Injury and Disease Prevention

Think pink. Foiling cancer with fitness.

I love the fact that when I was watching the NFL highlights on the sports news this weekend, a good percentage of the players were wearing hot pink gloves and cleats, or carrying pink towels. Even the biggest, strongest athletes in sports recognize the importance of bringing awareness to breast cancer.

This has been a tough year for my family. Two months ago we lost my dad to cancer after a three-year fight, and my mom has been a true inspiration as she courageously battles (and BEATS!) breast cancer. All in all, I’m weary from worrying, and tired of losing friends, family and loved ones to cancer and cancer-related illness.

Like most people I know, I sometimes start to wonder if there’s anything I can do to help prevent my own children, and myself, from developing cancer. With conflicting evidence about risk factors such as diet or environmental factors, it’s hard to know what to believe, and how to live your life.

Fortunately, I’ve chosen a profession, and a personal approach to life, that includes regular exercise and activity. I’m glad that I’ve had the opportunity to influence so many people about the positive benefits of exercise, partially because of the power of exercise in the prevention of, and recovery from, many types of cancer.

By spreading the word about the ways in which exercise can help to improve your quality of life, enhance your health and reduce your risk factors for cancer, I feel like I’m contributing in the best way I can, and where I’ll have the greatest impact. Maybe, if I say it enough times, and in enough different ways in my columns, one more person will start exercising regularly. And maybe, just maybe, this will ultimately save their life.


There are numerous ways in which exercise is thought to help your body avoid cancer. This is fabulous, because the best way to beat cancer is to never get it at all. In fact, a report issued by the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research concludes that cancer “is mostly preventable”, and that approximately one third of all cases in advanced countries like Canada could be eliminated by avoiding diets loaded with fatty, sugary foods, by exercising regularly and by losing weight if you’re obese. A key finding, quoted by the National Cancer Institute, is that exercising four or more hours each week may decrease hormone levels and help lower the risk of developing breast cancer. Prostate, mouth and colon cancers are examples of other cancers that are also influenced by these lifestyle factors.


Beyond the benefits of exercise in the prevention of cancer, being physically active can also help at all stages after a cancer diagnosis. Exercising after a diagnosis of breast cancer may be beneficial in improving quality of life, reducing fatigue and maintaining energy balance. There is also a strong relationship between regular exercise and psychological well-being.

During treatment, regular exercise can help cancer patients avoid weight-gain that frequently occurs as a result of reduced physical activity or in response to the treatment methods themselves. It’s also believed that exercise can decrease the recurrence risk and improve overall survival rates. Exercise intensity may need to be modified for cancer patients in the middle of treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation, but the American Cancer Society suggests the principal goal is to maintain as much physical activity as possible. For anyone recovering from cancer surgery, rehabilitative exercise may be the answer to achieving the most complete recovery possible. All in all, it appears that cancer patients can help themselves to recover by working out regularly and consuming a healthy diet.


To actually have an impact in the fight against cancer, I feel there are a number of approaches that should be considered, both at a personal level and as a society. With the proven benefits of exercise and proper nutrition, it seems like common sense to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to make a blanket statement and expect everyone to be compliant. It’s probably going to take a little support and maybe even some social change. For example, the continued development and adoption of effective public-health strategies by governments, schools, community centers, etc should help. This could include initiatives like increased access to intelligent exercise programming, interventions that encourage more walking and cycling, as well as reduced advertising and positioning of unhealthy snack foods in schools, cafeterias, etc. Another key consideration is increased education about health promotion and cancer prevention strategies at all levels of public consumption, including school curriculum, workplace wellness programs and popular media. When the costs of avoidance are so high, and the potential benefits of awareness so tangible, I believe it’s time to capitalize on every avenue and opportunity we’ve got.

Bone Density Sharply Enhanced by Weight Training, At Any Age.

As people reach old age, osteoporosis is a major determining factor in quality of life. In Healing Moves, Dr. Mitchell and Carol Krucoff write, “Age-related declines in muscle and bone mass … can lead to frailty and fracture — the primary reason older adults wind up in nursing homes.” If you don’t want to spend your later years resting in a nursing home, losing your independence and draining your or your family’s financial resources, you need to do something to remain independent. According to numerous studies and aging manuals, that “something” is strength training, an activity known to increase bone mass and thus decrease the possibility of osteoporosis.

Postmenopausal women are especially prone to osteoporosis because they lack estrogen. Most women know this and begin to take calcium supplements to ward off the debilitating disease. Calcium supplements are important, but according to Kathy Keeton’s book, Longevity, they are not enough. Not only does your body need magnesium and other nutrients to assimilate calcium into your bones, it also needs strength training to retain calcium. Keeton quotes nutritional biochemist Dr. Neil S. Orenstein: “Without consideration of these effects, no amount of calcium supplementation will prevent osteoporosis.”

Numerous studies demonstrate strength training’s ability to increase bone mass, especially spinal bone mass. According to Keeton, a research study by Ontario’s McMaster University found that a year long strength training program increased the spinal bone mass of postmenopausal women by nine percent. Furthermore, women who do not participate in strength training actually experience a decrease in bone density.

In Prescription Alternatives, Professor Earl Mindell and Virginia Hopkins detail these findings: “In a recent study on bone density and exercise, older women who did high-intensity weight training two days per week for a year were able to increase their bone density by one percent, while a control group of women who did not exercise had a bone density decrease of 1.8 to 2.5 percent. The women who exercised also had improved muscle strength and better balance, while both decreased in the non- exercising group.”

Increased bone density, improved muscle strength, better balance – these three things will dramatically improve your later years and increase your longevity. Only these health improvements can help prevent a bad fall, which is often a turning point in an elderly person’s life. One bad spill can result in a broken hip, an injury that can lead to an elderly person’s immobility and dependence on others. Only strength training can provide these benefits, but what exactly does “strength training” or “weight training” mean?

Rob Williams is a Vancouver based business owner in the health and fitness industry. He is a kinesiologist, posture expert, entrepreneur, health and fitness columnist, presenter, inventor, athlete, father, prominent downtown vancouver personal trainer, coach and mentor to many young athletes in the North Shore community.

A Little Training Goes A Long Way

 Strength training does not mean that you have to train for the Olympics or tediously do the same exercise over and over. According to Healing Moves, a variety of exercises will yield bone-building benefits: “Physical impact and weight-bearing exercise stimulates bone formation. Just as a muscle gets stronger and bigger the more you use it, a bone becomes stronger and denser when you regularly place demands upon it.

The best bone builders are exercises that put force on the bone, such as weight-bearing activities like running and resistance exercises like strength training. In general, the greater the impact involved, the more it strengthens the bones.” However, it is important to distinguish the exercises that will increase bone density from the ones that will not. “Weight lifting, including curls and bench presses, is a beneficial activity … Dancing, stair-climbing and brisk walking are all weight-bearing exercises, which promote (good) mechanical stress in the skeletal system, contributing to the placement of calcium in bones. Aerobic exercises such as biking, rowing and swimming do not strengthen the bones,” writes Gary Null in Power Aging.

Now, aerobic exercise is great for your cardiovascular system, so you still should do it along with strength training. You don’t have to devote a lot of time to strength training to experience the benefits. Null believes that only 15 to 30 minutes of weight training, two to three times per week, can provide you with the bone density you need to prevent osteoporosis. Just make sure that you work all your different muscle groups and allow a 24-hour lapse between sessions.

For best results, women should start strength training long before menopause; however, women can experience the benefits at any age. “A 1994 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that women as old as 70 who lifted weights twice a week for a year avoided the expected loss of bone and even increased their bone density slightly,” writes Robert Haas in Permanent Remissions. According to Dr. George Kessler’s Bone Density Program, “One study of people in their 80s and 90s living in nursing homes who exercised with weight machines three times a week for just eight weeks showed improvements in strength, balance and walking speed.” It’s never too late to lift just a few light weights and increase your bone density.

Source- Dani Vericity/

Running injuries…what you should know about these three common problems.

We have waited along time for the sun and now that we have a bit of it, it is so tempting to strap on those runners and go out for a nice long run. Fortunately there are many good programs now that guide you intelligently through the process of building up your mileage, so that training injuries are kept to a minimum. However, I know from personal experience, and also from many years of providing active rehabilitation to clients, that injuries do happen. Sometimes the injuries should have been avoided, but often it’s just a factor of increased training volume on a body that wasn’t fully conditioned. The trick with these kinds of injuries is to recognize quickly that you may be developing a problem, and address it right away so that it doesn’t get worse.

I had developed my own list of top running injuries for this column, but to confirm my suspicions I spoke with Dr. Joanna MacDonald, a chiropractor and Active Release Techniquetm practitioner at Performance Posture in Vancouver. Her list was very similar to mine, overlapping with three very common conditions: plantar fasciitis, achilles tendonitis and shin splints. There’s no doubt that other conditions of the knee and upper leg are also prevalent, but these are three that we’ve both seen frequently.

Plantar fasciitis.

The plantar fascia is a band of tissue that covers the bottom of the foot from the heel to the toes. If it becomes irritated or inflamed, and isn’t managed properly, it can haunt you for an extended period. The condition is often first identified by pain in one or both feet, near the base of the heel, and usually in the mornings on getting out of bed and at the start of a run. If you suspect you may be developing this condition, stop or reduce your training load significantly, and begin icing the affected area. Assuming you see improvement, build your training volume back up very gradually. Keeping your feet and lower legs flexible and strong is a good idea to prevent plantar fasciitis.

Achilles tendonitis.

This condition is pretty self-evident because the Achilles tendon is easy to see and feel below your calf, near where it inserts into your heel. Tight calf muscles, poor footwear, increased training volume and more hill training can all contribute to problems here. When the tendon becomes inflamed and painful, your body attempts to protect it by laying down scar tissue. Unfortunately this can increase the chances of tear or rupture. Rest and ice to reduce inflammation are the first steps to recovery. This is also the kind of condition where Active Release Techniquetm practitioners like Dr. MacDonald are invaluable, helping to reduce pain and dysfunction, while promoting faster healing.

Shin splints.

With all of the impact your body absorbs when running, the muscle attachments and other soft tissues along the front of the lower leg can become inflamed and painful. The area along the inside of the shin bone can become tender to the touch. This condition can result from inflexible calf muscles, poor footwear, dysfunctional foot biomechanics, overtraining or too much running on hard surfaces. As with the earlier injuries, a serious reduction of training volume coupled with careful management of the inflammation through icing the area can permit a gradual return to activity. Stretching the lower legs and strengthening the tibialis muscles in the front of the legs can help prevent and rehabilitate this condition.

I want to make it clear that this is a very brief review of some very serious conditions. If you feel you may need help with any running-related condition, send me a detailed email and I’ll do my best to steer you in the right direction. From posture to podiatry, from fitness to food, I know there are a lot of you with questions about your health. Between my diverse network of practitioners and myself we’d like to provide some answers.

Stretch before and after every run

Rob Williams is a Vancouver based multi-business owner in the health and fitness industry. He is an entrepreneur, health and fitness columnist, presenter, inventor, athlete, father, coach and mentor to many young athletes in the North Shore community.

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