Monday, April 29, 2013

IBS Awareness Month

Irritable bowel syndrome. It's not the most popular water cooler topic at work, is it?  Most people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome are not interested in chatting up the topic at social functions either.
But the fact is, if you struggle with irritable bowel syndrome, also known as IBS, you are far from alone. It's estimated that somewhere between 9% and 23% of the world’s population has irritable bowel syndrome, and roughly 35 million people in the US alone have irritable bowel syndrome.

Another unfortunate IBS fact is that many who suffer from it don't know they have it, remaining undiagnosed, not even knowing that their symptoms collectively add up to a medically recognized disorder.

For these and other reasons, the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders in 1997 designated the month of April as IBS Awareness Month, focusing attention on spreading the word about IBS diagnosis, IBS treatment, and quality of life issues for those with irritable syndrome. 

Man with stomach pain

What is irritable bowel syndrome?

IBS is an gastrointestinal (GI) disorder. This chronic condition causes pain, cramping, and bloating in the bowels. Other symptoms include diarrhea or constipation.  Another indicator that you may have irritable bowel syndrome is changes in your bowel function (diarrhea, constipation or both) that persists for months or even years.

Medical science does not yet know the cause of IBS. What they do know is that women are nearly three times more likely to be diagnosed with IBS than men. However, the figures for men may actually be higher, since women are statistically more likely to get diagnoses, or seek medical attention, than are men.  Researchers believe that only 30 percent of those with irritable bowel syndrome symptoms ever seek medical attention.

Research also indicates that IBS is one of the most common GI disorders. Even though it is often not reported, it is nonetheless one of the most frequent reasons that people choose to visit their primary care physician or gastroenterologist.

Get help with irritable bowel syndrome

If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, the good news is you are not without solutions. Here are steps you can take to improve your condition and get support:
  • Get a D!  According to the Vitamin D Council, vitamin D supplementation can have a beneficial effect on your IBS symptoms. Irritable bowel syndrome is believed to be an autoimmune disease, and research shows that vitamin D is a significant player in developing or maintaining healthy immune function. The Council also states that Vitamin D can help you maintain the balance of a healthy intestinal mucosal barrier, which doesn’t function properly when you have IBS.
  • See your doctor.  There are medications available to ease the pain and irregularity of irritable bowel syndrome that a doctor can prescribe.
  • Change your diet.  Those who have struggled with IBS report that they have been able to greatly improve their irritable bowel syndrome symptoms by modifying their diet.  Certain foods can trigger IBS symptoms.  For example, milk products have known to be problematic for IBS sufferers. By avoiding these foods, you can experience relief from IBS symptoms.
  • Change your lifestyle.  IBS sufferers also report that getting regular exercise and managing your stress level can reduce symptoms.  Other non-medication lifestyle treatments that may help reduce symptoms include relaxation training, yoga, or hypnosis.
  • Get support - Consider participating on the the Irritable Bowel Syndrome Self Help and Support Group website. This patient-led and patient-governed organization works to help those who suffers from IBS through patient communication, IBS support, and IBS education on symptoms, causes, treatment, and information.
  • Learn about IBS. To increase your knowledge and understanding of irritable bowel syndrome and what you can do about it, visit the IFFGD IBS Awareness Month page, their  Facts about IBS page, IBS Symptoms page, or their IBS Diagnosis page.
The facts on Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Source: Vitamin D Council

Help others with IBS

If you want to help others who are suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, consider getting involved in IBS Month efforts. If you don't feel comfortable shouting about it from the rooftops, don't worry – there are still plenty of ways to help:
  • You can print the IBS awareness poster shown above and share it on your workplace bulletin boards, on Facebook, or around your neighborhood. In fact, the International Foundation for Functional Digestive Disorders (IFFGD) has an entire collection of posters on IBS awareness that you can download and share for free here
  • You can also join the Digestive Health Alliance and use your voice or wallet to make a difference.
Make this April – IBS awareness month – the last month that you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome symptoms without diagnosis. See your doctor and take the first steps to finding relief from IBS.

Ric Moxley 
Contributing Writer

Friday, April 26, 2013

How to Go from Couch ‘Tater to Marathon Runner

As we promised in this article and this one, here is a brief guide on how to go from couch potato to distance runner.

Step #1 – kill the excuses

If you really want to take on the challenge of becoming a regular distance runner, and possibly even a marathon runner, there will always be a hundred reasons you can come up with not to do so.  But let's see if we can get you past the three top excuses:
  • "I'm too old."
    Not likely. Read our previous running article and note the age of the oldest marathon runner.  And what could be more inspiring than the story of Bill Iffrig: That Man Who Crumbled to the Ground During the Boston Marathon Bombings.  Just one year shy of 80, he got back up after the bomb blast and walked the remaining 20 feet to finish the marathon in the respectable time of 4:03:47, proving that age is no excuse.
  • "I'm too overweight."
    Again, not likely.  No doubt: someone who is overweight will need to start off more slowly. But if you are overweight, your body is likely to be shedding pounds more quickly when running, just as someone who is carrying a runner’s weight vest would do (Yes, they do make them).  But I have known or met several people that were significantly overweight, and who have either walked or run marathons.
  • "I’m too unhealthy"
    Because you can start easy – perhaps a walk around the block the first time – most people are able to start a running program in spite of health issues.  And given the health benefits of any regular cardio exercise program, the benefits of getting started are worth the challenge. Of course, before starting any exercise program, check with your doctor regarding your overall health and for a consultation on your physical readiness.
Believe in yourself

With excuses out of the way, the next step to a successful distance running goal will ensure your greatest chance of success:

Step # 2 – create a vision

A wise man once said, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18).  Though he was not talking about a running program, the statement certainly applies.  If you've never been a runner, you likely cannot envision yourself running even a mile, much less a marathon.  After your first attempt at running more than a block or two, you may find the effort too difficult without a vision of what you expect to achieve by sticking with it.

So, find out what motivates you.  This will be different for everyone.  Maybe it’s health improvement (nearly inevitable with a sustained, graduated running program), or maybe it's midlife crisis – wanting to prove that age is not a barrier to succeeding at a physical challenge. 

Perhaps your motivation to try a marathon can be a shared one. For San Fernando Valley, California, runner Andrea Giese-Sweat, her vision for running came from witnessing the actions of her father, who had taken up distance running first.  Andrea says that, “I would never have started running if I had not decided to train for the LA Marathon with my dad.”

For Ijaz Afzal of Los Angeles, his motivation came from both the social aspects of such an endeavor and the challenge of taking his body to doing greater things.  “For me,” he says, “Taking up marathon running was about  being together with my running friends as we prepared together for the big event and doing something that I felt was both positive and challenging.”

A common motivator for many who take up running later in life is weight loss or physical appearance.  Marathon runner Heather Connan of Southern River, Australia, agrees that such matters as health and weight are largely what got her started into running during midlife.  "That's me alright," she admits. "I didn't want to be fat and 40!"

With that as her motivation, Heather made the commitment to get serious about running.”Eight months after I started running and losing weight, I ran my first half marathon. And then, 10 months later, I ran my first marathon. Now, I am venturing into triathlon and loving it.”  That's the power of creating a vision for yourself.

Step # 3 – graduate to greatness

You may have heard the incredible story of ultra-distance runner Dean Karnazes who, on his 30th birthday and having not run since high school, took off from the party, ran from the bar and into the night …. and did not stop until he had run 30 miles! You may have also heard of plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, and heart attacks – which is what you might experience if you attempt to go from a sedentary lifestyle into running 30 miles without preparation!  I.e., don’t try it.   Don’t even bother consulting with your doctor first, because no doctor would ever give you the go-ahead. 

Just as you would likely fail in college if you had not first done your time in grades K through 12, you are
Ric Moxley LA Marathon
Author running 2013 Los Angeles
likely to fail at distance running if you do not “graduate” into it by putting in the initial walks, then short runs, then longer runs, and so forth, until your body (heart, bones, muscles, and connective tissues) are race-ready.  If a walk around the block is more than you have attempted in years, then feel proud if that is where you start.  Walking is precisely where I started. The walks grew longer and further, eventually mixing in short segments of running. The short segments eventually became longer than the walking segments until, over the period of about five years, I was running marathons.

I talked with distance runners across the globe to learn about their journey from the couch to marathon running.  The graduated progression story is nearly always the same. For example, Sandy Erb of Merced, California (another person who started running in her mid-30s) started as a walker.  "I decided to walk the LA Marathon two months after receiving the gift of an MP3 player, which made my regular walks so much more fun." Sandy reports that, after a while, walking felt too slow, "So I started running, just a block or two at first." Now, as so many others who started gradually, Sandy runs regularly. Those who have stayed with it for years and come to find running to be an addiction, a passion, are those who gradually, sensibly progressed over months or even years.

Step #4 – don’t do it alone

Even though running is generally considered a solo sport,  many runners find the greatest success when they share their running commitment with others. This can be as simple as finding a running partner – perhaps a neighborhood friend who shares your interest in getting in shape. Also, check community listings for running groups in your area that meet weekly. Check with your local running shoe store or sporting goods store, which are often where running groups meet. Other sources for finding running camaraderie include marathon training groups or online running support groups (such as, or do a search for Facebook running groups).

Even when you run alone, you feel part of a brotherhood/sisterhood whenever you pass another runner. In the words of runner Gene Baur, the Cofounder and President of Farm Sanctuary, “When you run by someone and there's a thumbs up or encouragement … it's a brotherhood: a support and an appreciation for the effort we're all making."

Running group
Run with a group to increase your motivation

Step #5 – Make your first race commitment

Signing up for a race makes it real.  Having that date on the calendar helps you stay motivated to continue increasing your mileage capacity – you want to be ready!

Your first race should be something much shorter than a marathon; maybe a 5k (kilometer) or 10k race.  A shorter race will allow you to experience the thrill of the race and the joy of the shared experience without the pressure of an overwhelming distance to conquer at the same time. 

A shorter race also makes a great introduction into the fellowship of running, which can be tremendously motivating.  Frances Rucks of Mountain View, California is a marathoner who only ran her first race a couple years ago.  Though it was a 5k (kilometer) race – about three miles – it proved to be the trigger.  “That's where they get you,” she explains. “Meeting other runners and hearing their stories inspired me to try trail running and then a half marathon. Each time, I always thought that was the furthest I would ever run and ‘why would anyone want to put themselves through the pain of running a full marathon!’”

But she did.  Frances ran her first full marathon in 2012, just two years after her first 5k race.  “I’ve already run two more marathons this year and even a 50k race, and will be capping the year off with a 50 miler.”  She adds, “Running has changed my life in so many ways and I am so grateful that I found it!”

Ijaz Afzal agrees.  “Much of what motives you to consider a marathon is the other runners you meet at your initial shorter distance races who talk about their 26.2-mile achievements. Many of us find that these discussions trigger the desire to try it.”

Step #6 – Make the marathon commitment

After you've completed the five steps to marathon prep, the only thing that remains is the marathon itself.  As with the shorter races, making the commitment by registering for a marathon will solidify your resolve and help you keep your training on target.

Important: the longer the race, the sooner you need to sign up. Preparing your body for the challenge of a marathon is something every runner builds up to. The number of miles you will be running needs to increase gradually and steadily as the marathon date approaches. Most marathon training programs – a good investment, especially for your first marathon – start at least 12 weeks out from the event. So give yourself at least three months to make sure you are physically and mentally prepared.

To find a marathon or other race to sign up for, check out the Runners World Race Finder or Race Place Online.

Ric Moxley 
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Get Serious About Laughter–National Humor Month

Warning: Side effects of National Humor Month include laughter, incontinence (ever laugh so hard you peed your pants?), and tears (ever laugh so hard you cried?). Also, be advised that laughter is considered dangerously communicable, often resulting in outbreaks of chuckles and guffaws in others.  It can even be transmitted by computer.  Need proof? Watch the two videos below and see if they don't spread laughter. 

No joke: April is National Humor Month

National Humor Month was started in 1976 by comedian Larry Wilde  to heighten public awareness on the joy and therapeutic value of laughter, and how laughter can improve your health, boost morale, and enrich the quality of your life.  In its 37th year, National Humor Month is now hosted by comedian Steve Wilson, and the movement is more committed than ever to helping us all enjoy life a bit more, thanks to humor.

Humor and health

Is there really a connection between humor and health?  Only if it makes you laugh.

That was a joke. 

But only sort of, because any study that links humor and health is actually linking laughter and health benefits.  So, heed this warning: don’t expect a bad joke to cure what ails you.  But laughter:  that’s a whole different story. 
Laughter is the best medicine … because it’s a lot cheaper!
Physiologically and psychologically speaking, the act of laughing has certain undeniable benefits.  The real kicker: those laughter benefits often mirror the benefits of many pharmaceuticals, but for free – and with fewer negative side effects:  
  • Laughter improves vision? Laughter presents an opportunity to shift your perspective, helping you see difficult or unpleasant situations in a whole new light.  It is also said that humor decreases myopia (near sightedness), as it allows you to step outside yourself to laugh at yourself or a tough situation. 
  • Laughter: anti-anxiety medicine?  In this study, participants from Terra Haute, Indiana, were force-fed humorous videos to the point of raucous laughter, which resulted in reduced stress measurements.  Whether it works outside of Terre Haute is yet to be proven.  
  • Laughter: nature’s psychiatrist? This study suggests that humor can reduce or eliminate undesirable negative emotions.  And, unlike your psychiatrist, humor doesn't charge you by the half hour. 
  • Laughter: HIV medicine? This study shows that mirthful laughter improves NK cell activity, which increases disease resistance and decreases morbidity in those with cancer and HIV disease. 
  • Laughter: a muscle relaxant?  After a hearty belly laugh, your body will experience relief from muscle tension and stress.  The relaxing effect can last up to 45 minutes. Then, just repeat the dosage as needed for further relief.
  • Laughter: an effective pain killer? In one study, humor was shown to help ease the pain in terminally ill patients and encourage the healing process in other patients.
  • Laughter: the legal upper? Doctors tell us that laughter fires off endorphins, which are known as a natural feel-good chemical.  Laughter: take two in the morning and enjoy an overall sense of well-being all day.
  • Laughter: low-cost heart medicine? The act of laughing increases your blood flow and may even improve the function of your blood vessels.  These actions may help protect you from heart disease and heart attacks.
  • Laughter: morphine without addiction? If you want to increase your resistance to pain, try a dose of laughter.  According to this study, the presence of laughter increases pain tolerance. 
  • Laughter: immunity booster shot?  According to scientists, laughter diminishes stress hormones and boosts immune cells, improving your ability to fight disease.
It’s hard to get too much laughter.  With all these benefits linking laughter and health, why not take all the humor you can get this month?

Get some laughs, Give Some Laughs

To spread the word about National Humor Month, download the L.A.U.G.H.T.E.R. Poster, created by comedian Larry Wilde.  The poster uses the word LAUGHTER as an acronym to help you spread the word on the value of laughter.  Posted on your fridge or workplace bulletin board, it’s the perfect laugh evangelism tool.

Also try these tips for spreading a little laughter into the world, or find ways to giggle up a few smiles in your own life:
  • Seek out funny people. Or, at least funny looking people. 
  • Spend a few minutes daily with one of the many online sources for laughter, including YouTube,
  • Dealing with cancer?  Here is a list of sites with humor for and by people with cancer
  • Here’s a workplace laugh maker tickler list of ideas to add a little levity and to improve the mood at your place of business.  Sneak peek at one of the many great ideas there:  organize a “hum-along.” It's hard to be stressed when you're humming. 
  • For Henny Youngman fans, find all Henny Youngman Jokes here, including such classics as “A doctor gave a man six months to live. The man couldn't pay his bill, so he gave him another six months.”
  • Check out the huge collection (Good Clean Funnies List), especially their favorite jokes list, sorted and rated by readers.
  • Get jokes for kids at Yahooligans! Jokes.
But don’t stop laughing yet: National Humor Month may be coming to a close soon, but you can keep the comic spirit alive beyond April by taking advantage of the May 4 celebration of Free Comic Book Day. For this one day only, participating comic book shops across the U.S. and around the world will be giving away comic books FREE to anyone who comes into their stores.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Monday, April 22, 2013

How to Make a Memorable Earth Day and Make a Lasting Difference

Think one person can do little to help the planet?  Think again.  This Earth Day, April 22, you can start something big, and here’s five tips on how. 

Earth Day April 22 2013

But before we dive into some valuable Earth Day tips, let me ask you a question. Have you ever heard of Anne Moyne?  Elizabeth Chapman?  Before writing this article: neither had I. But the contributions of these two women to improving the earth's ecology is immeasurable.  How so?
  • Anne Moyne is the woman who raised the famed naturalist James Audubon. 
  • Elizabeth Chapman was the mother of the man we all know as Johnny Appleseed.
Both of these women strongly influenced who these two renowned men became. The point is twofold: first, that one person can in fact make a difference to the condition of the planet (as did James Audubon and Johnny Appleseed) and, second, that many a parent has influenced the world by being a positive example to their children. 

So, if being a world changer sounds too overwhelming, you can still be a world influencer starting right at home.  This Earth Day, consider being an example to your family, to your neighbors, to your co-workers.  While your actions alone may not noticeably improve the health of our planet, the ripple effect of your actions on those with whom you have any influence can have a lasting and positive effect, as can the millions and millions of individual actions undertaken in unity around the globe as a result of efforts such as Earth Day.  Here are a few simple ideas to get you started.

Digging a vegetable patch

Tip #1 – Make green things

Two great ways to improve the health of the earth’s atmosphere in your own neighborhood is to start a garden or plant trees. Plants produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during the process of photosynthesis.  Plants also positively influence their surroundings, making the entire area more suitable for growth.

Planting trees or starting gardens are both projects that you can turn into family activities.  Even if you don't have a yard of your own, you can volunteer to plant a tree or start a garden for an elderly neighbor or friend.

Tip #2 – Reduce trash

Challenge your family to make choices that will cut back the amount of non-recyclable household trash. Consider giving them a goal, such as reducing it to just one bag a week.  Some ways to do this:
  • Teach your family how to identify recyclable waste and then commit to using a recycle program at home and in your neighborhood.
  • Find ways to reuse items that would normally get thrown out. For example, an egg carton can be a handy way for planting and germinating seeds.
  • Switch to brands of products that use less packaging – less to throw away!
  • Make more food from scratch to reduce packaging waste.
  • Recycle food scraps by starting a compost pile.
Compost in a wheelbarrow

Tip #3 – Acclimate to planet Earth

Between the heating and air conditioning of our homes, cars, and workplaces, many of us get little more than a swallow of unadulterated earth's atmosphere.  To appreciate the beauty of natural life and develop in your kids an interest in nature, take time to get outdoors and truly experience nature, whether it’s just you (being an example) or making it a family outing.  Ideas include:
  • Eat outdoors once a week.
  • Go for a hike.
  • Instead of grabbing an umbrella, go dance in the rain.
  • Open the windows, and let the outside air into your home.  A recent EPA statistic shows that indoor air quality in homes is up to four times as bad as outdoor air. 
  • Have an outdoor Green Earth party.
  • Read regularly? Get a backpack version of a folding chair, so you can seek out a nice, quiet vista, perhaps along a trail, and read your book or magazine surrounded by the beauty of nature.
Families at a picnic

Tip #4 – Green up your transportation

There are many things you can do to help your family reduce its "carbon footprint," such as:
  • If your town has a good bus or train system, consider making mass transit a family goal to replace some driving.
  • Bike or walk to work instead of driving. You'll not only be reducing harmful emissions by not taking your car, but you'll be doing yourself a great favor healthwise.
  • Carpool yourself and your kids to school, work, or after-school activities. 
  • Consider switching to a hybrid car or electric car, which can substantially reduce emissions.

Tip #5 – Grow your environmental knowledge

Here are some links that you can use to grow your own eco-smarts, as well as your family's knowledge of how to protect the planet.
This Earth Day, make it memorable and fun for your whole family. If you have some tips of your own for creating positive Earth Day experiences, please share it using the comments below.

Ric Moxley 
Contributing Writer

Friday, April 19, 2013

One Foot in Front of the Other - Runners Respond to the Boston Bombing

Purely by coincidence, in the early hours of Monday, April 15, FamilyWize posted the article Where are all these marathon runners coming from?, about the growing phenomenon of people taking up distance running, and even marathon racing, during adulthood. 

Just a few hours later, the horrible tragedy of the now-famous Boston Marathon bombing shook us all.

After the Boston Marathon explosions rocked the race route, an unexpected phenomenon occurred; rather than runners turning away from marathons in fear, runners across the U.S., and even around the globe, united to show their support for the victims of the Boston bombing and to express their determination to not cower in the face of terrorism at one of their most beloved events, but to continue participating in races in spite of it.  Special Facebook pages and Twitter #runforboston threads came alive, buzzing with thousands upon thousands of shared pronouncements of solidarity among the brotherhood and sisterhood of runners. 

Many of the messages runners were sharing online were initially of distress, disbelief, and sorrow. But within a few hours, the messages turned into something powerful. From coast-to-coast, runners shared words of resolve. Of unity. Of a determination to not cower in the face of threats but to stand strong.

Across the globe, runners marked their unity the day after the Boston bombing by wearing to work and around the neighborhoods their race jerseys and finisher’s shirts from previous races. Others chose to wear purple in a public support for Boston.  And large numbers of runners (nearly 26,000 at last check) vowed to run 26.2 miles this month to commemorate the Boston tragedy in a personal way.   

Watching this display of solidarity and patriotism unfold has been moving. If I were not already a runner, I can imagine that experiencing this would make me consider making a running commitment. Perhaps our previous article on running had already gotten you thinking about starting a running effort. Perhaps you've been considering it for a long while. If you have been thinking about taking up running, or upping your running game to marathon races, now may be the time.  With the added motivation of patriotism – of standing strong in the face of terrorism – today may be exactly the right moment to commit to a running plan.

If you’re not ready to show your solidarity and support for the people of Boston by running a marathon, chances are that you are at least ready to commit to the act of putting one foot in front of the other – even if just walking, and even if for short distances. Consider beginning the journey by showing your solidarity with the victims of Boston’s marathon bombing this very month.

You can join the run-for-Boston movement by committing to 26.2 miles in 30 days.  You don't have to do it all in one effort. You can make that commitment by breaking it up in chunks. If you were to walk or run every day in the course of the next 30 days, you could complete your commitment with less than a mile a day.  But a mile a day for 30 days is a terrific way to begin building a healthy habit.

So, let’s talk about getting started.  How do you begin the process of going from couch potato to runner?  And how do you take it from running to racing, maybe even going so far as to joining the half-million-plus individuals running a marathon each year?  To find out, stay tuned for our upcoming article How to Go from Couch ‘Tater to Marathon Runner.

Ric Moxley 
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cancer Prevention Starts Now

April is National Cancer Control Month, a time to remember those we have lost to cancer, a time to support to Americans who are working to fight cancer, and a time to increase efforts to advance cancer control and cancer cures.

While progress has  been made in fighting cancer, statistics suggest that 1.5 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer this year and a half million will lose their lives in 2013 to cancer.  During the 2013 National Cancer Control Month, we are at a critical moment in the history of cancer research, with many lifesaving discoveries occurring at an accelerated pace.  Yet already this month, I’ve lost a friend to cancer and I have two friends who have also lost loved ones to cancer in the past few weeks.  If you, too, have lost loved ones to cancer, then you no doubt feel the same sense of urgency that I feel – that, until the day when science and medicine are able to cure or prevent malignant cancers of all kinds, we would all be wise to protect ourselves from cancer risk to the degree that it is in our power to do so.  

Calendar reminder for doctor's appointment

Take steps NOW to reduce your cancer risks

You’ve no doubt heard the expression “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  This expression is nowhere more relevant than in cancer control and cancer prevention.   According to, your best defense against cancer is a twofold approach:
  • Make common sense lifestyle decisions to reduce cancer risk.
  • Get cancer screening for early detection.
Fruits and vegetables

What are those common sense steps that you can take can reduce your risk?
  • Avoid tobacco-smoke exposure All types of tobacco significantly heightens your cancer risk. Even being frequently around a smoker puts you at risk of lung cancer. For help and info, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit
  • Eat a healthy diet
    Many forms of cancer have been linked to unhealthy diets, such as highly processed foods.  The best way to boost your body’s effort to fight off carcinogens (substances that can cause cancer growth in living tissue) in your environment or body, and to avoid ingesting carcinogens, is to get lots of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet, as well as minimize alcohol consumption, processed foods, and unhealthy fats. 
  • Exercise regularly Keeping yourself at a healthy weight and keeping your body in shape can go far towards reducing your cancer risk.  Try to get at least a half hour of regular, daily physical activity, but studies show that doing more than 30 minutes of moderate, regular exercise is even better.
  • Go easy on the sun exposure To protect yourself from the risks of skin cancer, limit your sun exposure by staying out of the midday sun – when the dangerous sunrays are their strongest – and use sunscreen when you must be in the sun.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
    A growing body of evidence connects alcohol consumption with cancer. Avoiding alcohol completely is your safest choice, but moderation is your next best precautionary measure.

Sunscreen in the sand

It's also important to attend appropriate and regularly scheduled cancer screenings to ensure their earliest possible detection. Most forms of cancer become harder to treat the further the cancer has progressed in your body.  The sooner a cancer is discovered in your body, the better your odds are of recovery.

Along with regular cancer screenings, certain forms of cancer, such as testicular cancer, melanoma (skin cancer), and breast cancer, can often be detected by performing regular cancer examinations. For more information on cancer self examinations, see:
If you are covered by Medicare, regular cancer screenings with a healthcare professional are likely available to you under the Affordable Care Act at no additional cost. Medicare provides coverage for the following types of cancer screenings:
  • Breast Cancer
  • Cervical and Vaginal Cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Colorectal Cancer
For more information on cancer and cancer prevention, as well as National Cancer Control Month, see

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Monday, April 15, 2013

Where are all these marathon runners coming from?

If you had told me three years ago that I would be running marathon races – 26.2 miles – I would've laughed at you, or at least thought that you were crazy. But it happened. I have become that crazy. In fact, I've now run three marathons, as well as many shorter races.  The craziest part:  it’s all been accomplished since taking up running just three years ago

And now I have to ask; how about you?  Have you ever thought about what it would be like to run a marathon? Can you picture yourself doing the full 26.2 miles of one?

If you are laughing at me right now, thinking that I must be crazy for even asking that question, you may be in for a surprise.  Is such a monumental physical challenge beyond you?  Consider this as we debunk three common reasons people assume that running is not for them.

Woman running on treadmill

Fallacy #1 – Distance running is for freaks of nature, not me.

Is it really so rare a thing to run a marathon?  No.  More people than ever are taking up marathon racing.  There were a total of 76,000 marathoners in 1976, but 299,000 marathon finishers in 2000.  And in 2011, that number had risen to over a half million!  Not so freaky or uncommon after all. 

Fallacy #2 – “I’m not a natural born runner.”

Au contraire, mon frère.  First, scientific evidence suggests that, as the best-selling book implies in its title, we are, as a species, Born to Run

Second, nearly every marathon runner I've known, and most of the many I’ve interviewed, did not consider themselves physically fit just three years before they ran their first marathon or half marathon (13.1 miles). 

Very few of them were high school track stars.  Few were lifelong runners.  So they obviously were not born into a running lifestyle or habit, but they somehow found the courage and stamina to take up distance running late in life.

Sure, the top runners in most races often have unique physical traits that allow them to become winners, but that doesn’t explain the other 99.99 percent of the runners competing in marathons and half marathons. 

Elderly people runningFallacy #3 – I’m too old to be a runner

How old is too old to run?  Apparently at least 102!  The world’s oldest marathon runner waited until he was 101 before hanging up his running shoes. 

While 101 is an anomaly, it’s still not correct to assume that marathon running is a younger person’s game.  To the contrary, statistics show that the average age of a marathoner is 39.  And if you’ve ever turned out to watch a marathon, you know that many marathon runners are in their 70s and 80s.

Even when you look at speed, distance running proves to be a great sport for the middle-aged.   Statistics indicate that the fastest average age group belongs to men between the ages of 40 and 44. 

Why the distance running phenomenon is occurring among average adults

It may seem crazy to consider running in a marathon if you’ve never done it, but there is a surprisingly large number of such “crazies” out there, going from a fairly sedentary lifestyle to doing marathons – and in a surprisingly short amount of time.  It is as though many thousands of people well into their adult years are somehow discovering their inner Olympian. 

In my case, I started running consistently (3 to 6 times weekly) less than four years ago. Since then, I've run one 5K race (about three miles), two 10K races, three half marathons, three marathons, and been a team member on a 200-mile relay race. But, apparently, this pattern is fairly normal.

Consider for example Ijaz Afzal of Los Angeles, who didn't take up running until he was 35, but then ran his first marathon at age 37.  “I started running in September, 2006 after quitting smoking cold turkey.  I ran my first marathon less than two years later, in June of 2008. Then I did two more. Now, I'm doing two more marathons this month alone!”

Or consider Mike Dasalla of Pleasant Hill, California. Not a life-long runner either, Dasalla ran his first marathon just three years after he started running regularly.  “Now," he says, "I have seven marathons under my belt.  I'm addicted!”

Man finishing a marathon

I also interviewed Peach Villacarlos of Northern California, who tells me that this late-in-life distance running phenomenon "matches me perfectly. I did not play sports as a kid. In fact, I was sedentary for over 20 years as an adult. I started running 5k races first, about two years before running my first marathon. And in a couple of weeks, I hope to finish my second one.”

Bill Boehner of Pleasanton, California, says that he “experimented with running briefly in the ‘70s when running started becoming popular, but I stopped when I got sick once, and then got caught up in my career.” Many years later, in his mid-'50s, Boehner took it back up, and with gusto. "I ran my first race, a 5K, in October, 2009, and ran my first marathon just a year later in Dec 2010.” Did he plan on doing a marathon so soon? "No, I thought maybe a half-marathon, but I never planned on doing a full. I didn't run in school at all.”

From couch ‘tater to marathon runner?

Why is this happening? What can explain the whole distance running phenomenon leading so many people to take up marathon and half marathon running later in life?

For answers, I turned inward and outward; what motivated me to start and maintain a habit of distance running later in life (in my 50s)?  And what motivated my distance running friends or business associates to do this? 

The results of this research may surprise you, as you’ll find out in the next article in this running series, "How to Go from Couch ‘tater to Marathon Runner," where you may also find out if there is a hidden marathoner in you.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer