Archive for September, 2010

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

As Fall unfolds and winter approaches, it’s time to think about giving your home and your family a boost of fresh air, reduced stress and visual beauty. How can you do that? With indoor potted plants.

Some plants are known for their ability to remove harmful chemicals from the air. Overall, plants and nature have shown to reduce stress levels and improve mood. And for most people, plants are visually appealing and give our minds a break from “hard attention,” the kind we use when we read, solve problems at work or focus on a task.

To send a friend or relative a burst of healthy air and the gift of stress reduction, you can send them a Potted Peace Lily Plant (Spathiphyllum) for about $40 (with shipping) from Proflowers here.

In Chicago, you can find locations to buy air cleaning plants here.

Breathe deep and enjoy your indoor plants! They may help keep you from getting cabin fever.

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Personal trainer showing a client how to exerc...
A Non-French gym. Image via Wikipedia

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

This morning I was reading an article from Reuters about how the French culture is not adopting the “gym culture” as readily as people in the U.S., Spain and the United Kingdom. One of the reasons given for the French reluctance to leave the outdoors and go workout in a gym? The tendency of the French to play football, tennis and go cycling.

Now the gym industry is trying to determine the best ways to get people in France off their football fields, tennis courts and off their bikes so they can go work out in a gym. I find this really interesting because here in the U.S., people are more likely to go work out in a gym, compartmentalizing exercise into a 30-minute or 1 hour segment of their week. While in France, people tend to walk daily, eat smaller portions and incorporate exercise into their daily routine.  In the U.S., where obesity is a huge concern, we have created a sedentary lifestyle (suburbs, car based cities, supersized portions and a fast food mentality). Meals in France are more leisurely, people often shop each day for the evening meal. Meals are more often lingered over, a time for socializing and conversation, not wolfing down food while sitting in front of the television (which, I admit I’ve been guilty of at times.).

So, what’s wrong with this picture? For one thing, going to the gym when you have no other alternative for exercise is better than not doing anything. I am not anti-gym. In the U.S. our gyms and personal trainers have come a long way to helping more people get fit and adopt a healthier lifestyle. But to expect a culture to adopt a less healthy lifestyle (by giving up a natural incorporation of exercise and healthy portion size) to help build more gyms in France seems counterproductive.

If the gym industry could embrace France’s culture instead of the other way around, we might have a healthy U.S. gym culture too. For example, creating more outdoor running areas and cycling areas, making areas of the city car free so that only bicycles could ride in that area. Creating more opportunities for exercise in suburbs with more walkable downtown areas. And for those that want to eat more like the French, we already have a great cookbook: The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook! Only $16.50 at Amazon.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

When you are ill, you just want to feel better!

I was forwarded an article about the lack of credibility in Wikipedia entries, link here. Is it absolutely shocking that an open source, user-edited and maintained site might not reflect all sides of any story? In my book, no.

In my travels and studies of massage, psychology and personal training, I read a lot of conflicting information. Some “research” is questionable because it’s sponsored by a company or individual with financial ties to the product or service being studied. Some research is questionable if it is not published in an established peer-reviewed journal. (And even peer-reviewed journals may only publish research that reflects the reviewer’s bias.) In my own experience, I think there are some treatments and modalities of wellness care that are ineffective. And some really well-meaning people may practice them, telling clients that if the treatment does not work, it’s because the client did not believe in it. This is hogwash. Belief in a treatment should not be the sole requirement for its effectiveness. If it were, then the placebo effect would be the treatment of choice for everyone! At the same time, I’ve read articles about studies that were published in peer-reviewed journals but were financed by a pharmaceutical company or by a researcher with ties to a pharmaceutical company. Often this research is later criticized by other researchers for its lack of objectivity. The research may or may not be solid, but the researcher’s affiliation makes the results suspect. I’ve also heard stories from clients and friends about medical doctors misdiagnosing them or doing surgery that made their pain and problems worse. So who can you trust for health care information?

For consumers and clients that just want to be healthy and recover from illness and injury, it is difficult to know who to trust. But in health care as well as in all aspects of life, it truly is buyer beware.  That said, reading Wikipedia as a source of factual information is unwise. I like Wikipedia as a starting point for general information and further research, but I take what I read with a huge boulder of Sea salt. As wellness care consumers, we all must be careful to check the sources of our information, to visit health care practitioners we trust and to look elsewhere if our health care providers let us down or don’t succeed in treating us or our conditions.

I consider myself a skeptic with an open mind. I’ve seen medical doctors make horrible mistakes, allow pharmaceutical reps to dictate patient care through use of free samples, free tickets and gifts. I’ve also seen some alternative health care practitioners encourage clients to come back week after week, taking the clients money, promising recovery from a disease or condition while having no success in treating the client’s condition.  At the same time, I’ve seen both alternative health care providers as well as Western medical doctors help people make miraculous recoveries from illnesses and injuries. The human body is still a mystery to the medical and holistic community. There are things we know and things we guess about and things we are still figuring out. We have not yet conquered aging and death, illness and pain. Some might say that illness, death, pain and aging are part of the human condition. We can do our best to maintain a quality of life, try to remain pain-free, illness free, and when we do fall ill, do our best to find treatment and recover quickly. But as of yet, we all have a finite lifespan. There are no magic bullets. Yet health care research, medical providers, alternative health care providers and wellness practitioners can agree on one thing: We all want our clients and patients to live the best lives they can with our help. And coming together on that point is what matters to me.

As a consumer, what can you do to protect yourself, your pocketbook, and your health from wasting time with ineffective treatments?

1. Be as educated as you can about your condition and the latest research on treatment options.

2. Get referrals from friends and family, keeping in mind that what works for one person may not work for another.It doe snot mean the treatment or practitioner is bogus.

3. Check the background of any health care provider that is going to provide you with care ( especially if you are considering surgery or any expensive or untested treatment).

4. If a health care provider offers you a service or treatment and you are not sure of its effectiveness, look it up. Do your homework. Does the treatment have any research to back it up? Is the research reliable?  Don’t just trust Wikipedia for your results! Check out PubMED (for medical research) or PsychINFO (for psychological research) or any reputable research search engine.

5. If you are under someone’s care and you don’t feel you are getting results, it does not mean that person is a quack or is ineffective, it may be that you need a different health care provider or treatment. Sometimes, one doctor may have a different take on an illness. An internal medicine doctor may not know as much about arthritis as a rheumatologist. A Western medical doctor will not know as much about acupuncture as a board certified acupuncturist. A massage therapist may know a lot about your muscle adhesions but will not have the expertise to diagnose an ACL tear in your knee.

There are no guarantees in life. But becoming more knowledgeable about research into a treatment’s effectiveness and a health care provider’s financial affiliations and education, can help you make better decisions about your own health care.

As to the Wikipedia debate, I’ll leave it to the folks fighting to keep their info on the site. I do wonder, though, how important it is to have Wikipedia showcase a particular treatment or school of thought when there are so many more reputable sources for information.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Recently I was reading Backpacker magazine’s top lists of hikes around the U.S. They  listed 3 of the top hiking places in Chicago: The Chicago Lakefront, Starved Rock and Kankakee River State Park.  The lakefront is more of an outdoor mall these days than an actual hiking path, but it is a well known Chicago route so I give Backpacker that much. But I was surprised that they did not mention any of the fantastic hiking paths in the rest of the Chicago Area: Tinley Park, Herrick Lake, Palos, Waterfall Glen, Sag Valley, and about 30 more. If you get out of Chicago proper, there are scores of really quiet, well maintained forests, meadows and trails.  I’ve been to Starved Rock a number of times, but had not yet to Kankakee. So, to verify Backpackers recommendation, my man and I bundled up our hiking gear and headed for Kankakee River State Park this past weekend!

Kankakee River. Image by Sue Shekut

The park’s trail system stretches for miles along both sides of the river. Hiking, biking and cross-country ski trails are on the river’s north side, while horse and snowmobile trails can be found on the south.

Kankakee River State Park Map. Image by Sue Shekut

On Sunday, we walked from a boat launch area on the West side of the park, over a suspension bridge, along a picnic area and then to Rock Creek trail where we climbed along the creek.

Kankakee Rock Creek Trail marker. Image by Sue Shekut

The 3-mile route along Rock Creek gives you a great view of limestone canyons and a smallish frothy waterfall. The park offers a bicycle trail that begins at Davis Creek Area and travels 10.5 miles of trails in the form of a linear trail along the river and with a loop in the west end of the park.

View from Rock Creek Trail, Kankakee. Image by Sue Shekut

This region is fairly flat with some nice hike-able cliffs and a few look out points along the river. But the Rock Creek Trail had some really steep paths along the way affording interesting lookouts of the clean clear water below.

Jason taking pics at Rock Creek Trail overlook, Kankakee. Image by Sue Shekut

On our way around the Rock Creek Trail we found a really lovely grove of pine trees. Walking into the trees we felt that special hush I often feel when I am in the presence of a grove of trees. It felt like a church or sacred space.

Pine forest along the trail in Kankakee. Image by Sue Shekut

No matter where we hiked, we could see through the water at every point!  That water is clean–at least to the naked eye–and it’s  a pleasure to be able to see such clear water in a local river.

Super clear water in Kankakee River! Image by Sue Shekut

At this point we had hiked about 7 miles and then got a bit lost finding our way back to our car which added another 2 miles to our hike. We took a wrong turn at fork in the trail and ended up by the stables.

Kankakee River Stables rents horses. Image by Sue Shekut

All told, according to my handy pedometer, we hiked 10 miles and still had another half of the park to explore on another day.

For directions, info on equestrian trials, biking, hiking, etc. click here.

A beautiful spot to relax in Kankakee River State Park. Image by Sue Shekut

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Last week I posted about the Medical Corp’s Field Medicine class in Ohio. Today I thought I’d give you a bit more info about emergency dental care.  Years ago, when I was in Greece, (hardly a Third World country but far from home and my regular dentist), one of my gold crowns came out and I had a choice to either try to find a dentist in the small island I was visiting, or try to implant a temporary filing myself. As luck would have it, there was a dentist traveling with my group and his finance had an emergency dental filling kit with her. I was able to use this temporary kit to fill my open tooth and make it through the rest of the trip without having to spend a whole day seeking out a local dentist. If I had been backpacking I would have had no choice but to use the kit. I now add the temporary dental hit to my hiking gear. (Easy to find at more drug stores.)

Don’t want to make a trip to the drug store? Get your emergency dental kit from Amazon here: Adventure Medical Kits Dental Medic Kit It costs about $12 online (plus shipping) and contains:

  • Compact, Lightweght and Waterproof Bag
  • Instruction manual for dealing with common dental ailments
  • Orasol pain reliever
  • Tea bag, dental floss and wax
  • Waterproof, durable and resealable bag
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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Walkstation from Steelcase

What if you could work out while you worked? What if by working out you could generate enough electricity to power your own computer and the computer of the coworker next to you. And what if you could do this without breaking a sweat?

I had this conversation with a client recently. We wondered how long it would take before movement and energy generation are combined to give workers  the opportunity to stay healthy and fit, reduce energy dependence on renewable resources and  transform the workplace.

The technology for such a workplace exists albeit in its infancy. We wrote about the Human Dynamo in this post and about the Walkstation in this post. Since humans can walk for long periods of time without much stress or injury and since research points to the need for human beings to move more than they do with sedentary desk jobs, it makes sense doesn’t it.

My client suggested a world in which we all have renewable battery packs that we can recharge simply by exercising. That way you could plug your renewable battery pack into just about any electronic device including your workplace computer and Walkstation/Human Dynamo bike.

Maybe in this scenario, workers  that exercise a great deal may get credits toward lower health insurance premiums.   Perhaps workers generate credits in their youth that store for when they are  and less able to move. But then again, walking on treadmill is fairly doable (even at low speeds) for most people. People with problems walking or exercising could earn energy credits in other ways.

I’m interested to hear what my readers think. What other changes do you see in the workplace of the future?

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

So you’ve been reading my blog and you decided to get outdoors AND help others…in a Third World Country. Or you are going to go on a long vacation backpacking through Africa, South America or Asia or even a remote part of the U.S. Congratulations, and have I got a book recommendation for you!

I”m a big fan of Survivorman and some of the other survivor type shows (Out of the Wild, the Alaska Experiment; Man, Woman Wild and Dual Survival) are all interesting to watch and learn from. But personally, I am not anxious to brave the wild myself, make my own fire, eat dead squirrels I killed and skinned myself or sleep in freezing temperatures with only pine needles and a reflective blanket to keep me warm. I say that now, but what if I went hiking and got lost deep in the woods or in a seeming tropical paradise? I’d like to know how to survive then!

Where can one go to find out how to survive a medical emergency or issue in any of the above conditions?  While checking out some of the referring links to my blog I found a few survivalist sites and from there found an interesting books and classes to help you prepare for a trip to a less developed area of the world–or prepare for an emergency in the U.S. like a flood or other natural or even man-made disaster.

The first is a book, Where There Is No Doctor: A Village Health Care Handbook. It’s presented as a public health primer for people living in Third World countries, small isolated villages, etc. that lack basic medical care. It’s a paperback and costs about $12.00 on Amazon. it contains info on practical, easily understood information on how to diagnose, treat, and prevent common diseases. Special attention is focused on nutrition, infection and disease prevention, and diagnostic techniques as primary ways to prevent and treat health problems. This 2007 reprint includes new material on preventing the transmission of blood-borne diseases, how HIV/AIDS is reflected in many health issues, and basic Antiretroviral treatment information, as well as updated information on children and aspirin, stomach ulcers, hepatitis, and malaria treatments.

Click here: Where There Is No Doctor: A Village Health Care Handbook to order.

Learning to apply a cast in Medical Corps Field Course

The second interesting source is a Field Medicine Class put on by Medical Corps. The Medical Corps’ Field Medicine course is an intense, 3-day classroom and field training program, designed to provide students with hands-on training in:

* suturing and minor surgery
* bandaging wounds and lacerations
* medications
* sterile procedure
* Nuclear, Biological and Chemical preparedness
* fracture management & casting, and
* dental emergencies, temporary fillings and recementing crowns

Tuition is $345 for a three-day class. Lodging and food not included. Classes are held at the Ohio State University Extension Campus, 16714 State Route 215, Caldwell, OH 43724. Find registration information here.

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