Tips for healthy living taught at two local events

Janette Neuwahl

In an effort to increase awareness about the health and well-being of students and faculty, Northwestern’s Fitness and Wellness program hosted its seventh-annual Health and Benefits Fair Wednesday.

But that wasn’t the only healthy choice in Evanston yesterday.

The Evanston Public library hosted an information session entitled, “Back to Back Health,” in which a certified fitness trainer taught community members methods to reduce back pain.

Nancy Tierney, director of the Fitness and Wellness program, had many goals for the 2001 Health Fair. Tierney said the fair aimed to provide students with a place to get health screenings and to educate the university community about positive health habits.

“At the fair there will be groups that touch on every facet of health awareness,” Tierney said.

More than 50 groups sponsored booths at the fair and distributed information on a variety of topics, including heatstroke, diabetes and AIDS.

Many of the booths passed out information to faculty members about new health care plans. According to Director of Benefits Tom Evans, this is the time of year that the staff members may decide to change health care groups.

Free massages and information on fitness-related injuries, sports medicine, nutrition and even Spring Break excursions were also available. Norris Outdoors gave out Frisbees and air fresheners, which attracted many students.

SESP Senior Peggy Chung especially enjoyed the booth about fat calories in fast foods, which was sponsored by Unicare Health Insurance.

“A lot of the booths were geared towards the staff but the fast food booth was interesting on a student level since most people want to know what they’re taking into their system,” Chung said.

At the Unicare booth, samples of fast foods such as McDonald’s hamburgers and Wendy’s Chili were displayed with their respective calories and fat grams. The Wendy’s chili was a lean choice at 7 grams of fat, while a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder was packed with a hefty 21 fat grams.

“People should try to choose less condiments on foods and chicken over beef when possible,” said Shannon Fuller, a Unicare health educator.

Other booths such as the Red Cross simply wanted to get their message out to possible volunteers.

“The disaster in New York has given the Red Cross a lot of exposure and there has been an outpouring of response since Sept. 11,” said Linda Meisel, 61, who has been volunteering with the Red Cross for a year and a half. “While here, we would like to interest people in volunteering, urge people to donate money and to give blood.”

Wednesday evening, the community got another opportunity to learn about health care at the Evanston Library’s “Back to Back” information session. Carol Ingram, a Chicago fitness trainer, taught Evanston and Chicago residents about the dangers of back pain, and exercises to prevent it.

According to U.S. News and World Report, four out of five people will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Many of Ingram’s new patients lead sedentary lives in front of the TV and computer screens, which can cause back problems at a young age.

“You have to make sure the computer is ergonomically correct, which means having the screen eye level with the person so they aren’t hunched over the monitor,” Ingram said. ” In addition, they now make more ergonomically correct mice so people can grasp them better and lessen the possible danger of arthritis in the hands.”

Sitting cross-legged can also lead to lower back pain because it twists the lower torso.

” Try to sit with your legs uncrossed and your back one to two inches from the back of the chair, this should keep your spine straight,” Ingram said.

Evanston chiropractor Jenifer Cacanindin suggests swimming as an exercise that does not produce back pain.

” Swimming is a good exercise because it puts no stress on your joints and keeps the muscles loose,” Cacanindin said.