Physical activity can change biomarkers of cancer risk

Marie MurphyWhenever I give my talks on exercise and nutrition I speak about the five leading biomarkers of cancer risk. More importantly they are the reason I designed the Murphy METs Programme   Research studies have shown that resistance training affects the same biomarkers as when you do aerobic training. Which means when you combine both cardiovascular and resistance training as part of your physical activity you get double the benefits?

A form of aerobic training would be walking, jogging, biking, swimming etc; working the largest muscle groups in a repetitive movement.  Resistance exercise is any form of exercise that forces your skeletal muscles (not the involuntary muscles of your heart, lungs, etc.) to contract. An example of resistance training is using free-weights, machine-weights, resistance bands or doing palates and yoga.

There are a number of physiological benefits of aerobic and resistance training; 2 examples are improvements in muscular function and strength and improvement in the body’s ability to take in and use oxygen (maximal oxygen consumption or aerobic capacity). As one’s ability to transport and use oxygen improves, regular daily activities can be performed with less fatigue.

Here are the five leading biomarkers for lowering risk;

  1. Cardiovascular function: Exercise promotes weight reduction and can help reduce blood pressure. Exercise also reduces “bad” cholesterol levels in the blood (the low-density lipoprotein [LDL] level), as well as total cholesterol, and can raise the “good” cholesterol (the high-density lipoprotein level [HDL]). By doing low to moderate physical activity and raising your metabolism 3-4 times your resting state helps lower your risk.  Example: walking at a pace of 20 minutes per mile (3 mph) or 13 minutes per kilometre.
  1. Body Fat: Avoiding obesity because extra body fat around the mid-section is one of the greatest risks. Maintaining a healthy weight for your height can greatly reduce your risk of contracting conditions such as coronary heart disease, diabetes and cancer. A combined programme (aerobic & straight training) with good nutrition is a positive way in achieving a healthy composition.
  1. Blood glucose level: Exercise reduces insulin levels. Muscles which are working use more glucose than those that are resting which means muscle movement leads to greater sugar uptake by muscle cells and lower blood sugar levels. High sugar levels slowly erode the ability of cells in your pancreas to make insulin. The organ overcompensates and insulin levels stay too high. Over time, the pancreas is permanently damaged. High levels of blood sugar can also cause changes that lead to a hardening of the blood vessels, known as atherosclerosis.
  1. Inflammation: Research studies have shown that moderate exercise each week—about 20 minutes a day—lower inflammation by at least 12%. When we exercise, our adipose and muscle tissue release big bursts of cytokines (proteins) into our blood stream that causes inflammation to drop.  However, over exerting the body by doing too much exercise or lack of proper rest and/or recovery can have a counter effect.  Inflammation is also caused by an unhealthy diet; high intakes of processed foods, animal and animal products.
  1. Immune function: Exercise can boost your immune system and help your body fight off harmful diseases and even something as simple as the common cold.  Exercise boosts your immune system by providing a boost to the cells in your body that are assigned to attack bacteria. These cells appear to work more slowly in people who don’t exercise than in those that do.  Eating a healthy nutrition that is high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, fish, low in fat and high in fibre will help keep your immune system strong.

For those who currently exercise with a combined programme well done, keep up the good work.  For those who would like to get started on a beginners programme you can click the link to my walking programme and 10 minute workout in resistance training.

Before starting this training plan, talk with your doctor if you’ve been sedentary for a long time or you have serious health issues.

Should you wish to schedule an appointment please contact me at

Stronger Than Yesterday


Cathy McCarthy and Marie Murphy

Writer Cathy McCarthy and Marie Murphy at the launch of Cathy’s new book.

Last night I was at the book launch of Stronger Than Yesterday – living your life beyond adversity written by my friend Cathy McCarthy. It was a wonderful evening which took place at the Freemasons’ Hall, Dublin with a fantastic turn out.

Cathy herself faced one of the hardest challenges in life – cancer. We first met in 2010 when Cathy was a participant in my breast cancer study.

Cathy’s book shares many storiesStronger Than Yesterday of the diverse challenges life throws out, but it is the positive things that come from our adversities that shapes us. Cathy’s book is full of inspiration and I’m sure it will bring strength and courage to all who read it.

Cathy’s asked if I would write a piece on the Murphy (METs) Programme for the book.  I had contributed to her first book “Not the Year You had Planned” and I was only too delighted to be included in the second.(p 160-165).

All profit generated from Cathy’s book will be donated to Jack Kavanagh Foundation (paralysed as a result of a surfing accident) and the Waterford High Hopes Choir. The photo below includes Cathy singing with Jack and High Hopes Choir.


Congratulations Cathy on completing yet another amazing book!


Are You Fit for Your Age?

We are all aware of the health benefits of regular physical activity, physically, metabolically and psychologically. But did you know that the amount and intensity of physical activity is equally important.picture of woman's feet walking

As I have said in previous articles ‘it’s all about the METs’.  How many METs do you accumulate in a given week?  How high can you raise your metabolism?  Can you meet the required fitness level for your age group?

There is a set target of fitness for us to meet as we continue to age.  For example, did you know that a fifteen year old girl should be capable of raising her metabolism 13 times her resting state or that a women 65 years should be capable of raising hers to 6.  Prevention is all about fitness.  I’m not talking about competitiveness I’m talking about getting involved in regular physical activity.  Setting a goal to achieve your MET target that will lower your risk of disease and enhance your quality of life.

METs (Metabolic Equivalents)

Man running uphill viewed from behindStandard metabolic equivalent (MET) is a unit used to estimate the amount of oxygen used by the body during physical activity. 1 MET = the energy (oxygen) used by the body at rest, while sitting quietly or laying down. The harder your body works during an activity, the more oxygen is consumed and the higher the MET level you are performing at.

Guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine states that we need to exercise for 150 minutes per week. It is important to know how many METs you achieved in those minutes and also how high did you raise your METs?

The chart below shows MET targets for selected age groups.

           Female              Male
Age MET target Age METs target
20 12.1 20 12.5
25 11.4 25 11.9
30 10.8 30 11.4
35 10.1 35 10.8
40 9.5 40 10.3
45 8.8 45 9.7
50 8.2 50 9.2
55 7.5 55 8.6
60 6.9 60 8.1
65 6.2 65 7.5
70 5.6 70 7
75 4.9 75 6.4
80 4.3 80 5.9

Note* The Murphy (METs) Programme train individuals to achieve >20 METs in a given week.

For more information on MET targets click link Calculating your weekly METs km

Murphy (METs) Programme Launched in Ballinasloe

I am delighted to inform you that East Galway & Midlands Cancer Support are now offering my program the ‘Murphy (METs) Programme’ a low to moderate intensity physical activity program to their members.  The Murphy (METs) Programme is specifically designed to be safe for people with chronic diseases including cancer, osteoporosis and diabetes.

The Murphy (METs) Programme involves conditioning, strengthening, and endurance phases. Patients are encouraged to exercise at a level that has been determined on an individual basis. The focus of the program is 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. My program was acknowledged by the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) 2012.  East Galway & Midlands Cancer Support holds a license to deliver classes in the Murphy (METs) Programme.

“I have worked towards this moment for many years, to finally teach others to teach my program safely and effectively and it is my goal for the ‘Murphy (METs) Programme’ to expand to other centres across the country so that a greater number of cancer survivors can reap its benefits, Physically, Metabolically and Psychologically”.

Please see Ballinasloe Life magazine (page 21). To hear inter­view on the Keith Finnegan Show clink link and fast for­ward 63 min­utes.

For further information on the Murphy (METs) Programme please contact me at mobile 085 196 5468 or email

To become a certified Murphy (METs) Programme Trainer please see Trainers Short Course. For information on course location, date and cost please contact me at mobile 085 1965468 or email


Improving Your Health & Fitness in 2016

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 and training schedules will help you feel healthier, fitter and more energised:IMAG1760

  • Getting your METs is first and foremost!  If time is limited for Marie Murphyexercising 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.

  • Stay hydrated, drink at least 1.5 litres of water daily. Keep in mind high water-volume foods also provide your body with fluids. Fruits and vegetables are composed of 90 percent water.

  • 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.


To schedule a consultation with Marie please call 085 196 5468 or email

East Galway & Midlands Cancer Support Gym

Exciting new project is taking place for cancer survivors and their families in Ballinasloe, Co. Galway.   Jacqueline Daly Director of East Galway & Midlands Cancer Support Centre envisioned how to further enhance survivor’s recovery in none other than building a gym on site to improve health and fitness easily and conveniently for all members.

This is a state of the arts project and the first of its kind in Ireland. The centre has licenced the ‘Murphy (METs) Programme’ which will allow classes to be thought by qualified personal. “I have worked towards this moment for many years; to finally teach others to teach my programme safely and effectively and it is my goal for the ‘Murphy (METs) Programme’ to expand to other centres across the country so that a greater number of cancer survivors can reap its benefits”.

Dáil Éireann 23092015This week we met with the Minister of Health ‘Leo Varadkar’ and discussed the plans for the centre. I had the opportunity to share with him a little about the ‘Murphy (METs) Programme’ and my goal to increase awareness to the health benefits associated with daily physical activity and draw attention to the amount and intensity of physical activity for cancer survivors to achieve these benefits; physiologic, metabolic and psychological.

I will keep you posted on our progress in Ballinasloe, Co Galway.



Exercise and Cancer

Marie MurphyThere is a growing body of literature that supports the importance of exercise in the prevention of cancer and cancer recurrence. Exercise helps increase lean body mass, reduces fat and decreases the likelihood of weight gain. To lose weight, activity and exercise must be increased. Bodies with more muscle mass require more energy expenditure than bodies with more fat, thus the more muscle you develop, the greater the amount of calories you burn. Any increase in activity and exercise is likely to have benefits and each person must increase their activity at a level that is appropriate for them. If you have been inactive, it may be important to check with your doctor about limitations, and then begin an exercise routine that starts slowly and increases in intensity and duration over a period of time. If you start too hard or too fast, you may injure yourself and stop exercising. Exercise really needs to be viewed as a lifetime process that has physiological and psychological benefits.

Activity is measured based on METs or metabolic equivalent. One MET is defined as the energy it takes to sit quietly for an hour. When at rest, each person uses the same amount of oxygen which is 3.5ml per kilogram per minute. For the average adult, this means that they will burn approximately one calorie for every 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight per hour. A person who weighs 68kg, will burn about 68 calories while at rest. Moderate intensity activities are those that make you move fast or are strenuous enough to burn three to six times as much energy per minute as you do when you are sitting quietly. EilishThese types of exercises would include brisk walking (about 3-4 miles in an hour). Walking is an excellent exercise; however, it is important to do enough of it to increase the number of METs. While the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has determined that people need 3-6 METs five days per week, some exercise research suggests that you need more and it is recommended that people strive for 15-20 METs per week. To figure out how many METs you are using and how to increase it, consider the following;

• Walking 1.6km (1 mile) in 30 minutes = 3 METs/hr, thus you would need to walk 5 hours per week to achieve 15 METS.
• Walking 1.6km (1 mile) in 15 minutes = 4.6 METs/hr, thus you would need to walk 3 ½ hours per week to achieve 16 METS.

In a 2004 study, women who exercised greater than 17.2 METs per week had a reduced likelihood of breast cancer recurrence compared to women who exercised less than that amount, suggesting that exercise is beneficial both in terms of prevention and recurrence.

For further information please see:

Know Your METs for Prevention – Recurrence of Disease

Calculating your weekly METs km

15 weeks Walking Programme

Information for Health Professionals

Effects of Alcohol on Sports Performance

Picture1Anyone who has an interest in playing sports or keeping fit should understand the effects alcohol can have on their performance. Not having a balanced approach to alcohol could be what gets in the way of you reaping the rewards from all the work you’ve put in.

The two main ways alcohol affects the body during exercise are in dehydration and energy;

Dehydration leads to reduced performance.  Because alcohol is a diuretic, which

means it makes your kidneys produce more urine, drinking too much of it can lead to dehydration. Exercising soon after drinking alcohol can make dehydration worse because you sweat as your body temperature rises. Combined, sweating and the diuretic effect of exercise make dehydration along with your body overheating much more likely. You need to be hydrated when you exercise to maintain the flow of blood through your body, which is essential for circulating oxygen and nutrients to your muscles.

Alcohol interferes with the way your body produces energy – When you’re metabolising or breaking down alcohol the liver can’t produce as much glucose, which means you have low levels of blood sugar. Exercise requires high levels of sugar (carbohydrates) to give you energy. If your liver isn’t producing enough glucose you will be slower, have less energy and won’t be able to exercise as intensely along with the added risk of adversely affecting your concentration, coordination, reaction, dexterity etc.

Both of these effects happen immediately which is why it is not advised to exercise or compete in sport soon after drinking alcohol.

Alcoholism/Alcohol abuse causes

  • Nerve disorders
  • Muscle cramps
  • Speeds up ageing
  • Osteoporosis
  • Appetite loss
  • Depression

 Binge drinking can lead to;

  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Increases risk of blood clots
  • Increases risk of stroke

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.