Surfing: The 'miraculous' treatment no doctor has ever prescribed. Until now.

Could the ocean hold the answer to your chronic pain and health problems?

Biarritz is a small city on the southwest coast of France, flanked by the Bay of Biscay.

Known as the "Queen of the Basque Coast," it's a place rich with history, garnished with old-timey charm, and highlighted by sunbathed sandy beaches.


Image via NormanEinstein/Wikimedia Commons.

For centuries, Biarritz has been a destination for believers in the healing power of its seawater.

They call it thalassothérapie. (Sorry, buckaroos, no lassos involved.) It's a derivative of the Greek words for sea (thálassa) and therapy (therapeía), and people flock to Biarritz's beaches, spas, and treatment centers for a sprinkle of that sweet ocean magic.

Photo by Iroz Gaizka/AFP/Getty Images.

But in the 1960s, a radical (in the slangiest sense of the word) new benefit of Biarritz's waters was discovered: surfing.

With a swell just right for almost any skill level, Biarritz has become one of the top surf destinations in Europe.

This guy found the fountain of youth. It's called the ocean. Photo by Kevin Cole/Flickr.

Today, an experimental health initiative in Biarritz, created by France's Olympic committee, is keeping in the town's tradition of looking to the ocean for good health.

Biarritz doctors are piloting a program that lets them prescribe water sports for chronic health issues.

Yes, with a script reading "catch some waves" from one of roughly 20 participating physicians, patients are taking four-month lessons in surfing, paddleboarding, swimming, and other lower-intensity ocean aerobics.

A paddleboard lesson in Portugal. A French surf instructor would obviously be wearing a beret, not a fedora. Photo by Karma Surf Retreat/Flickr.

Nicolas Guillet, one of the program's organizers, is confident it's working. "After six months, the results are already positive in our eyes," he told Nouvel Observateur. Most patients, he says, complete the program and continue the sport on a regular basis.

The doctors say ocean sports amp up our health in a lot of different ways.

For starters, you get to play in the sun! Guillaume Barucq, a physician involved in the program, says the sun helps our bodies make vitamin D, which protects against cancer, diabetes, and lots of other health problems. (Obligatory PSA: Always wear sunscreen!)

Photo by Dawn Ellner/Flickr.

Barucq, an avid surfer, calls the program "miraculous." He says ocean sports can improve blood flow, build core and extremity strength, and relieve pain.

One patient described her treatment as "revolutionary." She's a 40-year-old woman who presented with a decade of chronic back pain. And after only six months of stand-up paddleboard lessons, she was all but cured of her pain.

There are psychological benefits to being in the ocean, too. Barucq says breaking waters (e.g., waterfalls, waves, and even showers) release negative ions into the air, which can improve our moods — or get us "stoked," as surfers might say.

While the research on negative ions isn't settled, it does weigh on the side of, well, the positive. A 2013 study found that negative air ion treatments significantly reduced the severity of mood disorder symptoms and boosted the moods of healthy subjects.

The pilot program in Biarritz is especially promising because it could change France's tendency to overmedicate.

Photo by Charles Williams/Flickr.

"It's also about enacting cultural change in a country where 90% of patients who come out of the doctor's surgery do so with a medical prescription," said Barucq.

Even better? The program doesn't cost the French social security system a penny ... or centime, anyway.

It's fully funded by the town of Biarritz, with support from a few health associations and a mere 10 euros (just under $11) per patient — a pill most health consumers can swallow.

With global health care costs on the rise, hopefully the world is taking notes from "The Queen of the Basque Coast." The ocean — and nature in general — may not be a total cure-all, but it's clearly worth a regular dose.

Family

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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Culture