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Grand Resort Bad Ragaz is the best 'wellness resort' Sophy Robert has yet experiences...
Eight years ago, after suffering an attack of deep vein thromboses a clot caused by a combination of risk factors including frequent air travel, I stopped smoking and changes the way I worked. But I can't always find the time to commit to the ideal regime of exercise and healthy eating- an excuse they are used to hearing at the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz in Switzerland. "We're not simply catering to burn-outs," says Dr Teo Albarano, the resort's medical health director.

"Prevention is increasingly dominant in any approach to health, which is why the fusion of medical check-up and wellness makes sense."It is a philosophy that Bad Ragaz has backed with a 100m euro two-year renovation. The results, unveiled last summer, are both comprehensive and complex (and also, be warned, pretty confusing if, like me, you find it a struggle to understand the place from its website alone.)

Located in a mountain valley a 70-minute drive from Zurich, the resort is made up of two hotel- the Grand Hotel Hof Ragaz (which was four-star, but was upgraded in the spring), and the Grand Hotel Quellenhof and Spa Suites. the latter can be divided into two parts: the Quellenhof is a soulless ode to Swiss grand hotel style, with swags, gilt and a "jacket required" restaurant; the Spa Suites, which opened in May, are sleek and cosseting.

Its medical Health Centre employs about 70 full-time staff and caters aesthetic surgery, rheumatology and mental health. There is a department of sports medicine, which in 2004 was officially credited as the Swiss Olympic Medical Centre. some 40 percent of appointments, I'm told, are taken up by locals, for whom the centre functions much like a private clinic )it should be noted, however, that it is not a hospital and has no overnight medical care).

There is also a spa, open to hotel guests only, It offers massages, facials, medical pedicures and smattering of faintly dubious-sounding New Age treatments (the "lomi-lomi nui" massage, for instance, opens with a song from the therapist). But there's no disputing the expertise: talented specialists in everything from shiatsu and Thai massage to reflexology. There are two gyms, numerous "heat experiences" (saunas, steam baths) and  "Kneipp" areas (a form of hydrotherapy), as well as two indoor pools using the region's famous thermal waters.  Helenabad is the original bath with hydro massage facilities; the Tamina Therme, all pearly white with an outdoor pool, are the public baths that locals pay a day rate to use.

While there's something of a cult of celebrity around a number of the names doctors- among them Dr Bernhard Schlegel, chief medical officer to the Swiss Olympic team - about 50 per cent of the guests are here for the medical centre's state-of the art diagnostics. These assess both how healthy you are now and the risk factors affecting potential future health problems such as cancer or heart disease.

Another 50 per cent of guests visit for rehabilitative health - physiotherapy following an injury or illness for instance. A few use the spa only - weekenders from Munich, Milan and Zurich - while fewer still (Swiss widows of certain age) come to be among friends in the polite surroundings of a classic grand hotel.

I was skeptical. I could immediately see that the all-white spa Suites had baad built to attract a younger market, while the gold and gilt was retained to keep the old guard happy; I was less sure that the two could coexist. On top of this, I've had my fill of over-priced spa experiences claiming some kindof medical gravitas on the bass of white coats, white treatment rooms and a two-hour-a-week appearance by a non-resident physician. The majority of guests are well past 50, many past 70, with generation after generation of the same families coming to take the thermal waters that spring from the Alps four kilometres away in the heart of the Tamina Gorge.

What convinced me to give it a go was seeing the spa's programmes of which there are 11 on offer, from "sport" to "weight" to "lady checks". For someone as time-poor as myself, the "business check" sounded all so easy, the package unraveling the vast gamut of possibilities on offer in a two-night, three-day experience. Specifically, this meant ultrasounds fro the abdomen and arteries, a blood vessel and heart check-up sing a CT scanner, a posture analysis and a challenging fitness test where I was wired up to a bicycle and my body covered in electrode while every three minutes a nurse took a blood sample to test my lactate levels. Was it really worth it? "business check" package rates starting at 4,793 Euros, it needed to be. There were things I didn't like - the confused aesthetics, the tinkling pianos, the Asian restaurant and the staff's ugly turquoise-and-black Star Trek uniforms - but in the end, Bad Ragaz is something unique, and to my mind among the best wellness resorts I've yet come across. Over the past 10 years, this includes visits to Clinique La Prairie and the Victoria-Jungfrau in Switzerland, the Mayr Clinic in Austria and Chiva-Som in Thailand. What makes it different is not only the one-stop facilities but the science that emerges from laboratory tests and the proficiency with which those results are interpreted.

In my case, a detailed analysis of my blood revealed iron defeciency syndrome, accounting for sore shoulders, sleeplessness and fatigue, which I am now following up in the UK with intravenous injections ("it's a little revolution in Switzerland", says Dr Christian Hoppe, who oversaw my programmer at Bad Ragaz). Using results on my optimum heart rates to improve my fitness. From a spinal "mouse" run down my back and into a computer, I discover that I'm out of balance, with spinal flexibility reduced on my left-hand side. By measuring muscle strengths and ratios, I'm told to improve my left abs, my right and left gluts and my lower spine - points later addressed in a session with a personal trainee.

But after my scare from thromboses, it's my veins I'm most concerned about. Dr Stefan Kupfer carries out his diagnostics and shares detailed advice on prophylactic blood thinners. It then takes 20 minutes for an assistant of his to fit the compression stockings that I'm recommended to wear to avoid DVT in future.

But it's the slight irregularity revealed in one of my arteries that gets me thinking: it would be worth every euro, I decide, to learn about my husband's risk factors - his family has a history of high cholesterol. If only British companies were as enlightened as the Swiss ones that are now writing Bad Ragaz into bonus packages. That way my husband wouldn't have to work hard to pay for the periodic health check-up. And, as he rightly warns, getting involved with Bad Ragaz could create a habit: it's only by comparing results over a period of time that it’s possible to reap real rewards. One guest from the Middle East recently checked out after a year-long stay. With a bill that big, she has to be the most beautiful, healthful Woman in all Arabia.

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Grand Resort Bad Ragaz  2010-01-16   Articles/Press Releases

Jesse Tino

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