Dr. Greg Wells

Think Better

Think 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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Entrepreneur.com: Are You Single-Tasking Yet?

October, 31st 2016

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

You sure should be. Focusing on one, important item at a time will make you more competent and productive.

What are you doing while you read this? Are you dipping into your email while texting, reading tweets and partly listening at a meeting? Do you have your mobile phone, a desk phone, a tablet and a laptop all on the go at once?

Probably. We all tend to do it, some more often than others. After all, multitasking is the sign of a highly effective and efficient mind — right?

Wrong.

It’s time for a reminder about the power of singletasking.

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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: The Power of 1 Percent Better

June, 24th 2016

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

One of the best approaches I have seen for achieving a dream is to focus on being 1 percent better.

I work with a lot of incredible athletes, but it isn’t always talent that drives achievement. What sets the best performing athletes apart is their dedication to training at a consistently high level. And among that group, there is a factor that sets even the elite athletes apart: lifestyle.

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Entrepreneur.com: The 3-Step Process for Countering Negativity

June, 8th 2016

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

Running your own business has its fair share of nerve-wracking moments. Some people feel the most anxious and uncertain before they take the entrepreneurial plunge. Do I have a chance of succeeding?

Others come across bumps in the road well after the business is established. Perhaps the market is changing or a fierce competitor arrives on the scene.

It is natural to feel worried or nervous at different times in the life of your business. But it’s another thing to make important decisions from a position of anxiety. The problem with negative emotions is that they’re so powerful, they can dominate our thinking and actions.

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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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Entrepreneur.com: 7 Mind-Body Fitness Strategies that Crush Stress

July, 18th 2015

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

If, in response to a life event, you’ve ever felt heat in the face, tightness in the chest, deep fatigue, an upset stomach or a craving for junk food, you know what stress feels like in your body. Chances are you’re well aware that stress can lead to elevated blood pressure, stroke, heart attack and weight gain.

But did you know that stress also contributes to mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression or an overall sense of defeatism? In order to stay mentally fit at work and at home, we need to protect ourselves against harm.

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Entrepreneur.com: 5 Habits of Top Athletes That Can Transfer to the Workplace

May, 21st 2015

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

An athlete steps up to the starting blocks in the Olympic stadium. He (or she) stands tall, takes a few deep breaths and shakes out his muscles. Thousands of people cheer while he is introduced, but his eyes never waver from the course he’s about to run. When the starting gun fires, he explodes into high-performance action.

How can we apply this scenario to a business situation? The same techniques athletes use to perform under pressure allow business leaders to excel in the professional sphere. Here are five top practices that will improve both your health and performance in the workplace.

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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.

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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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The Globe & Mail: Meditate on this to jumpstart your immune system

December, 17th 2014

This article originally appeared in The Globe and Mail Health Advisor section at this link.

If you’re at all like me, you dread getting sick. I’m just not very good at lying around for days feeling as if I’ve been run over by a truck. So I’m all about trying not to get sick in the first place.

As a researcher at SickKids Hospital in Toronto, I have to get a flu shot. But since the flu shot is not 100-per-cent effective, I am working on other ways to avoid getting sick or, if I do, to get better as fast as I can.

In my hunt through the research on influenza, I came across a very interesting finding. In a paper published in the Annals of Family Medicine, Dr. Bruce Barrett and colleagues from the University of Wisconsin-Madison looked into the benefits of meditation and exercise for prevention of the flu.

Before the annual flu season began, they divided their research volunteers into three groups: one that would practise meditation, another that would exercise regularly and a third control group that just carried on with normal daily life. They then tracked how many people in each group got sick and how severe and long-lasting their symptoms were.

The results were surprising.

As an exercise physiologist, I would have bet that exercise would be more powerful than meditation for preventing the flu. I was wrong.

Both meditation and exercise reduced the number of people who got sick by about 25 per cent.

The severity of the symptoms was lowest in the meditation group, followed by the exercise group and most severe in the group that did neither.

The duration of the illness was reduced equally by meditation and exercise.

Perhaps the most interesting finding was the total number of missed days of work in each group. The meditation group only missed 16 days, compared with 32 in the exercise group and 67 in the observation-only group.

The researchers conclude that exercise and meditation are both effective in reducing the burden of respiratory-tract infections. Moderate exercise is known to be very beneficial for your immune system – the body’s system that fights off infection, illness and disease. This is partly because exercise improves the flow of fluids in your lymphatic system, which means that viruses, bacteria and toxins are filtered from your blood and lymph more effectively. Consistent exercise also increases the number and potency of macrophages, which are white blood cells that travel around your body and attack and destroy invaders. We know that exercise works and how it works.

Although meditation, yoga and relaxation have all been used effectively to help people reduce stress, hypertension, anxiety, insomnia and illness, how meditation works to accomplish this is less clear.

But some new research studies have shed some light on this area.

A group at Massachusetts General Hospital found that when people practised meditation – either experienced practitioners for a single session or novices consistently for eight weeks – there were improvements in the function of mitochondria (the energy factories inside all the cells of the body), better insulin metabolism (which helps your cells absorb blood sugar which they then use for energy) and less inflammation (high inflammation is related to many illnesses and diseases).

In addition, a research study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that students who practised meditation increased their levels of immunoglobulin A (which is a substance that identifies invaders such as viruses and bacteria so that they can be destroyed by your immune system) and that the levels kept increasing over the course of the four-week study.

At this time of year, some people are going to get sick. If you don’t want to be one of them, be sure to work out and take time to relax each day. Even better, try meditation. You’ll be doing your body, your mind and your immune system a lot of good.

Thoughts, questions or comments? Tweet to me @drgregwells.

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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The Globe & Mail: Want to boost your brain power? Three ways getting physical can help

December, 15th 2014

This article originally appeared in The Globe and Mail Health Advisor section at this link.

You know that exercise is good for your body. What you might not realize is that exercise is just as good for your brain as it is for your muscles. We are now learning how exercise can improve concentration, learning, focus and memory, and can even prevent and treat mental illnesses.

Here’s what we know about the correlation between exercise and the brain:

1. Increasing your physical activity results in reduced stress levels and helps your body deal with the hormones that are released when you’re under stress.

2. Increased blood and oxygen flow to the brain from exercise promotes the production of new cells and neural connections in the areas of the brain responsible for learning, memory, problem solving and creativity.

3. Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, chemicals that are released by the pituitary gland in response to pain or stress. Endorphins also lead to feelings of euphoria and happiness.

Harvard psychiatrist Dr. John Ratey explains this concept in his book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. He says: “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.”

How can we harness this process? Exercise primes the brain for mental performance. If you have an important thinking-related task to do during the day – a presentation, a major meeting or a test – take 15 to 20 minutes to do some light exercise in the hour before the event. This exercise will increase the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the brain and improve your mental performance.

Exercise also improves health at any age. It’s never too late to start exercising. By improving cardiovascular health, you can decrease your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Your brain also benefits whenever you exercise. In a six-year study of more than 1,700 people age 65 and older, researchers at the University of Washington in Tacoma found that those who exercised three times a week had a 32 per cent lower risk of dementia than those who were sedentary.

Another small study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that as little as 20 minutes of yoga can help improve brain power. “It appears that following yoga practice, the participants were better able to focus their mental resources, process information quickly, more accurately and also learn, hold and update pieces of information more effectively than after performing an aerobic exercise bout,” lead author Neha Gothe said, according to PsyBlog.

The key is to make exercise part of your daily routine. Not only for your body – but for your mind as well.

Thoughts, questions or comments? Tweet to me @drgregwells.

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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The Globe & Mail: Want to work out more? Defend yourself against decision fatigue

December, 15th 2014

This article originally appeared in The Globe and Mail Health Advisor section at this link.

Enjoying the summer? I’m loving it. Summer makes it so much easier to get outside and get active. But despite no longer having the weather as an excuse, Canadians still don’t come even close to getting enough physical activity.

A recent report on Canadians’ activity levels showed that only 15 per cent of us are getting enough exercise on a daily basis. (Keep in mind that the minimum standards that we are not meeting are designed to keep people from getting sick.) That means that 85 per cent of Canadians are at risk of chronic illnesses like cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes simply because they are not physically active on a daily basis.

While as little as 15 minutes of exercise each day can decrease your risk of certain cancers by 35- to 50 per cent, in general you should be getting about an hour of physical activity each day to be healthy, happy and minimize your risk of chronic diseases. That hour can be broken up into short increments: Go for a quick walk, stretch at night in front of the TV, do some gardening on the weekend, take a yoga class at lunch. Any type of exercise helps and any intensity is better than sitting on the couch.

In a previous column, I wrote about the power of being 1 per cent better. Spending 1 per cent of your day on exercise means taking about 15 minutes to walk, jog, run, stretch or play. But still we don’t do it. Why not? What’s missing?

One of the most interesting ideas I’ve come across recently is the idea of “decision fatigue.” Basically the hypothesis is that people have only enough mental energy during a given day to make a certain number of decisions that are hard to make. Decisions like “I am going to sit down and get this project done,” “I’m going to the gym,” “I’m not going to have that treat that I want to eat right now.” Once you’ve burned through your mental toughness for the day, you’re done. At that point your habits take over and you’re a slave to what you normally have done up to that point.

So if you’re looking to make positive changes in your life like sleeping, eating and moving better, then you need to take decision fatigue into account to make sure you make the right choices throughout the day. Because as you live your days so you live your life.

Here are a few things you can to live a world-class life and overcome decision fatigue:

1. Many people end their days by crashing out on the couch and watching some TV to “relax.” Unfortunately that’s a recipe for a bad night’s sleep. The flashing lights from your TV activate your brain and make it hard for you to fall asleep quickly. Have a plan to help you fall asleep. Get some books. Put them on the nightstand by your bed. Make it easy on yourself to do the right thing when you’re tired.

2. To improve your nutrition you have to plan ahead. This takes work and some effort but if you don’t do this then you’re going to be faced with hunger or cravings at some point during the day – and that’s when you’re most likely to go get something fast that’s brutal for your body and your brain. You only have to look at the lineups for Starbucks or Tim Horton’s at 3 p.m. to know that this is the reality for many people at work. Take food with you from home. Having some healthy snacks to rely on during the day is a lifesaver that can make a huge difference in your health and performance. Nuts and berries are great options.

3. If you want to exercise more, then make sure you build it into your schedule when you have the smallest chances of something else getting in the way. I exercise first thing in the morning before anyone else in my family gets up. Work can’t get in the way and neither can helping my daughter put on yet another princess outfit. Find a time during the day when you know you’ll be consistent and you won’t get interrupted or rescheduled.

World-class performers build routines that they follow almost religiously that protect them from decision fatigue. Workouts are scheduled, nutrition is planned in detail and sleep is a priority. Routines, planning and scheduling help them do the right things at the right times despite the exhaustion that comes with training full time. We can all live better lives and make the right decisions that we all want to make to be healthier, happier and to perform better.

What do you do to overcome decision fatigue and live the life of your dreams?

Thoughts, questions or comments? Tweet to me @drgregwells.

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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The Globe & Mail: No more multi-tasking? Why Single Tasking is the key to success.

December, 15th 2014

This article originally appeared in The Globe and Mail Health Advisor section at this link.

It’s fall and that means one of my favourite times of the sporting year is underway: the baseball playoffs. There are few times in sport that completely capture my attention like the moment when an elite pitcher and clutch hitter square off with a game on the line.

I love those moments because both athletes are trying to reach the limits of their potential by drawing on all of their skills, training and experience. And they both exemplify specific performance elements that enable excellence.

The pitcher’s eyes focus on the target while he tries to block out the crowd, the TV and the crushing idea that this is a career-defining moment. The hitter breathes deeply to stay calm and relaxed while trying to remain on edge so he can deliver explosive power and energy at the precise moment. Both athletes are living entirely in the instant without thinking about the past or the future.

Learning general lessons from elite athletes is what I do for a living, so I’m interested in what we can all take from the pitcher-hitter battle to help us be better in our own lives. In this case, we can learn something from looking at how focused they are.

Focus is a key element for success in any discipline – be it music, sports, drama or business. Yet we live in the age of distraction. We have e-mail, social media, text messages and YouTube all competing for our attention, not to mention the job we are supposed to be doing. The problem is that distraction and multitasking go against how our brains work. No matter how much we want to take the drug that Bradley Cooper uses to access 100% of his brain in Limitless, the reality is that our brains can only do one thing at a time.

The nerves that make up the brain have very little stored energy. When we think, problem solve or create memories, the brain needs oxygen, glucose and nutrients to work. This “fuel” is provided by blood flow to whatever part of the brain is working on the specific task. But blood flow to the brain is limited and can only be delivered to a few areas at once. If we activate different parts of our brain by trying to multitask, we end up spreading the blood flow around and never giving the brain what it needs to get a single job done properly.

It’s like a firefighter trying to put out multiple fires at once by spraying water from a hose quickly across several burning houses rather than extinguishing one blaze and then moving on to the next.

Physiologically, we are not built for multitasking. Our brains work best when we focus on one thing at a time. To improve mental focus, try single tasking. Single tasking demands that we pick the most important task to work on first and perform that task as exclusively as possible until it is either complete or we are out of whatever time we have allotted for the job.

All you need to do is remember the focus of a hitter getting ready to smack the ball out of the park, and you can achieve that level of laser-like attention control.

For example, set aside one hour each day when you have time to completely focus and really drill down into a task that you have to accomplish – writing a report, analyzing some data, preparing a speech, or whatever is the highest priority on your list. During that time, turn off your phone or put it on silent and disconnect from the Internet. Be completely focused on that one task with no distractions.

If we focus, we can do more in less time, which makes better use of our energy. Try focusing more during your day and see how it works for you.

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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The Globe & Mail: You only need to be 1 per cent better every day to reach your goals. Here are three ways to do it

December, 5th 2014

This article originally appeared in The Globe and Mail Health Advisor section at this link.

At the best of times, watching Olympic athletes fling themselves down mountains at high speeds on skis, snowboards or bobsleds can be awe-inspiring. How, we ask ourselves, do they do that?

But when the athletes also have injuries that make us wince just to think of them, well, that raises a slightly different question: How can they do that?!

When I watched Jan Hudec win a bronze medal in the alpine skiing super-G event I was blown away. Not only was his athletic performance amazing but what he had to overcome to even get to the Olympics was incredible. Seven knee surgeries and a herniated disk as recently as a couple of months ago. I’m amazed that he made it to the start line – never mind that he won a medal.

Many athletes have overcome tremendous challenges to get to the Games and in some cases onto the podium. Another Canadian, Mark McMorris, won a medal in snowboard slopestyle despite racing with a broken rib. Seventeen-year-old figure skater Michael Christian Martinez is the sole representative of the Philippines. In order to qualify, Michael had to overcome asthma and a series of injuries.

How can someone with a broken rib, separated shoulder or recent knee surgery compete or actually win a medal? I think this is a really important question for all of us. We all have goals, hopes and dreams that we want to accomplish. But the path to reaching our dreams is rarely easy or direct. If it was easy everyone would do it – right? And that’s what makes getting to your dreams and goals so sweet!

How can we gain some inspiration and learn from our best athletes to help us in our day-to-day lives? Here are a few things that Olympians do to overcome obstacles like injuries – consider them nuggets of gold for all of us.

First Nugget: Start small After injuries, Olympians have to get right back to the basics and build their health, fitness and performance from the ground up. You can do exactly the same thing. Go for a 15-minute walk. Do some simple exercises. Go take a yoga class. Just get active.

Second Nugget: Be consistent Olympians build their strength, flexibility, balance, and cardiovascular fitness over thousands of hours and many years of deliberate practice and training. So don’t worry about it if you get off track for a while. The key is to get back being active as soon as you can. When you start again you might get frustrated, but each time you get going your fitness will come back faster and faster.

Third Nugget: Build a routine Make exercise and physical activity part of your routine. Book it off in your calendar. Make it a priority. That way you won’t have to make a decision about whether or not to do it when you’re busy or if you get tired during your day. Olympians build daily routines to make sure that they can perform on demand. You can do exactly the same thing.

Remember: You only need to be 1 per cent better each day The difference between a medal and 10th place in many events is just a tiny fraction. And the difference between you getting more fit or not is also just a tiny fraction. I call it the aggregate of 1-per-cent gains. Like compound interest for your body and your brain, doing something small each day will leave you with more… more strength, more confidence and more possibilities.

Canada sent 221 athletes to Sochi. My bet is that most of them competed with some sort of pain. We can all win gold by remembering how they managed it. We can gain lots of inspiration from our athletes, but it’s important that we actually apply their skills and techniques in our own lives to reach our goals and dreams.

We may have some of the best athletes in the world, but we’re faced with an epidemic of physical inactivity here at home.

The best part about exercise is that you don’t need to do much to reap the rewards. As little as 15 minutes of exercise per day has been shown to decrease the risk of breast and colon cancer by up to 40 per cent. Similar statistics exist for almost every chronic disease we’re faced with.

You can live like an Olympian by overcoming your obstacles and exercising your way to better health, energy and performance at whatever you’re most passionate about in your life!

Thoughts, questions or comments? Tweet to me @drgregwells.

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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The Globe & Mail: The one thing you should do more of to reach your goals: Dream

January, 5th 2014

This article originally appeared in The Globe and Mail Health Advisor section at this link.

January is named after the Roman god Janus, the god of the doorway. Seriously! January was – and is – seen as the door to the year ahead.

When you walk through the door it often feels like a time to set new goals. Yet, statistics indicate that our success rate with New Year’s resolutions is dismally low.

Here’s the thing: We can do better.

Goals and resolutions help us, but on their own lack the sustained power to change your life. Dreams, on the other hand, can create extraordinary motivation and transformative change.

Dreams capture people’s imaginations and help people push through challenges and achieve things that they would never have imagined possible.

A few years ago the US Library of Congress had a special presentation to commemorate the first centennial of flight. They called it: “The Dream of Flight” not “The Goal of Flight.” Their reasoning was that human flight was one of humanity’s oldest and most persistent aspirations.

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King delivered a speech that came to define the American Civil Rights Movement. In the speech, titled “I have a dream”, he called for racial equality. That speech inspired millions and changed the world for the better. He was able to change the world because he told people about his dream. Now imagine if the speech was titled “I have a goal.”

Not quite the same effect, is it?

When I attended the last two Olympics with CTV as an analyst I noticed that athletes were talking about dreams, what it meant to finally reach them and how motivating or as powerful dreams can be. Think about what athletes look like when they win. They exhilarated, thrilled, excited, and energized. That’s because they’ve transformed themselves over years of training into the most physically and mentally strong people on the planet. And they’ve just reached their dream!

When Mark Tewksbury won gold for Canada at the Barcelona Olympics, Rob Faulds who was announcing the race exclaimed “The Dream Lives!!!!” Dreaming is one of the keys that helps makes athletes overcome challenges and to reach their own potential.

Dreams can be huge – like humans achieving flight – or they can be as small as you want. It can be something athletic like running a 10 km race or even a marathon. It can be eating better and changing your body. You might want to challenge yourself to learn how to play an amazing piece of music. Maybe you want to learn how to sleep more deeply so you can live with more energy. They key to dream setting is to identify something that you’re passionate about. And then go for it.

Dream setting is magic. It’s powerful. And we need to do more of it because going after your dreams can help you change your life for the better. If you’re really inspired you might even be able to change the lives of the people you care about for the better too! So this year remember to dream and create your moments of opportunity. Good luck and have a great year!

Thoughts, questions or comments? Tweet to me @drgregwells.

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