Physical Activity and Living With Cancer

Public talk at Cancer Care West 72 Seamus Quirke Road, Westside, Galway Thursday April 16, at 7.30 pm.

Marie MurphyI will be addressing such topics as the importance of physical activity, side effects of cancer treatment, the importance of resistance training and the role of nutrition. I will also outline the key components of the Murphy (METs) programme, a specialised fitness regime for people living with cancer.

This public talk is free of charge and will be particularly useful to cancer patients who are adapting to living with the illness. Please call Cancer Care West Support Centre at 091 540040 for more details.



Atwater’s Vision: A Healthy Balanced Nutrition

The first published dietary guidelines were written in 1894 by W.O. Atwater.  Atwater initiated the scientific basis for connecting food composition, dietary intake, and health, and emphasized the importance of variety, proportion, and moderation in healthy eating.  It is worth noting that at this time specific vitamins and minerals had not yet been discovered.

In 1902 Atwater stated:

“Unless care is exercised in selecting food, a diet may result which is one-sided or badly balanced-that is, one in which either protein or fuel ingredients (carbohydrate and fat) are provided in excess….The evils of overeating may not be felt at once, but sooner or later they are sure to appear-perhaps in an excessive amount of fatty tissue, perhaps in general debility, perhaps in actual disease.” 

By the 1950s, nutritional guidelines moved to four food groups known as the “Basic Four” with the focus on getting sufficient nutrients.  This concept was widely used for the next two decades.  During the 1990s, the Food Guide Pyramid was released.  The pyramid conveyed key concepts regarding variety, proportionality, and moderation; Atwater’s words repeated ten decades later.Nutrition Chart MMP

Lets get back to basics.  A diet that is high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, fish, and low in fat, high in fibre is cancer protective.

Improving your Health and Fitness in 2015

If you have made a New Year’s resolution to improve your fitness; do more exercise, increase your strength, eat a healthier diet, lose weight then fear not, help is at hand. The following tips will help you feel healthier, fitter and more energised:IMAG1760

  • Getting your METs is Clare Holiday Pictures 220first and foremost!  If time is limited for exercising make cardiovascular exercise your first choice by using the largest muscle groups in a repetitive movement (example; walking, jogging, swimming etc.).
  • Set realistic goals.  If you cannot see yourself holding your exercise routine for a period of 15 weeks then the task is too great.  The average time a person holds an exercise programme is 6-8 weeks; this is too short for life changing benefits.

  • Be consistent, take small steps. Increase time, distance or repetitions of your workouts every 3 weeks.  This allows the body time to adapt to the routine/stress level which makes advancing to a higher level easier and safer.

  • Healthy SaladWhen it comes to eating healthy, losing weight or maintaining your current weight, you are more likely to be successful if you make small changes over time rather than changing your entire diet all at once.


For a consultation contact Marie at 085 196 5468 or email to place your name on the waiting list for upcoming course.

Post-Marathon Recovery

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen athletes complete a marathon distance usually their thoughts are not focused on the importance of recovery; making the right choices in post-training and nutrition.  Crossing the finishing line participants are mainly excited and relieved that they have finished.

Nutrition and exercise are thoughts many athletes focus on during their training and give little thought to these key elements once the goal has been accomplished. Yet the only way to reap the benefits from our efforts of running a marathon is to do the right things following the event.

Also, athletes who have not taken the proper steps seem to never want to run another marathon or worse yet never return to regular exercise. To avoid this happening to you, here are some tips on how to gain strengths from your accomplishments and enjoy many more marathons in the future.

Please see Post-Marathon Recovery and Nutritional Guidelines


Breast Cancer Awareness – 6 Weeks Beginners Course

Breast Cancer Awareness

Research indicates that physical activity after a diagnosis of breast cancer improves quality of life, reduces fatigue, and assist with energy balance. Both reduced physical activity and the side effects of treatment have been linked to weight gain after a breast cancer IMAG0225diagnosis. Studies have found that women who exercise moderately (the equivalent of walking 3 to 4 hours per week at an average pace (3-4 METs) after a diagnosis of breast cancer have improved survival rates compared with more sedentary women.

6 weeks Beginners Course

I will be offering a 6 weeks beginners course which will cover three theory workshops & three practical training workshops to provide participants with the tools to improve flex­i­bil­ity, bal­ance, co-ordination, mobil­ity, strength, mus­cu­loskele­tal func­tion, bone den­sity and con­fi­dence, in addi­tion to hav­ing an impact on car­dio­vas­cu­lar fit­ness, weight man­age­ment and psy­choso­cial well-being.

To reg­is­ter for the programme par­tic­i­pants must be 3 months post-surgery with med­ical clear­ance.  Course fee €75.  To add your name to the roster or for fur­ther details please email  All participants will be accepted on a ‘first-come, first served basis’ (Additional courses will follow).

Balance in Our Everyday Lives

Homeostasis is an essential part for our health.  But, in order to promote a body in balance our mind needs to contribute. Choices we make in regards to stress reduction, healthy nutrition and regular exercise helps keep an imbalance at bay.

IMAG0188Focus on what makes you feel calm and in control. Managing stress is about taking charge of our thoughts, emotions, schedule, and the way we deal with problems. This isn’t as easy as it sounds.  Identifying our true sources of stress, we have to look closely at our habits, attitude, and excuses.

A regular diet rich in plant foods, fish, and lean protein boosts overall health and clearly helps protect against heart disease and diabetes. However when it comes to exercising inadequate nutrient intake deprives the body of the energy needed to perform, the carbohydrates necessary for glycogen replacement, the protein needed for tissue building and repair, and the micronutrients necessary for normal metabolism and maintenance of body homeostasis.

EilishThe health benefits of regular exercise and physical activity are hard to ignore and the benefits are ours for the taking, regardless of our age, sex or physical ability. Our body needs regular exercise, the right food, lifestyle and mental attitude to achieve its true health potential.

Picture of my sister (survivor) and two of her girls out on a walk yesterday in California :)

Nutrition & Cancer

Healthy SaladA good cancer diet is similar to a cancer prevention diet. The main differences are that people undergoing chemotherapy may have higher nutritional needs and poor appetites. It is very important to eat the most nutritious foods you can get. A diet that is high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, fish, and low in fat, high in fibre is cancer protective.

Cancer treatments may decrease appetite and lower the ability to digest food which may interfere with the body’s ability to absorb and use nutrients. Focus should be placed on getting enough calories to keep up strength and eating a healthy a diet as possible to boost the immune system to help deal with possible nutritional deficiencies.

Think of the Irish Flag ‘plenty of green, white and orange fruits & vegetables. Make sure your diet contains plenty of low-fat protein, such as cold-water fish (salmon, sardines, and mackerel) beans, and white meat chicken or turkey.

Protein rebuilds muscle and tissue which is particularly important when your body has undergone chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. Good fat such as olive oil and omega 3 oils including flax seed oil and fish oil are important, while processed fats and oils, such as Trans & hydrogenated fats in margarines and fats used for baking should be avoided.

Keep well

Cancer fighting foods and drinks

Benefits of Water Soluble Fibre Foods

Meal Planning

Ireland’s 2014 Report Card

Based on the results from Ireland’s 2014 Report Card on physical activity in children and youth, physical activity levels remain low in Ireland.Running on sand dunes

  • Overall Physical Activity Levels D-
  • Organized Sport Participation C-
  • Physical Education D-

The estimated contribution of physical inactivity to the burden of disease in Ireland was estimated at 8.8% for coronary heart disease, 10.9% for type 2 diabetes, 15.2% for breast cancer, and 15.7% for colon cancer.

To see change in these types of statistics we need to have Physical Activity part of our National Schools curriculum.  All children and youth should have the opportunity of a ‘quality’ experience of school-based physical activity and sport.  At least 4 hours/week of sport and physical activity during school PE would be acceptable.

During my eighteen years coaching high school track & field and cross country in California; students joining my team first needed to pass the ACSM’s (American College of Sports Medicine) guidelines in prevention. If they did not pass first time out they trained with the team until they accomplished the goal and then they competed for their school.  At the same time I had concerns for the students who did not participate; who I knew at 15-17 years of age were not in a state of prevention of disease. It took five years in gathering data on my teams before my school changed its curriculum and physical activity became mandatory.

We have many of these types of students here in Ireland that need to meet the recommended guidelines for lowering their risks later in life.  It is up to us to give our children and youth the best possible outlook for their future.  As we all know Health is our Wealth

Let’s get moving!



Exercise & Nutrition Workshop

This past week I was asked to deliver a workshop on Exercise & Nutrition for teachers of SICCDA’s Afterschool Programmes which provide daily afterschool childcare to approximately 150 children living in the Liberties area of Dublin 8.

picture of woman's feet walking

Their programmes provide participants with homework support, nutritious snacks and enriching extra-curricular activities in a warm, caring, child-centred environment. Camps during school holidays provide participants with fun, meaningful activities which provide continuity for children, and facilitate childcare needs.

The sixteen teachers who attended my workshop operated from the following schools;

  • Scoil San Seamus CBS, Basin Lane
  • St Enda’s National School, Whitefriar Street
  • Francis Street CBS, Francis Street
  • Warrenmount Primary School
  • Scoil Treasa Naofa

It was a very positive experience engaging with the teachers over the course of the day. They found learning about the METs very interesting. All teachers took part in doing a fitness evaluation (1 mile walk) to see how their own fitness level measured up to the guidelines for prevention of disease. The sun was shining as we walked along the canal from Basin Lane to Rialto Bridge; all completing the course within 14 to18 minutes. So if see a large group of children walking briskly along the canal over the coming weeks you’ll know teachers are measuring their METs.

Working Towards a Healthier Diet

When it comes to eating healthy, losing weight or maintaining your current weight, you are more likely to be successful if you make small changes over time rather than changing your entire diet all at once. The long term goal is to feel good, have more energy, and reduce the risk of cancer and disease.  Here are a few simple changes you can do to work towards a healthier diet.

Start Your Day with a Good Breakfast

A nutritious breakfast gets you fuelled for the day and helps prevent you from binging later in the day. Easy-to-prepare breakfasts include cold cereal with fruit and low-fat milk, whole-wheat toast with scrambled eggs, yogurt with fruit, or porridge with raisins.

Eat Plenty of Whole Grains, Fruits & Vegetables Red and Green Apples
Try brown rice instead of white rice and whole wheat pasta instead of regular pasta. Aim for five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.  A cup of salad counts as one vegetable, so try eating a salad with either lunch or dinner (choose low-calorie, low-fat or fat free dressing options).

Stay Hydrated Throughout Your Day

A regular fluid intake from our daily diet is crucial to maintain good health.  Even if your goal is to lose weight, losing it through dehydration isn’t the way to go. Your body needs fluids to function and dehydration leads to other health problems. The average person needs to drink about 2L (8 glasses) of water a day. Keep in mind if you drink coffee (or other heavily caffeinated drinks such as Coca-Cola or Pepsi) you should add an extra glass of water for every glass you have.

Choose Lean Cuts of Meat and Poultry

For poultry, the leanest choice is white meat from skinless breast of chicken or turkey. If choosing beef, look for sirloin, tenderloin or round and if opting for pork try tenderloin or loin chops.

Try Lower- Calorie/Fat Versions of Your Favourite Foods

Don’t assume that you have to give up your favourite food like mash potatoes, when you’re trying to eat healthier or lose weight. As an alternative use lower-calorie ingredients or prepare it differently. For example, if your mash potatoes use whole milk and butter try remaking it with skim milk and a reduced serving of butter.

Watch Your Portion Sizes

Standard portion sizes may actually be smaller than you think. For example, one serving size of pasta or rice is equal to one half-cup and four ounces of meat is about the size of a deck of cards.  Putting smaller amounts of food on your plate or using smaller plates is helpful (the more food in front of you, the more likely you are to eat it because it’s there).

Keep Healthy Snacks on Hand

It’s important to make healthy snacks available, especially when you’re at work, have a busy schedule or exercising. Keeping healthy snacks, such as fruits, veggies, granola, or low-fat yogurt, on hand will prevent you from heading to the vending machine or fast food restaurant for an unhealthy snack.