– by Tania Tétrault Vrga 

This article was originally published in the Canwest community newspaper, which is why I had to restrain myself and stay under 500 words.

TED started in 1984 as a conference to bring people together to discuss “Ideas Worth Spreading”.  Since then it has evolved to include hundreds of short talks, now available online, in science, technology, entertainment, sociology, psychology, innovation and design.

There are also hundreds of independently run events all over the world, including Tedx Winnipeg, which I attended on September 13th at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  As an entrepreneur and a strength and conditioning coach, my mind is always trying to make connections between things I experience every day and what we do in the gym.  Last week’s talks did not disappoint.  Here are three things I learned about health and fitness at TEDx Winnipeg.

1)      Keep an online food journal.   Jeff Hancock, Associate Professor in the Departments of Communication and Information Science, and co-Director of Cognitive Science at Cornell University presented on how and why people lie online.  In his talk, he mentioned that statistics show that people tend to lie a lot less in email or online than they do on the phone.  This might explain why people are so much more successful at losing weight and changing their nutrition habits when they are asked to log their food journal online.

 2)      There is a good chance you are deficient in zinc or magnesium.  Jarrett Chambers, President of ATP Nutrition, and leader in Plant Nutrient Innovation, presented on managing plant nutrition through the seed, the soil and the plant.  His talk included some fascinating data on the increase in overall yield of modern crops, as well as the alarming decrease of nutritional density of these same crops.  Modern crops are 20 to 40% less rich in magnesium and zinc than they were fifty years ago.   This goes a long way toward explaining why so many people see significant health improvements when supplementing with magnesium and zinc.

3)      Train like a world class athlete.  Dr. Karen Pape,  neonatologist and clinical researcher with a special interest in brain development and the response of the immature nervous system to injury, presented innovative treatment protocols for children with cerebral palsy and spinal cord injury.  She told the amazing story of a child with cerebral palsy who could not walk, but could run and play soccer competitively.  She found that the child’s brain had in recovered after he learned how to walk but he was still unable to walk simply because it was a habit, and old habits die hard.  Her innovative solution was to “treat the child like a world class athlete”.  In other words, don’t try to change old habits.  Instead, learn brand new, more complex ones.  I suspect that this approach works for everyone, not just people with spinal cord injuries.   In my line of work, it seems the best way to help ordinary people find extraordinary fitness is to make them forget they were ever out of shape.

You can find out more about TED and watch talks at www.ted.com.