die based on information provided by the genes within the cell.  If this information becomes mixed or inaccurate the cell behaves abnormally.  Groups of abnormal cells can be malignant tumors that invade healthy cells and change the healthy cells information.  Cancer has four major classifications based on the type of affected cell.  Carcinomas are cancers that develop from epithelial cells that line the surface of the body, glands and internal organs.  Sarcomas start from connective tissues such as bones, tendons, cartilage, fat and muscle.  Leukemias arise from the cells in the blood and lymphomas from the immune system.  Most cancers are carcinomas and include breast, prostate, lung, colon, and cervical.

It is estimated that there will be 187600 new cases of cancer and 75500 deaths in Canada utilizing 2013 stats and 16200 new cases and 6300 deaths in Alberta.  Lung cancer is still the leading cause of cancer death in Alberta for both men and women even though Prostate and Breast are both more frequently diagnosed.  Statistics show that 2 in 5 Canadians will be develop cancer in their lifetime with 1 in 4 dieing from cancer.  Those 50 years of age or order will show 88% of all new cases and 60% of the deaths.  Mortality rates have dropped since 1994 for most cancers with 63% of Canadians diagnosed with cancer will survive at least 5 years after the diagnosis.  The most rapid decrease in mortality is in children and adolescents.

The Canadian Cancer Society states that at least 50% of all cancers can be prevented with healthy living and policies that protect the public.  The Society lists the following Steps To Health to reduce your risk: 1) be a non-smoker and avoid second-hand smoke, 2) eat 5-10 servings of fruit and vegetables every day.  Limit alcohol intake to 1-2 drinks per day. 3) ensure you get enough Vitamin D.  4) be physically active on a regular basis: this will also help you maintain a healthy body weight. 5) protect yourself and your family from the sun and do not use tanning beds or lamps. 6) know your family history with cancer and follow cancer screening guidelines. 7) visit your doctor or dentist if you notice any change in your normal state of health. 8) be aware of how hormones can affect your health and increase your chance of cancer, especially the stress hormones.  9) follow health and safety instructions at home and at work when using, storing, and disposing of hazardous materials.

For more information go to the Canadian Cancer Society web site at  There is so much valuable reading on this web site whether you or someone you know has cancer or not.  Other options include…,,


Movement preparation is a series of movements that prepare the body for movement by boosting heart rate, increasing blood flow to muscles, increasing core temperature and improving the function of the nervous system and joints.

Movement preparation is designed to stimulate the nervous system so that all the muscles that surround the joints are working.  The end result according to Mark Verstegen in his book “Core Performance” will be a significant improvement in mobility, flexibility, and stability, on top of an increase of speed and power output by nearly 20% compared to static stretching.  It does not matter if you are an athlete, a weekend warrior, a general fitness participant or recovering from an injury/surgery movement preparation should start your workout.
Static stretching is still important but only at the end of your workout program.  Static stretching requires that we slow the nervous system so that the body will release the protective mechanisms and allow gradual increases in flexibility.  This means holding a position for an extended period of time.   We do not want to have a slow reacting nervous system when we are moving – especially with speed and/or load.

The exercises will vary (lying on your back to standing with motion) depending on your ability and what your body can tolerate. All the exercises or movements involve slow controlled continuous motion. If the movements are completed with thought, focus and control the muscles that stabilize the joints will be turned on.

SOOOOO the movements are chosen to awaken the entire system from our mostly sedentary lifestyle.  Proper execution of the movements will also increase our balance and proprioception (how the body talks to itself – feedback mechanisms – about fine tuning movements) therefore enhancing the function of the body for the rest of the day.

Movement preparation should precede ANY (yes even cardio) activity that requires the body to move with speed and/or load.  This includes golf, running, yard/garden work, cycling etc. as well as your regular workout – it only takes 5 -10 minutes and can make the difference between frustration and success as we establish coordination and proper movement patterns.

If you have pain it is absolutely a requirement to start your day with movement preparation.  Roll out of bed, onto the floor and complete the exercises you have been given – yes if you have pain  you have been given exercises that should be completed in the morning.
Movement preparation can also be utilized as a daily self evaluation tool that can increase our awareness regarding our bodies and any pain, instability, lack of mobility, and asymmetry (right vs left, front vs back) that might exist.  This can increase our awareness of our posture, areas that will/might need additional attention and our preparedness to train.

Movement preparation is most important for the start of the workout routine.  If you only have time for part of a workout, movement prep should be the focus as there is so much good for so little time spent. 


Two weeks ago we discussed the need for regeneration or recovery after our workouts to allow the body to heal and repair.  This recovery time allows us to reap the benefits of all the hard work we put into our workouts

What we did not talk about was recovery from all the other things that occur in our lives.  Work, family, friends, community all take a share of the time we have each day.  In our world today we fill our schedules so full that there is very little time to relax and recharge.  Even if we do take time off we still have our cell phones and computers just in case.

Each week we need a minimum of a 24 hour time period with no work…I bet there are a bunch of us who can’t go 12 hours without doing some kind of work.  Even if we love our job there is still stress and our body needs time away to properly reset.  Too much stress of any kind leads to fatique and decreased efficiency…no matter how much we love our job or get off on the excitement.  Being there every day is stress.

The same can be said for family, friends and community work.  We Need a Break…all of us would see better relationships if we found more balance and down time in our schedules.  Sometimes it is more important to say “NO” so that we have the energy to do our best.  Balance means that we don’t have to rush, that we have the time to lie in the grass and discuss what shapes the passing clouds create, we make time to listen to the stream, to read a book just for the pleasure, to listen and talk to each other.  Our children need time away from us and we need time away from our children.  Our children need to see that we have other interests and passions…it helps them to grow and find themselves.

Our children need the most recovery time…they require unstructured, unsupervised play to grow and mature properly.  Yes unstructured and unsupervised…the more the better and our children fall way short…we have them into so many programs we run them from place to place.  When was the last time your child spent an hour or more in their room by themselves playing or outdoors with a couple of friends in the park or amongst the many treed areas we have in our city.

We all need to take a collective breath…to stop…to recharge…to enjoy what we have. How can we/you take the initiative to plan the down time for you and your family.


I believe that this is the area of training most often skipped and the least understood aspect of a full training program.  The body tissues heal best when they are at rest – yes we must do the work phase but then we must have a rest phase if we expect the work phase to yield any results.


The body can not handle high intensity training all the time – no body can – not even Olympic or professional athletes.  They may train every day but some training days are designed to specifically help the body heal and repair.  For the general fitness participate it is just as important – you are living your life – right!! – a high performance life – right!!! – you have a requirement to recovery from today’s activities so that you can participate in tomorrow’s.  Don’t care who you are, how fit you are, how strong you are (physically and mentally), you need rest to improve.

Recovery/Regeneration does not mean sitting on your couch eating potatoes chips and ice cream.  There are a number of factors that are included in a complete recovery/regeneration program.  The program starts immediately after the work phase has been completed.  In the traditional fitness program this was the stretching phase and sadly if performed at all, it was the only thing done for recovery.  Stretching continues to be important but today’s fitness/training programs also utilize foam rolls and mini balls that can be used to massage worked muscles and tissues.  This phase should not be shorter than 8 – 10 minutes (really it is should account for 25% of our workout time) and should never be skipped.  Even if it means doing it later in the day – don’t do this and your injury risk goes up with each passing day as does your ability to perform efficiently.

Nutrition plays a critical role in recovery from exercise.  Within a half hour of training we should have a mix of protein and carbohydrate to re-supply the body with nutrients used during training.  The protein is important to start the healing and repairing of tissues and carbohydrate to keep the energy stores up.  One relies on the other in a well functioning body.

Sleep is as critical as the other two as our tissues heal best and most while we sleep.  A full night’s sleep allows our bodies to heal, repair and grow and therefore create a better overall level of health and wellness.  Lack of sleep and therefore proper recovery makes it very difficult to achieve any training results.  Lack of sleep is the major reason many people can not lose weight or improve their basic level of fitness.  In order to make changes the body must be working at or near optimal and this means 7 – 8 hours of sleep each night for an adult.  We can not catch up on sleep so once deprived it will take time to restore the body to a normal rested state.

Stretching, nutrition and sleep are the essential, must be done every day, aspects of a recovery program.  The recovery program can also include hot tubs, hot baths, massage – of any type, yoga – not power yoga, hot/cold contrasts and many other low intensity activities.  Making sure that you recovery from today’s activities will ensure the ability to perform tomorrow’s activities at the high level you expect from yourself.


Stress, is a normal part of everyday life and is important for us to learn and grow.  However, in our world today many people are stressed far beyond the body’s ability to deal with it.  Chronic stress leads to depression and possibly serious mental and body illness.  High stress loads often lead to poor health and wellness choices leading to an increased risk for disease and illness.

Stress has been linked to dementia and six of the leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide.  Fear, depression, anxiety, anger, hate, resentment and worry cause a series of reactions in the body that lead to the release of cortisol and other stress hormones.  Prolonged elevation of cortisol can lead to decreased sleep, insulin resistance, diabetes, weight gain, osteoporosis, cognitive impairment, damage to brain neurons, high blood pressure, cataracts, a weakened immune system and damage to the gastrointestinal tract.

In his book “The Power of Positive Thinking” Norman Vincent Peale gives numerous examples of how stress and a negative outlook on life affect our day to day health and wellness.    WebMD states that stress causes American industry 300 billion annually and Statistics Canada lists our cost at 1.7 billion annually for lost work time and another 2.7 billion less to the economy as a result of an inability to balance work and life issues.
The science and the stats lead to the questions – How is your stress level? And what are you doing to control it?  So many of us go blindly through our days with little or no focus on the body and what it is trying to tell us.

Full schedules that demand we go at 110% 10 to 12 hours a day at the office, a high intensity workout that drains what little energy we had left, road rage, poor and meaningless relationships with those closest to us, worry about money and the future, fear of violence and terrorism, anxiety over old age, down time that usually involves only the TV and an average of 5 to 6 hours of sleep a night – does all or some of this sound familiar.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation has combined with the Canadian Mental Health Association to create a resource that defines stress, explains the stress response, gives ideas to prevent stress, provides strategies to cope with stress and has a very complete resource guide to all the help you may need.
Click here to find


Blood Pressure is the measure of pressure or force of the blood against the walls of the blood vessels.  Normal blood pressure is recorded as 120/80mmHg (millimetres of mercury).  The 120 is the systolic pressure or when the heart contracts and forces blood into the vessels.  The 80 is the diastolic pressure or when the heart is relaxed.

One in five or 4 million Canadians have high blood pressure with only 13% of these being treated.  High blood pressure is the number 1 risk factor for stroke and a major risk factor for heart and kidney disease.  High blood pressure or hypertension is measured as 140/90mm Hg.  It should be noted that the Heart and Stroke Foundation has released new guidelines stating that high normal blood pressure significantly increases the risk for stroke and heart disease.  High normal blood pressure is listed as 130 – 139/85 – 89mm Hg.  A Quebec study has found that a systolic pressure of 133 – 140 increased the risk of heart attack by 2 times.

The new guidelines also called for earlier intervention and screening to start by the age of 18 as studies show an increase in the numbers with high blood pressure in the 18 – 35 age category.  Especially for those who have a family history of heart disease, stroke and obesity.  Overweight children as young as 9 have a 12% increased risk for high blood pressure and 16 year olds that are obese have a 30% increased risk.

Risk factors for high blood pressure include age (1/2 of people over 65 have high bp), ethnic background (south Asian, first nation and black have increased risk), obesity, stress, excessive alcohol, smoking, high cholesterol and diabetes.  Most of these risk factors can be modified and controlled with lifestyle changes.  In fact it is predicted that up to 3 million people can decrease the need for medication by changing just two lifestyle factors such as regular physical activity, dietary changes to aid in weight management and decreased sodium, stress management techniques, controlled alcohol intake, stop smoking, etc.


February is Heart Month, the goal of which is to increase awareness of heart disease and stroke.  In fact, since 1956 the Heart and Stroke Foundation has raised and invested more than $1.3 billion in leading-edge heart disease and stroke research.  Over this time the research and development has allowed for a reduction in the death rate from cardiovascular disease by 75 percent, 165000 survivors last year alone.  However, heart disease and stroke are still the leading cause of death and hospitalization in Canada.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading killer in Canada with 1 in 3 deaths related to heart disease as more than 50 000 strokes, 75 000 heart attacks and 40 000 cardiac arrests occur each year.  Another 8 million Canadians are affected at this time and costing the health care system at least 18 billion dollars a year.  In fact, heart disease and stroke is the leading cause of hospitalization in Canada, resulting in 1,000 hospital visits each day.

It is reported that 9 out of 10 Canadians has at least one risk factor for heart disease and 40% have at least 3 risk factors (these numbers are up by 30% since I first wrote this article 6 years ago).  Heart disease and stroke is the number one killer of women.  Risk factors like gender, age, ethnic background and family history we cannot control.  However there are a number of things that we can do to prevent heart disease or at minimum decrease its effect.  The Heart and Stroke Foundation research has shown that 80% of premature death from heart disease and stroke are preventable.  These simple decisions will have a positive effect on all risk factors for heart disease.

1)      Stop smoking and avoid second hand smoke – this really is a no brainer – there are so many options today to help eliminate this nasty habit – check with your physician and get started today.

2)      Eating a healthy diet – this is achievable with some simple thought – number one – if you put it in the shopping cart someone is going to eat it – if the bad stuff is not available you have to make a different choice.  If you can rip the top off and heat it you probably don’t want it.  Timing of meals and portion size are just as important as what you are eating.  The more natural, the more real the more you want it.

3)      For those who are overweight or obese start your weight loss program with some help.  There are a number of ways to lose weight healthy, but the most important factor is that you must be able to continue what you are doing to lose the weight.  Fad diets typically do not work because you can not maintain them for the long haul.  Eating sensibly with regular exercise will always create long term success.

4)      Get control of the stress in your life.  Stress is a major contributor to heart disease.  There are many people in the world who will tell you that they are not stressed – yet their body will tell a different story.  Feeling run down, waking and not feeling rested, lack of motivation, poor work results, fear, depression, anxiety, anger, hate, resentment and worry cause a series of reactions in the body that lead to the release of cortisol and other stress hormones.  Prolonged elevation of cortisol can lead to decreased sleep, insulin resistance, diabetes, weight gain, osteoporosis, cognitive impairment, damage to brain neurons, high blood pressure, cataracts, a weakened immune system and damage to the gastrointestinal tract.  Stress has been linked to dementia and six of the leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide.  How much down time are you planning into your weekly schedule – total down time that allows the body to relax and rejuvenate.

5)      Control alcohol intake – science will tell us that a moderate amount of alcohol is actually good for the heart, but too much and you get negative results.  The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends no more than 11/week for females and 16/week for males.

6)      Have a regular yearly physical with your physician.  A full yearly physical is preventative medicine as the regular tests can alert a problem early making the solution much easier.

7)      Control any illness or current disease to the best of your ability.  A good example would be diabetes – the choices you make every day about how you control and maintain your health with diabetes will go a long way to determining if you will have heart disease.

8)      Regular physical activity or exercise.  Every day should involve some type of activity.  It can be as simple as a walk around the block.  The latest research is showing that three 10 minute sessions in a day are just as effective or maybe even more so than 30 sustained minutes.  Everyone, absolutely everyone that cares about their long term health can find 30 minutes every day.  Find something you like and take someone along with you.

A look at our kids today will tell us how important the above eight ideas are as 40% of teenage girls are physically inactive, more and more of our children are obese at the elementary school age, 15 – 29 year old men and women make up the largest group of smokers and 30% of men and women in their 20’s are overweight.  It is time to turn off the tv and the computer and get outside and go for a walk, build a snowman, play tag, make physical activity fun.

Our generation is being watched – what is it that we are modeling!

The Heart and Stroke Foundation website at has loads of valuable information to help you and your family create a healthier lifestyle.  Please check it out!!


Why a discussion of self esteem for a fitness article? – Well – because it completes the four previous articles on habits, goals, purpose and fortress.  Some of you and many in the world will read the previous three articles and say “I don’t need to do that” or “what a waste of time” or “I can’t find the time” or “that’s for people who think too much” and many other such sayings.  I personally believe that any of the above statements stem from a lack of self esteem.

Many don’t write goals or think about their life’s purpose, or what roles they play in the world because it is so much easier not to make choices.  It is so easy not to think, to be lazy, to be unaware, to ignore, to avoid discomfort and pain.  This list leads to being overweight, out of shape, over using alcohol and drugs, chronic anxiety and depression, sabotaged aspirations and careers, poor decision making about our health and our relationships.

To be a success we must be willing to make choices, to be aware of our current condition (and be honest with ourselves no matter what the answer) and then make decisions so that we get better.  Soooo… self esteem plays a critical role in our ability to make and keep our fitness and health goals which are based on our purpose which is grounded in self esteem.  In the book “The Six Pillars of Self Esteem” Nathaniel Branden states that “Self esteem is shaped by both internal and external factors.

By “internal” I mean factors residing within, or generated by, the individual – the ideas or beliefs, practices or behaviors”.  Think about your own self-talk – yes how do you talk with yourself.  Any statement that includes the words need, must, should and have to are inherently negative.  Choose, want and desire are positive words that make a positive contribution to how we feel about ourselves.

“By “external” I mean factors in the environment: messages verbally or non-verbally transmitted, or experiences evoked, by parents, teachers, “significant others”, coaches, media, organizations, and culture.”  How do the pictures in magazines and tv ads make you feel about yourself.  Have you ever watched your child’s face collapse from your body language alone and then add the words with the tone of voice.  Branden goes on to state that self esteem is a need because it makes an essential contribution to the life process, it is indispensable to normal and healthy development, and it has survival value.

So what is self esteem?  Nathaniel Branden defines self esteem as:
1. confidence in our ability to think, confidence in our ability to cope with the basic challenges of life; and
2. confidence in our right to be successful and happy, the feeling of being worthy, deserving, entitled to assert our needs and wants, achieve our values, and enjoy the fruits of our efforts.

Seems easy – why then do we have so many self destructive habits.  Nathaniel Branden believes that we can not work directly on our self esteem.  To improve or maintain a healthy self esteem he has six pillars or practices.  If we integrate the six pillars of self esteem we can raise our level of performance to experience growth.  Think in terms of small steps, not perfection, and the power to choose how you live your life will be within you.  Nathaniel Branden’s six pillars of self esteem are:

1. the practice of living consciously
2. the practice of self-acceptance
3. the practice of self-responsibility
4. the practice of self-assertiveness
5. the practice of living purposefully
6. the practice of personal integrity

If you think about each of these pillars you can see that self esteem is a never ending proposal.  None of us has a self esteem that can’t use some work.  For more on how you can improve each of these pillars check out the book – I guarantee that you will learn something about yourself.
Other books written by Nathaniel Branden: Taking Responsibility and The Art of Living Consciously.  Other books to help with self esteem Your Child’s Self Esteem – Dorothy Corkille Briggs, Man’s Search for Meaning – Victor Frankl


Three weeks ago we worked to define our purpose…the over all guide for our lives…the why we are here statement(s).  Two weeks ago we set goals in all the key areas of our life.  Last week we discussed the importance of having an action plan.  This week we will look at how we support our purpose goals and plan.  The idea of The Fortress is to set you free to do the things you are brilliant at and the things you enjoy most.
This is a concept that I was introduced to by Les Hewitt and the Power of Focus program.  Les defines fortress as a structure that is impregnable, a sanctuary or a place of refuge.  Within the fortress you are protected from the storms of business and life.  He refers to building your fortress as the same as building a championship sports franchise.  Each player both on the field and off (management, trainer and equipment staff, administration etc) have a role to play and the team is only as good as the weakest member.

This concept fits with our discussions from the past few weeks as having the correct people around you allows you to be more productive.  A properly designed fortress should also give you more time for relaxation and recovery.  The first step in creating a fortress is to analyze your own strengths and weaknesses.  If you spend 80% or more of your time doing what you are brilliant at you will have less stress, bigger results, and you will be a happier person with more energy.  Ask yourself the questions “Should I be doing this”, “Who else can do this”, “Does this need to be done at all”. Once you have analyzed your strengths and weaknesses you can create a plan to put the correct people in place to support you in the areas where you are not brilliant.

If people are already in place you can analyze to ensure that they really fill the intended role.  You play the role of a coach who can create and implement a successful game plan when all the pieces are in place.  As the coach you ask two questions, “Who is on my team?” and “Do they perform at the level I require to achieve my dreams and goals?”  The action steps are to grade each member of the team and create a list of changes that are required to help you be totally successful.  This will help you to decide who deserves to be on the team and in which areas you/they can be doing a better job.

Set high standards and you can enjoy a lifestyle that gives you freedom, ongoing prosperity (in many areas of life) and a unique sense of worth.  In the end there will be two lists – one for your career and one for your personal life.  The career list will/may include banker, lawyer, accountant, book keeper, tax specialist, suppliers, financial adviser, management staff, sales team, administrative staff, personal assistant, mentors, etc.  The personal list is much broader: doctor, chiropractor, physiotherapist, massage therapist, personal trainer, nutritionist, dentist, financial consultant, accountant, dry cleaner, hairstylist, plumber, electrician, contractor, travel agent, realtor, insurance agent, tailor, home help, cleaners, babysitter etc

These people need to be brilliant at what they do – even if you don’t interact with them all the time – allowing you to be brilliant at what you do.  You should always be able to rely on these people to get the job done right, while making you feel good in the process.   Taking the time to select only the best people considering your circumstances makes life move along more smoothly.  Remember, life is all about building and enjoying great relationships.  You deserve your fair share of wonderful relationships that support your goals and dreams!!

Build a fortress and protect your borders – do what you are brilliant at – decrease your stress, have less frustration, engage in mental activities that stretch your abilities, have fun along the way and the results will speak for themselves.


In the last few weeks we reviewed our habits, defined our purpose and created our goals.  There is only one thing left…to take action, to start moving in the direction that will lead to success.

Proactive people are able to pack more into their lives because they put first things first.  Stephen Covey states that those people with a strong independent will have the ability day by day, moment by moment to always put first things first.  He goes on to say that if we are to be an effective manager of ourselves the discipline must come from within.  We become a follower of our deep values and have the integrity to subordinate our feelings, desires and impulses because of our purpose, goals, etc.  E.M. Gray writes “The successful person has the habit of doing the things failures don’t like to do.  They don’t like doing them either necessarily.  But their disliking is subordinated to the strength of their purpose”.

In the Stephen Covey time management matrix we want to be in quadrant II…where we focus our time on activities that are important and not urgent.  When we manage our time from quadrant II we become opportunity minded and think preventatively.  This way we avoid having a high number of crises (oh yes, even the best time managers have crises) and spend more time building relationships, long-term planning, doing preventative maintenance and exercising.

In the book “The Power of Focus” Les Hewitt uses the B-Alert system.  “B” is the blueprint for the day…what are the priorities.  “A” is for action…concentrating on the most important activities that move you toward your goals.  “L” is for learning…always expand your knowledge.  “E” is for exercise and taking care of your body.  “R” is for relaxation…activities to eliminate daily stress.  “T” is for thinking…take time to reflect, to review, to develop new ideas.

Take the time the night before to set a plan for the next day.  Make sure the most important activities occur early in the day.  Look ahead so that things can stay in the important and not urgent quadrant…so that when something does turn upside down you can easily alter the master plan and deal with the crisis without a huge amount of stress.

Creating a blueprint for our days, weeks, months and years will allow us to be in control, to have balance in all areas of our lives, to achieve high performance and leave us more time to adapt to the fires that are sure to happen.