The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Can We Teach Young Doctors to Be Healthy?

We have been traveling for the past 2 months in Asia and are on the way to the chilly Smokey Mountains of Tennessee USA to teach medical students for a week during their rotation elective in Wilderness Medicine. This is the third year I will teach there.

I will teach the entire curriculum of diving medicine and physiology, plus a workshop on why commonly prescribed stretches are not healthful, and what to do instead. Several members of the Knox County Sheriff's Office from Knoxville TN have requested to attend my lectures, and several readers made the effort to find the class information on my web site and make arrangements to travel to the camp to attend.

As a physiologist, I design the techniques that physicians use. I spent many years as a military and university researcher in environmental physiology, which is how the body functions in the heat and cold, at altitude and underwater, breathing different mixtures of gases, doing different forms and intensities of exercise. It's important to understand why things work. If you don't understand, then you can't think for yourself, and all you can do is repeat the mistakes of the generation before you, who also were just repeating what they learned in a book from teachers who just were repeating what they had heard.

This problem occurs with some of the exercises and stretches given as physical therapy. An introduction to the problem is in the post What Does Stretching Do? In the past two years teaching at the camp, we encountered young students who were not interested to change bad stretches, and made a point of showing me after my lectures that they will keep doing their rounded bent forward toe touches, since "everyone knows" that is how it is done. However, Sitting Badly Isn't Magically Healthy by Calling It a Hamstring Stretch.

The problem occurs with nutrition. The medical school food at the wilderness camp is not healthy, and students have defended eating candy and junk food as reasonable, even saying that what they eat is not unhealthful - What Medical Students Told Me About Nutrition and When Did Health Become Thinking Out Of The Box?

The problem can occur with medical treatments that are in the books, even though wrong. In my diving physiology lectures, I try to show that if you understand the physiology, you will know why certain treatments do not work or are not needed. Immersion in water, for example, creates many interesting effects such as distributing blood volume more out of the limbs to the body. This is similar to the effect that occurs in space, described in Collapsing Astronaut Gives Healthy Reminder. Recently, during our travels, Paul wound up in the hospital with a swollen leg. The doctor who was Chief of Medicine of the hospital, announced that the treatment was bed rest. Paul was told he must lie flat in bed for at least three to fours days with the leg elevated to drain the fluid. We understand that bed rest is often listed in books as a treatment for this, but it is wrong. I asked the doctor if going in the water could help. The doctor said that standing in the water meant the leg would be "hanging down" and the leg needed to be elevated to drain. If you understand immersion, then you know why immersion can more effectively treat limb edema and water retention than medicines and lying in bed. Extended bed rest is unhealthy, and reduces muscle and bone health so much that it is used to study the damage to the body from floating around during space travel. We escaped the medical care and went into the water. I will post more on immersion, edema, and health soon.

I will not have Internet access for the next week to read or reply to comments. Enjoy the posts. Start taking and sending in fun photos of your successes using all the fun techniques.

Photo by CJ Sorg
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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.