22 October 2012

Ian Gawler Blog: Curiosity, humour and exercise

Now for something different. Laughter is the best medicine, knowledge the best tonic; so here we combine the two with some great insights into where common expressions come from. However, if all else fails and laughter leaves you flat, there is more recent and compelling research on the benefits of exercising regularly - and how much to do. But first

Thought for the day:

I had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. 
But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: 
'No good in a bed, but fine against a wall.'
                                                                        - Eleanor Roosevelt

The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature is not just how you like it, think about how things used to be. Here are some tall tales and true from the 1500s:

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water.  The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it.  Hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water!"

Houses had thatched roofs, thick straw piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof.  When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof.  Hence the saying "It's raining cats and dogs."

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying, "Dirt Poor."

Sometimes people could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon, to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could, "Bring home the Bacon."

They would cut off a little, to share with guests and would all sit around talking and  ''Chew the fat''.

Bread was divided, according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or ''The Upper Crust''.

There is an old Pub in Marble Arch, London, which used to have a gallows adjacent to it. Prisoners were taken to the gallows, (after a fair trial of course) to be hung. The horse drawn dray, carting the prisoner, was accompanied by an armed guard, who would stop the dray outside the pub and ask the prisoner if  he would like ''One last drink?'' If he said “Yes”, it was referred to as “One for the road”; if he declined, that prisoner was “On the wagon”.

In those older times, they used urine to tan animal skins, so families used to all pee in a pot and then once a day it was taken & sold to the tannery. If you had to do this to survive you were, "Piss Poor".

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of ''Holding a Wake''.

England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So, they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive.

So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, thread it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night, (“the graveyard shift”) to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be, ''Saved by the Bell '' or was considered a “Dead ringer”.   

Now, whoever said history was boring!


1. If laughter fails, exercise! 

Although a growing body of evidence has demonstrated that exercise lowers the risk of developing cancer, and aids in recovery, it seems that the message is not reaching those who need it most.

Many cancer patients do not engage in physical activity or discuss the subject with their oncologists, according to a study published in the July issue of the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management.

“What we found in our study is that the patients were not exercising," said lead author Andrea L. Cheville, MD, from the Mayo Clinic.

Many studies have shown that exercise, both during and after the end of active treatment, can improve quality of life for patients. The evidence was strengthened with the recent publication of 2 reviews (Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012;8:CD008465, CD007566).

Both found that exercise has a beneficial effect on a number of health-related quality-of-life domains, including cancer-specific concerns, body image/self-esteem, emotional wellbeing, sexuality, sleep disturbance, and social functioning. In addition, exercise was found to reduce anxiety, fatigue, and pain.

"There is a real disconnect between clinical trials of exercise and the real world," Dr. Cheville noted. "There is all this great research, but … changing behavior requires more than just counseling, and patients need a support system," she noted.


It has been clear for years that regular exercise helps prevent most illnesses you would prefer not to get; and has major quality of life and survival benefits for people with chronic degenerative disease, especially cancer. The trick is to do it. It seems half an hour of preferably weight bearing exercise, 4-5 times weekly does the trick.

Weightbearing exercise is any activity you do while on your feet and legs that works your muscles and bones against gravity. Weightbearing exercises includes walking, jogging, dancing, step aerobic, ball games, golf, stair climbing and many gym exercises. Exercises that are non-weightbearing include swimming and cycling.

But there is a mystery in cancer medicine. For example, the available evidence indicates that for women with breast cancer, chemotherapy increases 5 year survival in absolute terms by about 3.5 to 4.5%. Women receive enormous pressure to accept it and great support while having it. Exercising around half an hour to an hour most days increases 5 year survival by around 7.5% - almost double, yet experience tells us many women still are not being informed of its benefits and most receive very little support to actually exercise. If Evidence Based Medicine is the guiding light for modern medicine, this is an area in need of urgent attention.

This is one area wherein family and friends can provide immediate help. It is not so easy to find the motivation and energy to exercise regularly when you are not well, and yes owning an active dog certainly helps, but better still, arrange a roster to share in regular walks or whatever the person affected finds most useful and practical.

2. The Gawler Foundation's Annual Conference is rapidly approaching. This year I will be speaking on the therapeutic benefits of dietary change and what is best to eat on the road to recovery. This event is a great opportunity to meet up with old friends and colleagues, along with many new and like-minded people.

1 comment:

  1. When I was really sick recently my sister came and walked with me every second day. Although I looked forward to her visit, I never felt like I had the energy when she arrived. However, afterwards I felt much better. Now I mostly walk each day by myself - exercise is terrific.