Dr. Greg Wells

Move Better

Move Better

Cut your risk of cancer up to 40%

April, 18th 2017

According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 39.6% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes. The reality of cancer is upsetting, but there is hope. You can cut your cancer risk in half by committing to four important areas.  No magic pills, insane amount of money, or all-consuming regimen.  And, the best news is, you will not only lower your risk of cancer, but also improve your overall health and change your life for the positive.

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The Globe and Mail: Greg Wells on how ‘microchanges’ can make a major difference

April, 4th 2017

Toronto physiologist Greg Wells’s new book, The Ripple Effect, makes lofty promises, pledging that we can Sleep Better, Eat Better, Move Better, Think Better. A superachiever himself (Ironman, PhD, researcher at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Kids and professor at the University of Toronto), Wells nevertheless tempers those assertions by sticking to a simple message in the book, in stores April 4. It’s okay to dream big, but start small. Peppered with “1 per cent tips,” Wells advocates staying focused on micro-improvements (using spices, not sauces, to cut calories; walking 15 minutes a day to potentially lower risk of breast and colon cancer 24 to 40 per cent). “Microchanges are sustainable forever,” he says. “When they add up over time, it’s like compound interest for your body and mind.”

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CTV The Social: How simple lifestyle changes can transform your health for life

April, 4th 2017

You know those days when you don’t get enough sleep, so you decide to skip the gym and then you end up eating nothing but garbage for the rest of the day? We’ve all been there. Greg Wells, author of The Ripple Effect, says there are ways we can make small changes to our sleeping, eating, exercising and thinking habits that can transform our health for life.

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The incredible supporters of our research: The Fighting Eagle Memorial Tournament

March, 26th 2017

I am honoured to be partnering again with the Fighting Eagle Memorial Tournament to support our Exercise Medicine Research Program at the Hospital for Sick Children. Here’s a little bit about the research program:

Scientific evidence has linked physical activity and nutrition to a wide array of physical and mental health benefits. Unfortunately, despite this evidence, millions of people in Canada and the World remain essentially sedentary. The problem of sedentary behaviour and its negative impact on health is also a challenge for children with chronic diseases that cause exercise intolerance. The inability to exercise then compounds the impact of the disease itself and can worsen outcomes before during and after the disease runs its course.

The benefit of our research is that new interventions are being created that focus on using physical activity and exercise to improve health in children with chronic diseases. We aim to develop the concept of exercise as medicine and implement this throughout the health care system and the world to first save then improve lives.

The donations and support help us to

– Hire and train researchers and other professionals
– Cover research operating costs (i.e. MRI time, exercise testing)
– Purchase new research equipment

The Fighting Eagle Memorial Tournament is held annually to honour the memory of Alex Shapiro. Check out his story on TSN:

Registration for the 2017 tournament is now open! The 4th annual Alex Shapiro Fighting Eagle Memorial Tournament will be on the last weekend in June 23-25.

Come be a part of an unbelievable weekend of hockey, community spirit, fundraising and most of all, in memory of Alex. This is open to 2001/2002 GTHL/NYHL players.

This year our goal is $30,000 but we hope to raise even more and you can help us reach our goal. Your generosity and contributions will make a difference to SickKids and their patients. The funds raised will go to Dr. Greg Wells’ research into the benefits of physical activity for cancer patients while undergoing treatment.

Play ’til the whistle blows!

To learn more about the tournament, to participate, or to support in any way check out the Tournament website.

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Rio 2016: The Science of Michael Phelps

August, 10th 2016

This information first appeared in my book Superbodies: Peak Performance Secrets from the World’s Best Athletes.

Michael Phelps is obviously an incredible athlete, but the adaptations of his body may be even more amazing than his performance. His arm span is 2.03 metres wide, longer than average, giving him a greater distance per stroke. This means he has to take fewer strokes than his competitors, which increases his efficiency and saves energy during races. Height and arm length (unlike waist size) are characteristics that are largely determined by genes, but Michael’s commitment to training has had a powerful long-term effect on his body that is not genetic. Most swimmers at the international level will have a lung capacity that can be as much as two times the amount of a normal person’s lungs. No one has published lung-testing data from Michael Phelps yet, but I’d be willing to bet that his lung capacity is beyond limits even for swimmers. So is Michael a product of genetic talent or consistent training over an extended period of time?

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Rio 2016: The Science of Usain Bolt's Speed - Part 2

August, 10th 2016

This information first appeared in my book Superbodies: Peak Performance Secrets from the World’s Best Athletes.

Here is part 2 of my post on the Science of Usain Bolt!

With the Olympics in Rio underway I thought it would be cool to explore some of the physiology of the most legendary athletes. Usain Bolt certainly fits into this category. He’s aiming for 3 gold medals in 3 consecutive Olympics. Now, while you might normally think that his performance is powered by his muscles (and it is), there is one deeper level of physiology we can explore that will help you to appreciate how incredible his performances are. Let’s take a look at the what happens to the nervous system during the 100 m dash.

Let’s look at Usain Bolt’s world record 9.58-second 100-metre dash. Exploring “the start” is fascinating when we consider the lighting storm of electrical activity involved. There are  two critical stages of the run itself: the acceleration phase and the speed maintenance phase and that is what we will be exploring in this post.

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Rio 2016: The Science of Usain Bolt's Speed - Part 1

August, 8th 2016

This information first appeared in my book Superbodies: Peak Performance Secrets from the World’s Best Athletes.

With the Olympics in Rio underway I thought it would be cool to explore some of the physiology of the most legendary athletes. Usain Bolt certainly fits into this category. He’s aiming for 3 gold medals in 3 consecutive Olympics. Now, while you might normally think that his performance is powered by his muscles (and it is), there is one deeper level of physiology we can explore that will help you to appreciate how incredible his performances are. Let’s take a look at the what happens to the nervous system during the 100 m dash.

Let’s look at Usain Bolt’s world record 9.58-second 100-metre dash. Exploring “the start” is fascinating when we consider the lighting storm of electrical activity involved. There are three steps to the start: the “On Your Mark,” “Get Set” and “Go” steps. Let’s take a look at each of these steps.

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Toronto Star: Ice swimmers defy death for the thrill

August, 3rd 2016

Read article at Toronto Star.com

Ryan Stramrood’s “ice mile’” in sub-zero water off Antarctica set the standard for ice swimming.

As he swam against the current in Antarctica’s Southern Ocean among leopard seals and icebergs, Ryan Stramrood’s body went numb.

He looked down, pulling his arms one stroke at a time through the -1 C water, and he thought about how clear the ocean was that day.

“You don’t want to see very far down. It can be quite eerie,” he said.

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Redbull.com: The Learning Curve Episode 3

July, 25th 2016

On this week’s episode of The Learning Curve, we find Drew Bezanson putting in time at the Joyride 150 bike park warehouse, near Toronto, in Canada. With the mercy of a foam pit, Drew hucks his way to perfection as he prepares for competitive action.

Using the foam pit is key because of how fast I have to learn this stuff. If I was going to do it the old-fashioned way, on a regular jump, we probably wouldn’t be filming right now!

Drew Bezanson

The Learning Curve 3


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RedBull.com: The Learning Curve Episode 1

July, 13th 2016

Check out a new web series I’m helping with called The Learning Curve.

In episode one of The Learning Curve, we catch up with Drew Bezanson a few months after his release of Uncontainable.

Still riding the high from the success of the film and his own sense of accomplishment, Drew begins looking towards the next challenge – slopestyle mountain biking – and coming to terms with the uphill battle he’ll face if he wants to shred slopestyle with the best of them.

Here’s Episode 1 “Watch Drew Bezanson’s journey to Joyride begin”.


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Entrepreneur.com: 6 Happiness Tips to Boost Your Health and Performance

April, 14th 2016

This article originally appeared at this link on Entrepreneur.com.

As an entrepreneur you probably know that constant, high stress levels undermine your performance. When highly stressed, you don’t sleep as well, your concentration suffers, your patience bucket shrinks to the size of a teacup, and your ability to generate strategies and solutions plummets.

So one way to become a better business owner, leader and visionary is to be happier. Why? Because happiness has been shown to lower stress, increase well-being and boost daily energy. No surprise, perhaps, that feeling good creates a better work performance.


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Entrepreneur.com: 6 Ways to Curb Jet Lag and Travel Fatigue

January, 14th 2016

This article originally appeared at this link on Entrepreneur.com.

As an entrepreneur, you likely travel a lot, and you already know that jet lag (which science geeks call “flight dysrhythmia”) can cause all kinds of unpleasant symptoms: insomnia, loss of appetite, depressed mood, upset stomach, fatigue and mental fuzziness, to name a few.

And the farther you travel, the worse your jet lag will likely be. Why? Because crossing time zones throws your internal rhythms out of sync with your external environment. It’s like your body stays back in New York as you head off to your first meeting in London!


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Toronto Star: Cross-country running on uneven ground

November, 23rd 2015

What happens to girls and women when their feet touch grass?

That’s the question increasingly being asked in cross country running circles where old biases about what female athletes are capable of persist.

On the track and on the road, male and female athletes run the same distances, whether it’s the 100-metre sprint or the 42.2-km marathon. When they step on the softer, undulating ground of a cross-country course, that equality vanishes.


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Ride safely this summer! Bike helmet facts and tips.

July, 15th 2015

Hello everyone! It’s summer and that means getting out on your bike to get some exercise, see some sights and have fun. One of the reasons cycling is so much fun is that you can go much faster than you can when you walk or even run. And with some speed comes some risk. When you’re riding you can fall or even be hit by a car.

One of my good friends got hit by a car recently and here’s what his bike looked like after the fact:

Bob's Bike

You can see how much damage was done to the back wheel of the bike. Fortunately my friend and his wife, who were both hit in the same accident by the same far were both wearing helmets and escaped with minor scrapes and bruises. Ultimately the best way to prevent your head from looking like the back wheel of the bike above is to protect yourself by wearing your bike helmet.

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MindBodyGreen.com: Why Exercise Might Not Always Make You Healthier

June, 9th 2015

This article originally appeared at this link on MindBodyGreen.com.

If you exercise regularly, you probably already know the catalogue of benefits fitness brings to your life. Moving your body frequently lowers stress, improves mood and mental health, boosts problem-solving and memory, regulates sleep, and pretty much makes you a nicer person to be around.
In addition, if you’re a moderate exerciser, you may have noticed that you take fewer sick days than your coworkers. Or you might be the only one of your friends who doesn’t catch that cold going around. This isn’t just your imagination — numerous studies have demonstrated that regular exercise improves how well your immune system functions.

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Entrepreneur.com: Best Health Practices to Improve Your Life - In and Out of the Office

May, 13th 2015

This article originally appeared at this link on Entrepreneur.com.

You know it. I know it. We all know research supports it: Healthy people think, adapt and perform better.

That goes for both in and out of the office.

Here, four key areas — eating smarter, moving more, sleeping soundly and thinking clearly — that, when improved upon, enable you to be able to perform at your best.


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The Globe and Mail: Why we need to bring physical activity back into our schools

April, 10th 2015

Read this article on The Globe and Mail Online.

For some time, educational leaders have been emphasizing the importance of physical activity in schools. The premise is that if children are active, they will develop good habits, feel better, be healthier and grow into adults who make exercise a priority. This is an important goal, but it is only part of the story.


Based on my recent work with school leaders, teachers and students, and an extensive review of the research in this area, I am reminded of another important reason that we have to get school communities moving: Physical activity has a significant effect on academic achievement.

The evidence for the bodily benefits of physical activity is clear. At any age, regular exercise improves the health of our hearts, lungs, blood, bones, skin and almost every other organ. A growing body of research also shows that exercise can improve mental health. Yet despite this wealth of evidence, it remains a challenge for people to incorporate physical activity into their lives. Sadly, only 15 per cent of Canadians come close to the recommended levels of physical activity.

The numbers are equally bad for schoolchildren. We don’t seem to be able to get them moving based on the idea that it will make them healthier. But there is increased traction for the idea that we can get them moving if we emphasize the impact of physical activity on academic performance. The concept is that by doing the right activities at the right times, we can change the way children’s brains work and increase their ability to consistently and easily perform at a high level.

The research is compelling.

Dr. Arthur Kramer’s lab at the University of Illinois showed that children who did aerobic exercise for 20 minutes before writing math tests improved their scores. It also showed that children who did regular exercise had different brain structures than those who were less active. The brain regions that were more developed in the exercise group were related to attention control, cognitive control and response resolution – the centres of the brain that help us maintain attention and crisply co-ordinate actions and thoughts. These results were confirmed in young adults, illustrating that it’s not just children who benefit from exercise before mental tasks.

Another study of 5,000 children in Britain, conducted by Dr. Josie Booth from the University of Dundee, found that 15 minutes of exercise improved performance in math by about a quarter of a grade point. She also found that those increments in performance continued right up to 60 minutes of exercise per day. This means that getting 60 minutes of activity could possibly boost academic performance by a full grade point (for example, from a B to an A).

Harvard psychiatrist Dr. John Ratey explains this concept in his book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. He writes, “Physical activity sparks biological changes that encourage brain cells to bind to one another. … The more neuroscientists discover about this process, the clearer it becomes that exercise provides an unparalleled stimulus, creating an environment in which the brain is ready, willing, and able to learn.”

Imagine the impact on the ability to learn if we could design our school days so that children did physical activity right before math or science class. Or think about what is possible if we expanded this idea even further and programmed music right before creative writing classes or integrated drama and language.

The evidence is clear: Exercise before certain mental tasks will result in better academic performance for our students. For this reason, on top of the significant health benefits, we need to strategically build physical activity into all levels of academic programs on a daily basis. There are important financial and time considerations associated with this approach, but we can’t afford not to make this change. The costs of inaction are too significant.

Health Advisor contributors share their knowledge in fields ranging from fitness to psychology, pediatrics to aging.

Dr. Greg Wells is a Professor, Scientist, Broadcaster & Author. He is the author of Superbodies: Peak Performance Secrets from the World’s Best Athletes, which explores how generics and DNA, the brain, muscles, lungs, heart and blood work together in extreme conditions. You can follow him on twitter, Linked In and Facebook. You might also enjoy his podcast!

If you found this information interesting and helpful please consider signing up for Dr. Wells’ monthly newsletter with health and performance tips, articles, videos and other insights.


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inspiyr.com: Why Exercise Is The Best Medicine

April, 5th 2015

This article originally appeared at this link on www.inspiyr.com.

You’re likely aware that exercise is good for you, and you’ve probably done a workout or two in your time. But despite your interest and practice, I’ll bet there have been a few times when you’ve struggled to get to the gym or out for that run. I’ll also bet that your mind has begged you to slow down or take extra rest during a tough workout.

To help you get to the gym, out for a run or on your bike, and to do your absolute best while there, I thought I’d share the physiological science behind the power of exercise. Over the years of working with athletes at all levels, I’ve found that when people understand what their training does to their bodies, they perform better in the practice session. By showing you the power of a few little molecules, I believe I can help you train better to be healthier and achieve your dreams – whatever those might be!

Exercise as Medicine

Exercise is the most potent medicine known to humankind. Cardiovascular exercise and strength training can help to prevent and treat almost every chronic disease that afflicts us. Movement can help to improve the function of your heart and lungs, stimulate the creation of new red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout your body, promote the growth of new muscle tissue, and make your bones stronger. It even helps to prevent infections by enhancing your immune system.

Exercise has been shown to prevent or lessen the impact of certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, muscle atrophy from aging, osteoporosis, depression, Alzheimer’s disease, and a host of other illnesses. There are documented benefits for almost every organ in the body.

How It Works

How does exercise create all these powerful benefits? The answer is very complicated, but a few molecules can provide some clues. Those molecules are called mTOR, PGC-1 and BDNF.

The mTOR molecule is activated inside your muscles when you exercise. When you do strength training, mTOR works to stimulate the growth of new muscle tissue. So the next time you’re lifting weights, don’t think about the muscle burn. Think about all the microscopic mTOR molecules you just activated that are circulating around and building your muscle fibers so that they become stronger.

Endurance exercise works a little differently. When you go for a run, ride, swim, row or other cardio-type exercise, a little molecule called PGC-1 is activated inside your muscles. PCG-1 then works to assemble proteins to make new mitochondria. Mitochondria are the energy factories inside almost every cell in your body. That’s why aerobic activities help to build your endurance: they stimulate your body to build new mitochondria.

The final molecule I want to mention is brain-derived neuropeptide factor (BDNF). When we exercise, there are powerful positive benefits for most organs in the body, especially the brain. This surprises people who think that the mind and body are separate. Some amazing new discoveries have been made recently using magnetic resonance imaging, which has shown that people with high levels of aerobic fitness have larger hippocampus volumes (a structure inside the brain). An increase in hippocampal volume is related to better memory. The benefits of exercise in the brain are thought to be because of BDNF, which increases with exercise. It also appears that when mTOR is activated in skeletal muscle, levels of BDNF increase in the brain.

The Takeaway

All of these relationships are being explored by scientists and it’s an area that we don’t understand very well yet. But what you can take away is that endurance exercise and strength training not only build up your body, they build up your brain as well.

I hope this helps you appreciate how wonderful your workouts are for you. This is a hot area for research, so stay tuned for more amazing discoveries. In the meantime, please use exercise as medicine to improve your performance and health.

If you found this information interesting and helpful please consider signing up for our monthly newsletter with health and performance tips, articles, videos and other insights. You might also enjoy my podcast!

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Year in Review: 6 vital health stories from 2014

January, 8th 2015

Working to improve the understanding, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of illness

By: Michael Kennedy

In 2014 the University of Toronto continued its legacy of life-changing discovery and solidified its reputation as a global medical-research powerhouse. 

It was a year that saw U of T medical researchers tackle everything from treatments for childhood brain cancer to the debunking of fad diets and explaining unconventional methods of teeth whitening

And researchers at the Faculty of Medicine, the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, the Faculty of Dentistry, the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education and the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy weren’t the only ones working to improve health and wellness. Engineering researchers also shared knowledge that contributed to innovative health practices used to tackle disease locally and around the world

Writer Michael Kennedy reports on health and wellness stories for U of T News. Below, Michael shares some of his favourite stories from 2014.

Reducing risk and complications in the operating room

Researchers create “black box” for use in operating rooms to improve patient care

Associate Professor Teodor Grantcharov and his team of researchers have developed a “black box” for using in operating rooms, similar to that used in the airline industry. It’s been tested here in Toronto, at St. Michael’s Hospital, and in hospitals in Copenhagen, Denmark. The goal: to improve patient safety by identifying where and when errors occur in an OR and teaching surgeons to prevent them.

Publishing the largest genomic study to date on any psychiatric disorder

U of T researchers shed new light on biology underlying schizophrenia

As part of a multinational, collaborative effort, researchers from the University of Toronto and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) helped identify more than 100 locations in the human genome associated with the risk of developing schizophrenia. It’s hoped this work will lead to new treatments for the disorder, which has seen little innovation in drug development in the past 60 years.

“Large collaborative efforts such as this one are needed to identify genes that influence complex disorders,” said Jo Knight, professor of psychiatry at U of T’s Faculty of Medicine, CAMH senior scientist and the Joanne Murphy Professor in Behavioural Science. “The result is a major advance in understanding the genetic basis of brain functioning in schizophrenia.”

Diagnosing Autism at a younger age so treatment can start sooner

Unlocking Autism’s code

Dr. Stephen Scherer leads the Toronto research team that has identified the formula for diagnosing autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at an earlier age. This will let patients receive therapies at an earlier age, while helping to create  more advanced genetic diagnostic tests.

Explaining how sitting is killing you and what you should do about it
Everyone says sitting is the new smoking

Study after study has highlighted the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle that includes extended periods of sitting, and the catchphrase “sitting is the new smoking” has gained traction in the media and in popular consciousness.

Writer Jenny Hall turned to Assistant Professor Greg Wells of the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education at U of T and an associate scientist in physiology and experimental medicine at the Hospital for Sick Children. His advice?

“For every 20 minutes of sitting, stand up and stretch for 20 seconds. Beyond that, within every two-hour block, try to find 15 minutes to do some activity, be it walking or stairs. Even just standing for a while is better than sitting down. I tell people to stand up in meetings. If everyone else is sitting, find a spot to stand up in the back. If you’re doing a phone call, get up and do it with headphones while you’re standing.”

Discovering a new class of stem cell

Stem cell pioneers’ major, multinational discovery may speed research

It was an effort so huge, they dubbed it Project Grandiose. U of T’s Professor Andras Nagy led a team of almost 50 scientists on four continents and the results, published simultaneously in five separate scientific articles in Nature and Nature Communications, grabbed headlines around the world. (Read the TIME magazine article. Read the South China Morning Post coverage.)

Committing to reduce hospitalization for heart failure by 50 per cent over the next decade

Historic $130 million gift to establish Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research

With a $130 million from the Rogers family – the largest monetary gift ever made to a Canadian health-care initiative – The Hospital for Sick Children, the University Health Network and U of T announced the creation of the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research.

“The Toronto region is home to one of the world’s largest biomedical science and health education clusters,” said President Meric Gertler. “This exceptionally powerful network of researchers and educators is translating exciting ideas, innovations and therapies in stem cell research and regenerative medicine into clinical settings where they will address the most challenging problems across the spectrum of heart disease. With its pioneering spirit and innovative approach, the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research will be a world-class collaboration and a most fitting tribute to its namesake.”

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