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Sunday, August 31, 2014

3 Exercises for Birth...and All the Time! And for everyone else~

In summary (to the busy ones who reads highlights :P):
  1. Squats
  2. Transverse Abdominis aka inner core muscle (IMPORTANT FOR EVERYONE including Men!)
  3. Side Plank
They each have a valid reason and let me explain further.

Courtesy of the lovely fit2be, Nicole Crawford and Mummy Trainer. They all have at least 10 years of experience in the fitness industry plus experimenting their bodies too. I'm just about to embark the journey!

Squats

Re capping from my previous post on kegel vs no kegel, below is a more in depth description about the importance of squats.

In Nicole's post:

"Suggested tattoo for trainers, therapists, and athletes: Tighter does not equal stronger. It’s just tighter.” - Katy Bowman

Developing an (eventual) deep squatting habit (picture going to the bathroom while camping) to create the posterior pull on the sacrum and balance the work of the pelvic floor.

So how do you do them correctly? Here are a few tips from Katy:

  • Joint Positioning:  “Because the squat we are after is really a gluteal-using one, whole-body joint positioning is essential. To get a squat to move from the front of the body (think all quads) to the back (think allglutes) is by using SHIN position. The more vertical the shin (that’s the knee joint stacked over the ankle joint) and the more untucked the pelvis, the more glutes you’ll use. The more the knees are in front of the ankle and the more tucked the pelvis, the less glutes you’ll use.”

  • Depth of the Squat: “How far you go down will be based on how well you can keep the shin and the pelvis where you want them. Most people who have not squatted to use the bathroom throughout a lifetime will find the range of motion of their 'glute squat' to be fairly small. Which is fine. It will improve over time, especially if you’re working on changing the habits of where you hold your pelvis throughout the day.”

  • Length: “The amount of time you spend in a squat also depends. The glute action is primarily used on the way up - however lingering in a squat, especially if you can kind of relax, helps the muscles and involved joints change their tension patterns. Seriously. Doing a potty-squat gives you a more natural, real-world relationship with your squat.”

“…all women are not accustomed to being delivered in the same posture; some will be on their Knees, as many in the Country Villages; others standing upright leaning with the Elbows on a Pillow on the Table…but the best and surest is to be delivered in their bed, to shun the inconvenience and trouble of being carried thither afterwards…” - Francois Mauriceau

No, pregnancy does not cause PFD. Can I say that again? NO, PREGNANCY DOES NOT CAUSE PFD. How do I know? Because research shows that the category of ailments that fall into PFD occur equally in women who have and who have not delivered babies. There are also women who have had 10 or 12 kids who have no pelvic floor issues. And, P.S., Pelvic Floor Disorder in men is also extremely prevalent and on the rise. So dudes, you gotta read this info as well. Read it, and then talk about it with other dudes. While you’re squatting, of course.

Transverse Abdominis aka inner core

This is most important and it applies to pre and post pregnancy plus everyone who wants to get fit without injuries. Including men.
Take a deep breath and let your belly expand with air. Now exhale and pull your navel inward toward your spine. This “vacuum” or “sucking in” motion utilizes your corset muscle, formally known as your transverse abdominus (TVA). During pregnancy, your TVA gets very stretched out, as do the rest of your ab muscles, causing a natural diastasis recti (split in your six-pack). Your diastasis will close MUCH faster if you find your transverse, work it, connect to it, use it during labor, and start using it again right after birth. Tightening your transverse is more important than crunches and planks, because this is yourflattening muscle that assists the uterus in pushing during labor.
Your TVA is also the muscle you want to focus on while binding your belly after birth! Many moms will see their pooch after baby comes and “feel fat” and immediately think crunches and/or planks are the answer. That is so far from the truth, and if you have a trainer who thinks that a postnatal body should do crunches or planks, sack ‘em because they aren’t up the current research! Before and after birth, your TVA is your best friend for getting your hot body back! Check out these articles on avoiding crunches and the role of your transverse abdominis.
  • This article by the Colic Calm Journal has some great info about TVA, crunches and diastasis, but I disagree with not laughing during pregnancy! Also, she talks about how front carriers make diastasis worse (my Ergo helped mine!)
  • This is a research abstract that studied “The Effects of an Exercise Program on Diastasis Recti Abdominis in Pregnant Women” as published ithe Journal of Women’s Health Physical Therapy Volume 29, No 1 Spring, 2005 
  • The MuTu system in the UK has some amazing info on this condition as well! She has a stellar 12-week program for moms who are ready to heal their diastasis and start implementing fitness as well!

Side plank / bridge

Okay, this is one of my favorite exercises of all time. I was able to do it clear to the end of both of my pregnancies, and it’s a great alternative to the plank or crunches. It won’t make your diastasis worse, and it works your triceps, shoulders, medial glutes, obliques and more muscles than my fingers can type right now! What’s more, the side bridge has so many modifications that you’ll never get bored. We feature many side bridge (sometimes called the side plank) styles and alternatives all over in our Maternity Mix workouts! Our new mama members just love them! Do them on your elbow and knees, or on your elbow and feet, or on your hand and knees, or on your hand and feet, or add side leg motions, or hold a dumbbell and …. you see? Who needs crunches????

Bethany having fun doing side planks with Chris’ boys on the set of “Robot Yoga” from our Fit2B Kids section!
You have the strength to carry a child on the inside, and you’ll have the strength to carry that child on the outside if you keep your body AND your mind strong. Your body was CREATED to give birth, to bring forth life, to nurture life. You’ll know what to do in each moment of birth and beyond, but will you listen to yourself?

Sprinter vs Marathoner

Very easy way to learn about the type of muscles we have in our body during a workout :)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Diastisis Recti (aka Abdominal Separation)

Yes, it is normal to go HUH when a scientific name gets thrown in the heading :P.

I have been wondering alot on this situation and concluded myself that all women who goes through a pregnancy phase cannot run away from their abs widening. Why we can't feel it of course is the 'relaxin' hormones that preps up for women to bear a new being in them.

That's why you get alot of people fussing 'take care ok, be careful ok' etc.

Even doing anything that works our rectus abdominis aka our abs we see physically, will encourage diastisis! I thought plank and push ups are ok but nooooooooo, there is more to that.

avoid crunches
 
Yikes...
 

So what are the exercises that us bearing little ones can do to aid ourselves from the nagging pains and gear ourselves for labour?? Check out the last two questions. It does get rather frustrating. That shall be covered in the next post or if you're sharp enough the author below will let you know :)

The author below explains the best along with the links she provide. Super uber useful. Enjoy!

Courtesy of fit2be mom who has got 7 kids! And befitmom who gives a good explanation about what it is =) plus lion mom rawr

What is Diastasis Recti?

First, an anatomy overview. The rectus abdominis muscles are the abdominal muscles running down the center of our bellies. The left and right side of these muscles are joined together by connective tissue, called the linea alba.
Diastasis recti, or abdominal muscle separation, is the separation of the left and right sides of the abdominal muscles. Many women call this condition “mummy tummy.”

Who’s at Risk for Diastasis Recti?

It’s common for babies to be born with diastasis recti, especially premature babies. Usually no intervention is required and the gap will close gradually as the baby grows. Later in life the risk of developing diastasis recti increases for adults who:
1. are overweight in the abdominal area;
2. lift heavy weights incorrectly;
3. perform excessive and inappropriate abdominal muscle exercises;
4. are pregnant.

How Common is Diastasis Recti in Pregnancy?

Every woman’s abdominal muscles widen and stretch during pregnancy. This is what the muscles were designed to do. The condition diastasis recti occurs when the abdominal muscles separate or do not close after pregnancy. Health professionals may use different methods of diagnosing diastasis recti. Some consider any gap width diastasis recti and others may look for a gap wider than 1 – 3 cm. Studies have shown that between 35 – 62% of women have diastasis recti postpartum.
There are many websites reporting that 90% of women are experiencing diastasis recti during pregnancy. This is simply not the case and there is no research to support this. As stated, the stretching of the abdominal muscles during pregnancy is a perfectly natural occurrence. The gap will usually close naturally 6-8 weeks postpartum. If it does not, this is when you need to consider treatment.

Now here’s the kicker: It’s often the pushing phase that makes DR way worse! You can go all pregnancy with little to no DR and then have a traumatic birth with a long, arduous pushing phase where you’re bearing down all wrong, or you might have a surgical birth where your abs get sliced apart, doing major nerve damage, and that’s where the DR happens. More on that below…

What Increases the Risk of Developing Diastasis Recti in Pregnancy?

Diastasis recti usually develops in the second or third trimester of pregnancy. This is a pressure related condition, from the force of your uterus pushing up against the back of your abdominal wall. Factors that increase a pregnant woman’s risk of abdominal muscle separation are:
1. excessive weight gain during pregnancy,
2. older maternal age (over 35),
3. multiple pregnancies,
4. close successive pregnancies (within one year),
5. pregnancies with multiples,
6. anterior pelvic tilt.

What are the Health Implications of Having Diastasis Recti?

A diastasis recti of more than 2.5 cm can cause health implications. This may include lower back pain, hernia, and incontinence issues (because of the relationship between the abdominal wall and pelvic floor). A mild diastasis is mostly a cosmetic issue for postpartum women – hence the “mummy tummy” term, which is a bulging of a woman’s abdomen that diet and exercise cannot fix.

How do I Check for Diastasis Recti?

This is a great video for learning how to check for diastasis recti, as well as a corrective exercise, the pelvic tilt. Warning: there are many videos on YouTube about this subject, but not all can be trusted!! The one below was recommended to me by a women’s health physiotherapist.

How is Diastasis Recti Related to Pelvic Floor Muscles?

Your abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles work together. What goes up must come down, what goes in must go out – so to speak. Diastasis recti affects the pelvic floor and vice-versa. In a U.S. study of women with diastasis recti, 66% also presented pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms. This includes urinary incontinence, faecal incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse symptoms. Learn more about how your delivery method may affect your risk of developing pelvic floor dysfunction.

Can I heal my DR while pregnant?

I’ve witnessed and heard countless stories of many women closing their gaps while pregnant! Kelly Dean, licensed physical therapist and owner of The Tummy Team, presented a couple case studies at her workshop “The Importance of Core Strength in the Prenatal & Postnatal client” regarding women who finished prior pregnancies with 4-6 finger gaps, closed them with physical therapy on their core, then went on to finish subsequent pregnancies with 2 finger gaps that closed within 6 weeks. She’s also had clients close their gaps during pregnancy and I’ve had members report the same, usually during the 1st or 2nd trimester. They find out they have diastasis at the same time they learn they’re pregnant. They start the work of aligning and targeting their transverse, and it closes a bit or all the way. Then baby grows, and belly expands, and maybe it opens up a bit, but then the DR closes right back up again shortly after delivery! Kelly’s research has led her to state that 98% of women who have been pregnant will have diastasis, but about 2% of women don’t have diastasis after pregnancy. But those are studies on women who’ve never had rehab or TummySafe Fitness ;)
“Remember how I said I was starting to feel separation above and below my navel? Well after being very faithful with my alignment, tummy safe workouts and not letting my “guts spill on the floor” everytime I bend over, I am happy to report that I no longer feel any separation! Which is amazing because my baby belly has grown quite a bit in the meantime!” Fit2B in Nebraska, Bethann W. 28 weeks" 
 

Should I splint during pregnancy?

No one would deny a cast to a person with a broken leg and tell him, “Oh just stand right, and keep your leg muscles tight, and it will get better all by itself!” Um, no. your belly is truly broken, and it needs that extra support. When the two sides of your abdominal wall have separated to 3 finger-widths or more, your belly will have a really hard time “getting a grip” again. It’s an injury, and it needs support! Kelly Dean of The Tummy Team recommends splinting when a diastasis is 3 finger-widths or wider, and she also made a strong case that splinting can help fight post-partum depression regardless of presence of diastasis recti. It is usually not necessary to splint during the first trimester of pregnancy, but it is often recommended for later stages. Click HERE to read our Splinting info page and recommendations
 

Should I splint after delivery, even c-section?

YES! You should. Kelly Dean of The Tummy Team and I are working hard to get the word out that no woman should leave the hospital or birth center without a splint and a prescription for abdominal rehab. They’ll give you these things if you merely ask nicely. It’s common practice in many hospitals in my area to provide splints after multiples birth or ceasarean section, but not for vaginal birth; meanwhile some hospitals don’t offer any splinting. There’s no consistency in America, but postnatal belly binding seems more common in other countries.

What moves should I avoid while pregnant?

The fast answer is that you should avoid crunches, sit ups and planks. But the more detailed, personalized answer is that you should avoid any exercise that increases pressure within your belly, any move where you cannot tighten your transverse abdominis against gravity’s pull on your belly, and any move where you cannot maintain good balance and alignment and proper breathing technique… Oh and anything where you lie flat on your stomach once the uterus rises out of the pelvis. But doesn’t that feel a bit like I’m telling you that you can’t do anything at all? Because sometimes you don’t know until you’ve tried, and by then it’s too late and you’ve just made your diastasis worse and maybe even mal-positioned your baby. Believe it or not, there is QUITE a bit you can do on your back well into the 3rd trimester that HELP position your baby! So here’s some articles about why crunches stink, and for fun I’ve also included proof that the fitness industry is still selling sit ups to pregnant women!!! Gah!
 
 
This article by Katy Bowman makes a strong case for avoiding treadmills and high heels, too! Click HERE to read “4 fast fixes for pelvic floor disorder.”
Want proof that the fitness industry is still teaching that crunches/situps are okay for pregnancy women? Well, the American College of Sports Medicine says situps okay for pregnant women in THIS ISSUE of Certified News. And there is ZERO mention of diastasis recti in that article. Sigh.
 

What motions should I focus on while pregnant?

I’m starting to like the word “motion” over the word “exercise” because most people might object to “exercising all day” but they can’t object to being “in motion” all day. We move to live. We live to move. And certain movements are WONDERFANTABULOUSO when you’re preggers. Below this amazing picture there are more articles for you to read. Basically it boils down to aligning, walking and squatting, though.
 
Here’s my article on the 3 best exercises for pregnancy and birth… yeah I said exercise because I do LOVE exercise motions
 
Here’s a guest article written by Kim Vopni of pelvicfloorwellness.com for Fit2B Studio that details her professional opinions about the best exercises for pregnancy and post-partum. It’s wonderful advice!
 
Here’s one of my fave epic squatting blogs by Katy Bowman called “What to Expect when You’re Squatting.” Okay, I admit it: I’m a Katy Stalker!

Kegel vs no Kegel

As I was about to post articles on Kegels, I've actually found an article counter imposing this exercise regime. I was like 'woah' as these qualifed trainers do have a huge background and experience.

 
I never knew there were so many muscles in that region!!

As a personal summary I can conclude, balance is key and I believe we don't need to do too much of one thing.... I like the article below best.

Here are some legitimate description on what Kegels are for our Pelvic floor muscles:

Baby Center
Mayo Clinic


Courtesy of the wonderful Mummy Trainer

No More Kegels During Pregnancy!


Let me tell you why you shouldn't perform Kegels (Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercise) during pregnancy.

If you over exercise your Pelvic Floor Muscle (PFM) by continually squeezing and drawing upwards, the muscle can become too strong and could prevent you from pushing baby out effectively.

When the time comes and your labour has progressed, you've got to 10cm and you think great this is it, the last leg! But you still have to push baby out, what if you can't feel how to push because your PFM are too tight? PFM that are too strong may prevent you from the natural birth you want.

Ideally we want our PFM to be long, supple and taut we definitely don't want it to be too tight! Your PFM is just like any other muscle in the human body, you can over exercise it.
To put things into perspective think about this for a moment - lets say you wanted strong biceps, would you try to perform chin ups or bicep curls all day every day?
You certainly would not, the muscles would be fatigued, sore and you would probably be walking with rounded shoulders and arms like Popeye!
I'm sure we can all relate to sore neck and shoulder muscles but once a massage therapist has worked on the over-tight muscles increasing flexibility they don't feel sore anymore.
It's only when you have spent the next 3 days at your computer with your shoulders up to your ears that the soreness returns.
If you constantly squeeze your PFM as many of the books and videos tell you to for example when you are at traffic lights, cleaning your teeth, cooking, vacuuming and the list goes on and on. You could literally end up performing thousands and thousands of them, you need to STOP! It just doesn't make sense.

We don't want PFM that are to tight caused by Over-Exercising them and we don't want PFM to be too Saggy Caused by Poor Posture and lack of Exercise.

You need to know that if you exercise during your pregnancy and lead an active lifestyle then you ARE ALREADY exercising your PFM just not in the way the pregnancy books tell you to.
First lets have a look at where your PFM are.

Your Pelvic Floor Muscle
The muscles attach from your Coccyx (Base of Sacrum) and insert around your Small Pelvic bowel- Cup your hands together loosely and you get an idea of what the muscle looks like and how it attaches to your pelvis. The muscles main job is to hold your internal organs in place.

How to get your PFM long, supple and ready for birth
Instead of all those extra Squeezes this is what you need to do:

If you have good pregnancy posture, you will have a natural lumber curve so a slightly increased anterior pelvis tilt which is perfectly fine, this is spinal neutral your bodies position of strength.

When the pelvis is in the neutral position it is in an anterior tilt (think of your pelvis tipping forward- but not an increased anterior tilt) the pelvic floor muscle is in the optimal position. You want your PFM to be long and flexible but still taut so it can do its job. Think about a gymnast or a ballerina, these athletes muscles are incredibly flexible yet also strong. This is how you want your PFM to be.



If however the pelvis is in the opposite position-posterior it will have the opposite effect. Instead of a taut muscle it will now be saggy, so you can say goodbye to skipping!

Think about your posture and do it daily it's important, avoid sitting and standing with your tail bone tucked under.



Now for the Exercise You Need to do!
Your Gluteus (butt) muscles attach to your pelvis- if you strengthen the glutes with exercises such as squats and lunges the glute muscle will hold the pelvis in the anterior position.

Weak glutes not only equate to lower back pain during pregnancy but now you know a lazy butt can relate to a weak PFM.



squats not squeezes, avoid kegels!


Its important that you learn how squat correctly. If you are unsure of how to squat or you experience pain in your knees or back watch my video guide. Squatting During Pregnancy:



Finally We are Born to Give birth:

I think we need to give ourselves some credit. The female body is totally amazing not only can we make a baby but we are also born to give birth.
If we keep ourselves fit and healthy with functional exercise then we may well be able to skip and jump with our children without fear of peeing ourselves post birth.

2 years ago I wrote an article on ‘How much pelvic floor muscle exercise you should do during your pregnancy if you Exercise’ with the emphasis being on NONE: Link No More Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercise-AKA Kegels!

I have advised all of my clients over the past 5 years not to do ANY separate kegel exercises/pelvic floor muscle squeezes during their pregnancy if they are active and follow my program. Approx 90% of them have strong pelvic floor muscles regardless of birthing Interventions. They can jump train 3-4 months Post Partum if fit, well and rested.

You also must read my brand new blog (feb 2014) on core muscle dysfunction which explains even further the problems you may have by doing kegel exercises read more here on my website: Core Muscle Dysfunction

I would love to hear your comments and thoughts. Also add your experiences.
Don't forget to share this article with your friends, thanks.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Happy Handstand is expanding!

Well, not commercially but a little section will be added to the top of the bar for easy scrolling as Happy Handstand is turning to a mom!

Stay tuned for more articles on tips for mothers-to-be, mothers and of course parenting has she takes on this journey herself. She is halfway through :)


10 Ways to Break Your Own Heart

The worst kind of heartache is the kind you inflict on yourself...

Thanks Marc and Angel Hack Life :) You produce wonderful pieces of articles.





If you don’t want to break your own heart, then don’t…
  1. Let people invalidate or minimize how you feel. – If you feel something, you feel it and it’s real to you.  Nothing anyone says has the power to invalidate that, ever.  No one else lives in your body, or sees life through your eyes.  No one else has lived through your exact experiences.  And so, no one else has the right to dictate or judge how you feel.  Your feelings are important.  Don’t let anyone lead you to believe otherwise.
  2. Regret every mistake you’ve ever made. – If you regret some of the decisions you’ve made in the past, stop being so hard on yourself.  At that time, you did your best with the knowledge you had.  At that time, you did your best with the experience you had.  Your decisions were made with a younger mind.  If you were to make these decisions with the wisdom you have now, you would choose differently.  So give yourself a break.  Time and experience has a wonderful way of helping us prosper, grow and learn to make better choices today, for ourselves and those we care for.  Read Emotional Freedom.
  3. Take your loved ones for granted. – Someday, for one reason or another, there will be someone you miss dearly.  Missing this person willhave nothing to do with how long it’s been since you’ve seen them, or the amount of time since you’ve talked.  It will be about that very moment when you’re doing something and you wish they were right there with you.  So be sure to appreciate every moment you get to spend with the people who matter to you.
  4. Let your ego get the best of you. – Sometimes we choose to be wrong, not because we really are wrong, but because we value our relationship more than our pride.  When two people who care about each other fight, both are wrong.  They have put some kind of superficial outcome over love and compromise.  The one who apologizes and makes up first, is the one who is right.
  5. Get involved in every petty argument that comes your way. – Being strong doesn’t mean you have to stay and fight all the battles and petty arguments that come your way.  Being strong doesn’t mean you have to respond to rude remarks.  Don’t retort by throwing insults back at them.  Don’t bring yourself down to their level.  That’s what they want.  Keep your dignity.  True strength is being smart enough to walk away from all the nonsense with your head held high.  Read The Four Agreements.
  6. Join the negativity committee. – No matter how much negativity is thrown at you by others, there is absolutely no need for you to stay put and participate in the self-destruction they choose for their own lives.  You decide how your soul grows.  The extent of your happiness depends on the quality of your thoughts.  So be positive.  Some of the best days of your life haven’t happened yet.
  7. Rush love. – A good relationship is when two people accept each other’s past, support each other’s present, and love each other enough to encourage each other’s future.  So don’t rush love.  Find a partner who encourages you to grow, who won’t cling to you, who will let you go out into the world, and trust that you will come back.  This is what true love is all about, and it’s always worth the wait.
  8. Hold on to those who don’t want to stay. – It’s really painful to say goodbye to someone that you don’t want to let go of, but it’s even more painful to hold on to them if they never wanted to stay in the first place.  If someone doesn’t show you the same love that you show them, and acts as if you are unimportant most of the time, this may be a big clue as to the fact that you don’t need them in your life either.  The only people you truly need in your life are those who respect you and want you to be in theirs.
  9. Ignore every bit of constructive criticism you receive. – The worst lies are the ones we tell ourselves.  A true friend will always speak the truth, even if it hurts.  So don’t assume that every critic in your life is a hater.  Not everyone is hating on you.  Some people truly care about you, and are simply telling you the truth that you have been subconsciously denying.  Read The Mastery of Love.
  10. Give up on yourself. – Maneuvering through difficult times is a lot like driving through dense fog.  You can’t always see where you’re going, you feel a little lost, you want to turn back, and every mile feels like forever.  Yet, scared or fatigued as you might be, there’s nothing you can do but breathe, focus on the road ahead, keep moving forward, and trust that a force with keener vision than yours is out there functioning as your guide.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Tony Robbins: Why we do what we do

A very inspiring clip for everyone :)


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Aspirin a day could dramatically cut cancer risk

Whoa, this is news indeed. It originates from synthesis from willow bark! I guess if Herbalife and other health companies can extract proper protien from soy, this doesn't have to come in as a suprise either...Courtesy from the Guardian


Aspirin a day could dramatically cut cancer risk, says biggest study yet

Daily pill for middle-aged could save 130,000 lives over 20 years in Britain alone, scientists suggest
Aspirin
Doctors warn that before aspirin can be used to prevent cancer, there are questions over dosage and who is likely to have side-effects. Photograph: Tim Boyle/Getty
An aspirin a day could dramatically cut people's chances of getting and dying from common cancers, according to the most detailed review yet of the cheap drug's ability to stem disease.
More than 130,000 deaths would be avoided over a 20-year period if Britain's 50- to 64-year-olds took a daily aspirin for 10 years, because the beneficial effects continue even when the aspirin is stopped, the authors say.
A research team led by Professor Jack Cuzick, head of the centre for cancer prevention at Queen Mary University of London, concluded that people between 50 and 65 should consider regularly taking the 75mg low-dosage tablets.
Cuzick said that taking aspirin "looks to be the most important thing we can do to reduce cancer after stopping smoking and reducing obesity, and will probably be much easier to implement".
In a briefing to journalists, the scientist added that he had been dosing himself for the last four years, keeping the tablets beside his bed. "I take aspirin as part of a bedtime ritual every day and I can achieve that quite easily," he said.
However, to obtain the newfound benefits of the drug, people would have to take aspirin for at least five years and probably 10, the review said.
Aspirin 0608 WEB Aspirin: effects on cancer Aspirin was originally developed as a painkiller and treatment for fever and inflammation, but more than a century after it was first synthesised from willow bark, researchers have found more medical uses for it.
It has been demonstrated to reduce the risks of heart attacks and strokes as well as the chances of some cancers. But the big question has been whether the benefits outweigh the harms, because aspirin can cause stomach bleeds, which could be potentially fatal in some people.
Concluding that the benefits outweighed the risks, Cuzick's team, writing in the cancer journal Annals of Oncology, said that by taking low-dose aspirin every day for 10 years, bowel cancer cases could be cut by about 35% and deaths by 40%. Aspirin could reduce rates of oesophageal and stomach cancers by 30% and deaths from them by 35% to 50%.
However, taking aspirin every day for 10 years increases the risk of stomach bleeds among 60-year-olds from 2.2% to 3.6%. In about 5% of those who have a stomach bleed, it could be fatal.
Cuzick added that there was evidence that this side-effect could be more common in people who have the bacterium Helicobacter pylori in their stomach, which also causes peptic ulcers. He said people considering embarking on a regime of daily aspirin should talk to their GP and it might be possible to be tested first.
A second risk is stroke. Aspirin is already given to some people to reduce their risk of heart attacks or ischemic stroke, caused by blood clots, which it does by thinning the blood. But it is likely to worsen a haemorrhagic stroke, caused by bleeding in the brain.
The study also shows that 10 years of aspirin reduces heart attacks by 18% and deaths by 5%, but although it reduces stroke numbers by 5%, there is a 21% increase in deaths.
All the cancers in which aspirin has a beneficial effect have some lifestyle causes – from smoking in lung cancer to alcohol in oesophageal cancer and obesity in all of them. Taking aspirin, said Cuzick, "should not be seen as a reason for not improving your lifestyle". The drug, however, would reduce the cancer risk even in people who have a healthy lifestyle, he said.
Increasing numbers of people in middle age are already being prescribed cholesterol-lowering statins to reduce their risk of heart attacks and strokes. Recently there has been an outcry over the "medicalisation" of the population and concern about side-effects – which trial data suggest are less common and less serious than those in aspirin. Cuzick said there was no evidence of any interaction between the two drugs. "In many people, taking both of them is probably a good idea," he said.
However, Cancer Research UK (CRUK)warned that people should speak to their GP before starting on daily aspirin. The charity said it would like to see more research on who should and should not be taking it.
"Aspirin is showing promise in preventing certain types of cancer, but it's vital that we balance this with the complications it can cause – such as bleeding, stomach ulcers, or even strokes in some people," said Dr Julie Sharp, head of health information at CRUK.
"Before aspirin can be recommended for cancer prevention some important questions need to be answered, including what is the best dose and how long people should take it for. And tests need to be developed to predict who is likely to have side-effects.
"Given the continued uncertainty over who should take aspirin, Cancer Research UK is funding a number of trials and research projects to make the picture clearer," she said.
Aspirin also has a smaller preventive effect on other major cancers, according to the research paper. It could reduce the number of lung cancers by 5% and deaths by 15%. It could cut prostate cancers by 10% and deaths by 15%, and breast cancers by 10%, with a reduction in deaths of 5%.
There would be an overall 9% reduction in the number of cancers, strokes and heart attacks suffered by men and a fall of 7% in women.
Cuzick acknowledged that people generally did not like taking pills for a long period, although, he said, some were "more than happy to take multivitamins for many, many years without any clear evidence of benefit. It is a regular habit."
As a generic drug – Bayer's patent ran out in the 1930s – there are no profits to be made by big pharmaceutical companies from the estimated 100bn tablets taken around the world every year.

The science – and the warnings

What did the study find?
The risk of both developing and dying from digestive-tract cancers – those of the bowel, stomach and oesophagus – was reduced by about a third in people who took low doses of aspirin daily for 10 years. Cases of breast, prostate and lung cancer were reduced by about 10%, though no effect was seen on other cancers.
What do scientists recommend?
For aspirin's anti-cancer benefits to kick in, people needed to have taken aspirin for at least five years from the ages of 50 to 64. Most of the research was based on low 75mg doses. The longer the drug was taken, the better its preventive effects, until the age of 65, after which there was an increased risk of internal bleeding. The study found no benefit in taking aspirin before the age of 50. Scientists recommend that people consult their GP before taking daily aspirin to prevent cancer.
How does aspirin prevent cancer?
There are two theories. First, inflammation in the body causes cells to divide, which increases the risk of them mutating into cancerous forms.
Because aspirin reduces inflammation, it lowers the risk of cancerous cells developing.
Second, cancer cells can piggyback on blood platelets, which help the blood to clot. Aspirin thins the blood by making platelets less sticky, which may also make it harder for them to carry cancer cells and so spread the disease.
What are the risks?
Aspirin can cause bleeding in the stomach and bowel. This can be serious, especially in the over 70s, but rarely affects younger people unless they have an underlying condition.
"My personal advice would be that everyone 50 to 64 should consider taking aspirin. You should talk to your GP first to see if you've got any of the major risk factors for bleeding, but if not I think the benefits substantially outweigh the risks," said the senior author, Prof Jack Cuzick.
Nishad Karim