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Wellness and Workouts in the Canadian Workplace

According to this article in the National Post, Canadian employees desire workplace wellness and disease prevention education to be included in their health care plans.

In the Sanofi-Aventis Healthcare Survey, 83% of the 1500 respondents would be more likely to stay at their jobs if they believed their employer was interested in maintaining their health through education and prevention.

75% thought more highly of employers that offered it in the workplace.

According to Chris Bonnett, a member of the surveyem advisory board and president of H3 Consulting, “[employees] are looking to their employers for support and access to health education and programming.”


It’s great that Canadians are more interested in their health and that their employers may see a beneficial link between the employees’ health and their value to the company.

Not like the good old days.

Highballs in the corner office…cool baby

CON #1

The survey was conducted by Sanofi-Aventis Canada – the Canadian affiliate of the Sanofi-Aventis Group, one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies. No conflict of interest there.

What are the odds that Sanofi-Aventis might have some suggestions as to the type of health education and programming (their word) that the employees should have access to?

CON #2

Who is going to say no to free stuff?

Sure, pay for my gym membership. I’m down with that.

It would be much more honest to ask employees if they would be interested in having their employer pick up half the tab for fitness memberships, etc.


At the end of the day, any health promotion / disease prevention plan is a good thing. And what a surprise that in Canada, the home of socialized medicine, that business, not government is leading the way.

My diet/nutrition blog


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Canada has a Fitness Czar

According to the Globe and Mail, Canada now has a fitness czar.

Merriam-Webster, defines a czar as follows:


Main Entry:
also tsar or tzar \ˈzär, ˈ(t)sär\
New Latin czar, from Russian tsar’, from Old Russian tsĭsarĭ, from Gothic kaisar, from Greek or Latin; Greek, from Latin Caesar — more at caesar
1: emperor; specifically : the ruler of Russia until the 1917 revolution
2: one having great power or authority <a banking czar>

Now, I am making the assumption that we, as a nation haven’t exhumed the ashes of Russia’s last czar, Nicholas 2 and put him on the government payroll.
Oh wait, my mistake.
Canada’s new fitness czar is Kelly Murumets, President and CEO of ParticipAction. That’s her, banging out push-ups under the watchful eye of her trainer, Nicholas.

Formerly the President of Acceris Communications, Ms. Murumets has taken over the reins of a newly revived ParticipAction. On February 19, 2007, the federal government pledged $5 million to renew the fitness-awareness campaign.

So what is the mandate of ParticipAction.


Our Mission
ParticipACTION’s mission is to provide leadership in collaboration and communications to foster the “movement” that inspires and supports Canadians to move more.

Our Vision

ParticipACTION’s vision is to work with its partners to ensure a Canadian society where people are the most physically active on Earth.

Strategic Goals

  • To animate the movement that inspires and supports Canadians to become more active.
  • To have “physically active” be a part of who we are as Canadians and how we want to be seen by the world.
  • To develop a legacy of collaboration and partnerships to realize the movement.
  • To set the stage for long-term sustainability of the movement.

ParticipACTION’s Role

ParticipACTION will not be involved in direct programming or program delivery. Rather, we will act as a catalyst for communications and action in this sector.

ParticipACTION will take leadership and become the national voice of physical activity and sport participation in/for Canada. We will collaborate with our partners/stakeholders and marshal resources to support the cause and make a difference in the lives of Canadians. Through a national communications program, ParticipACTION will create the dynamic that inspires Canadians to increase their physical activity and inspires society to make it easier to become more physically active. We will work with our partners in advocacy and bring about action through government policies that lead to long-term sustainable change. And, we will gather data, inform the issue and transfer knowledge across the sector and to all Canadians.

So, from what I can see; ParticipAction’s mandate is to crank out some new tv commercials; telling me to stop watching tv.

For my Canadian readers, I bet you remember the old commercials. Here’s a trip down memory lane:

Notice: I will not be held liable if these jingles proceed to ‘ear worm‘ their way into your head and stay there for the foreseeable future.

Here’s one ,and another, and another, and check out this spoof. Classic fromage.

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Exercise is Effective for Fibromyalgia Pain Relief

A few years ago, I had the pleasure to work with a very nice lady who was trying desperately to reduce the painful effects of fibromyalgia. She had been suffering for years as a result of this painful and debilitating condition.

Like most chronic pain conditions, the worst thing may not even be the pain itself. It is the effect that the pain has on the rest of your life. In my client’s case, she spent the first year of her daughter’s life in bed. Every day. Unable to care for her newborn child.

When I met her, she was in better shape. Her daughter was older. She participated in her daughter’s life. She had a challenging career. She was happy. But she was still in constant pain.

She came to me after having quite a few bad experiences with different forms of physical and exercise therapy. At the time, I was working at a fitness club. She was initially assigned to work with a young, female trainer. Her choice.

It didn’t go well. The female trainer, who was a good trainer, knew little about fibromyalgia. During their first workout, she treated her client like a normal, PAIN FREE person. Bad move.

A week later, our fibromyalgia lady returned and demanded her money back. She had spent the last week in bed, popping pills and regretting ever coming into our gym.

I don’t know how, but the owner of the club managed to calm her down and have her agree to sit down and talk with me.

At this point, I knew very little about fibromyalgia. I did, however, know how to talk, or rather listen to justifiably angry women. Yes, I am married.

We discussed her condition. I gave her my opinion and told her that I would spend the next few days researching the subject. A few days later, we met and talked again. I discussed my findings and outlined what my plan for her fitness training would include. After about half an hour, we began our workout.

It was very slow at the beginning, but after about 3 months, everything began to change. Her body changed. She was catching up and blowing by some of my pain-free clients. More importantly, her day to day life improved drastically.

For those of you out there who know someone like my former client, please show them the following research paper, along with my story and do what you have to do to get them moving. They will thank you for it. Not right away…right away they might not be too pleased…but eventually..they will thank you.

Group Exercise, Education, and Combination Self-management in Women With Fibromyalgia

A Randomized Trial

Daniel S. Rooks, ScD; Shiva Gautam, PhD; Matthew Romeling, BS; Martha L. Cross, BS; Diana Stratigakis, BA; Brittany Evans, BS; Don L. Goldenberg, MD; Maura D. Iversen, DPT, SD, MPH; Jeffrey N. Katz, MD, MS

Arch Intern Med. 2007;167(20):2192-2200.

Background Self-management has increasingly been recommended as part of standard care for fibromyalgia, a common, poorly understood condition with limited treatment options. Data that assess popular self-management recommendations are scarce. We evaluated and compared the effectiveness of 4 common self-management treatments on function, symptoms, and self-efficacy in women with fibromyalgia.

Methods A total of 207 women with confirmed fibromyalgia were recruited from September 16, 2002, through November 30, 2004, and randomly assigned to 16 weeks of (1) aerobic and flexibility exercise (AE); (2) strength training, aerobic, and flexibility exercise (ST); (3) the Fibromyalgia Self-Help Course (FSHC); or (4) a combination of ST and FSHC (ST-FSHC). The primary outcome was change in physical function from baseline to completion of the intervention. Secondary outcomes included social and emotional function, symptoms, and self-efficacy.

Results Improvements in the mean Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire score in the 4 groups were –12.7 for the ST-FSHC group, –8.2 for the AE group, –6.6 for the ST group, and –0.3 for the FSHC group. The ST-FSHC group demonstrated greater improvement than the FSHC group (mean difference, –12.4; 95% confidence interval [CI], –23.1 to –1.7). The ST-FSHC (mean difference, 13.6; 95% CI, 2.3 to 24.9) and AE (mean difference, 13.1; 95% CI, 1.6 to 25.6) groups had similar improvements in physical function scores on the 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey. Bodily pain scores on the 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey improved in the ST-FSHC (14.8), AE (13.2), and ST (5.7) groups. Social function, mental health, fatigue, depression, and self-efficacy also improved. The beneficial effect on physical function of exercise alone and in combination with education persisted at 6 months.

Conclusions Progressive walking, simple strength training movements, and stretching activities improve functional status, key symptoms, and self-efficacy in women with fibromyalgia actively being treated with medication. The benefits of exercise are enhanced when combined with targeted self-management education. Our findings suggest that appropriate exercise and patient education be included in the treatment of fibromyalgia.

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Disease Prevention with an Exercise Prescription

In the U.K., doctors are writing exercise prescriptions for their patients.

While it is not an entirely new practice over there, it would be revolutionary on this side of the pond.

Imagine this; instead of billions upon billions of dollars being spent on treating disease, we spent a fraction of that money on preventing disease.

In 2000, the total cost of obesity in the United States was estimated to be $117 billion. About $61 billion was for direct medical costs, and $56 billion was for indirect costs.

That number is likely to increase as the Percentage of Adults Who Report Being Obese, increases year after year.

A study by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US has recently estimated that each physically-active person saves the health care system over $300 annually relative to an inactive person.

With the current U.S. population at 303,980,933, that would work out to a potential savings of $91,194,279,900

In Canada:

  • A study done in 1995 for the Ontario Government called The Relationship between Physical Fitness and the Cost of Health Care, estimated that OHIP medical claim costs could be reduced by $31 million a year if all Ontario adults (aged 20-69) had at least an average level of fitness.
  • Based on CDC study mentioned above, the 63% of Canadians who are still inactive cost the health system $5.7B more than if they were active.
  • In the Economic Burden of Illness in Canada, Health Canada reports that the total direct cost (drugs, physicians, hospitals, research) of illness in 1993 was $44 billion out of an overall cost for health care in Canada of $70 billion.Moreover, the indirect costs such as time lost due to long-term and short-term disabilities, and the present value of future productivity lost due to premature mortality and illness in Canada represents an estimated economic value of $129 billion — nearly 21% of the GDP. Reducing the number of inactive Canadians by a further 10% would result in an additional saving of $5 billion.

So what do we do?

In a Cost-Benefit Analysis of Physical Activity Using Bike/Pedestrian Trails, it was found that every $1 investment (construction, maintenance, equipment and travel) in exercise trails led to $2.94 in direct medical benefit.

A 2004 paper, published the in American Journal of Preventive Medicine has a variety of intervention strategies.

But at the end of the day, all government can do is try to coax us, bribe us or threaten us into adopting a healthier lifestyle.

Ultimately, it is up to the individual to make the conscious decision. Is the benefit of living an active and healthy life worth the cost?

Is it?

My diet/nutrition blog

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An Affordable Home Gym

Hey everyone,

I have recently decided to transfer the content of my fitness site ( and my diet/nutrition site ( to my new blog:

I was getting a lot of questions on topics other than diet and fitness training. With a more general health blog, I can focus on topics not specifically exercise or diet.

This specific post can be found here.

During my almost 20 years as a personal trainer, I have been asked numerous times to help clients design & outfit their home gym. Taking into account their fitness goals, the available space and their budget, there are a number of ways to go.

When it comes to the strength training part of their gym, most people are usually looking for some form of multi-gym. They promise to give the most bang for the buck.

Along those lines, I was reading an article today about a new type of compact home gym called the Murphy Gym. Obviously, taking it’s inspiration from the original Murphy Bed, the Murphy Gym is a dual cable stack weight lifting station that folds away into it’s own custom made cabinet.

When it comes to multi-gyms, I have to agree, this one is a beauty.

There is a drawback. The price. The Murphy gym sells for $3,495, plus the cost of installation (about $200); That is for the base unit. In the picture immediately above, the cabinetry is all custom work, which costs extra. For those of you who have recently renovated their homes, you know that custom cabinetry doesn’t come cheap.

Now, for those of you that want Champagne quality fitness equipment for a Wine Cooler price, look no further.

Disclaimer: I have no connection whatsoever with any of the products that I will mention in this post.

This is simply equipment that my clients & I have found success with.

For the last 3 years, I have been using Jump Stretch fitness bands with all of my clients. As an in-home personal trainer, that satisfy almost all of my needs. They are portable, light weight, durable and effective.

For those of you that don’t have access to a personal trainer or even a workout partner, there will be some exercises where you will need to attach the band to an immovable object.

In this video, JS band rows are performed in a gym, with the band attached to a power rack.

How many of you have a power rack in your basement?

To recreate this exercise in your home, all you need to do is install a safety grab bar or a handrail (like a ballet barre) or purchase a pre-built Mini-Gym package.

I have also had a client build an outdoor gym by screwing eyebolts into the 4×4 post that he had used to mount a basketball net. That set-up is similar to the $2300 core-pole.

The cost of this DIY Home Gym: $50 for the handrail & hardware and $170 for a full set of bands.

Grand Total: $220

JumpStretch distributors here.

Hope this helps. In future posts, I will be providing band specific workouts.

My diet/nutrition blog

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Energy System training affects Heart Function & Structure

On April 17, I wrote an article about Energy System Fitness.

In that article, I explained how each of your body’s three energy system pathways provide energy for bodily functions.

I also explained how each energy system could be developed through exercise.

New research is showing that not only will exercise affect the function of your energy systems, it will affect the function and structure of your heart.

In a recent study (published in the Journal of Physiology) researchers have “concluded that participation in 90 days of competitive athletics produces significant training-specific changes in cardiac structure and function.”

Endurance Athletes (40 university rowers) expanded both the left and right ventricles of their hearts (bi-ventricular dilation). As well, they improved the relaxation of the heart muscle between beats (Diastolic relaxation).

In contrast, Strength Athletes (35 football players) thickened the heart muscle at the site of the left ventricle. Additionally, the football players experienced diminished diastolic relaxation.

What does this mean?

For athletes, this indicates that dramatic changes to the function of the heart’s function and structure can be achieved in a very short amount of time.

Future studies will be looking at how different exercise protocols affect both the function and structure of the heart.

For heart disease patients (and the health conscious public at-large), this study should indicate that as not all heart dysfunctions are the same, not all exercise prescriptions are the same.

Like different drugs are prescribed for different conditions, in the future unique exercise prescriptions may be dispensed based on the patient’s unique physical condition.

Take two pills and a half hour on the treadmill, and call me in the morning.

My diet/nutrition blog

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Britney Spears – A Model of Physical Fitness?

TMZ reported yesterday that Britney Spears is in negotiations with Bally Total Fitness to be a spokesperson for the company.

Britney Spears.


Britney Spears – the picture of health?


Wait a minute now… hold on… this is beginning to make sense.

On March 31, Bally Total Fitness announced their interim Chapter 11 Plan distribution to former stockholders.

So, you have a company that was the undisputed industry leader, completely self destructed, declared bankruptcy and is now trying to regain its former status riding on the back of Britney’s celebrity instead of producing a superior service.

On the other hand, you have poor Britney Spears.

Music industry leader. Self destructed. Seems to have lost just about everything except money. Trying to regain status using publicity instead of her music.

I take it all back. It is a match made in heaven.

ed. please note my sarcasm

On a positive note, let’s hope that Britney throws herself into her fitness and gets her life back on track.

Good for her. Bad for TMZ.

My diet/nutrition blog

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