Do doctors, themselves walk the fitness Talk ?

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As an International Medical Doctor presently interning in England, I am fully aware that most doctors find it difficult to make time to stay fit and healthy. It is very daunting task for most and understandably so. Owing to the responsibilities and workload most of the doctors have at hand, this makes it very difficult for them to take care of their health. Going to the gym, involving themselves in outdoor activities or even performing simple meditation for that matter is difficult to incorporate into their daily activities as they are short of time as well as physical and mental energy. Although difficult, it is not impossible to incorporate at least one of these activities into daily life after all it is indeed benefitting our health and well-being. I strongly believe that health should be of utmost importance regardless of how busy one is and it is imperative that one takes the requisite steps to safeguard their health and lead a long healthy life without complications. Having an overly busy and stressful work environment is detrimental for health and hence taking those extra steps to improve health becomes even more important in order to mitigate the effects of a stressful lifestyle.

The statistics when it comes to obesity involving doctors is alarming. According to the 2007 Physicians Health Study, 40% of the 19 000 doctors were overweight and 23% were obese. Hence, one can only imagine how high the percentage is currently in 2023 if in 2007 it was this high, owing to the exponential growth of obesity in the general population. There are innumerable factors contributing to this, namely bad relationship with food due to workload, not getting adequate sleep, overstressing and unequivocally, not getting enough physical exercise. It is also proven in a study published in March 2022, that physically active doctors are more likely to advice cardiovascular patients regarding regular exercise as compared to non-physically active doctors, hence having a profound effect on patient treatment and clinical outcomes as well.

In my case, I started to feel drastic changes once I started going to the gym regularly. It proved to be a game changer. During my initial medical school years, before I started going to the gym regularly, I used to feel very lethargic, was overweight and had no motivation or energy to perform any activity after classes. Performing anything besides studies was arduous and I constantly felt lazy but at the same time regretted it. As a result, I immediately joined the gym and; and was astounded to see positive results almost immediately. I felt much more energetic throughout the day; my stress levels reduced, as working out made me unwind from my daily hassle and my body weight was back to its normal range and in turn, I felt much healthier overall.

Being physically active comes with a myriad of benefits especially for doctors due the intensity and stress associated with the nature of work. Often times they are so busy taking care of their patients that in the process, they neglect their own health and well-being. Incorporating a good balance of aerobic and anaerobic exercises into the daily routine comes with a lot of perks which are listed below.

Aerobic Exercises: These are endurance exercises and involve a particular muscular action for a sustained period of time. Brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming and other ‘cardio’ exercises are all examples of aerobic exercises.

Potential benefits of Aerobic Exercises:-

  • Increase stamina and reduce fatigue
  • Controls blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Improve sleep and daily energy levels
  • Improves immunity
  • Improves heart health and blood circulation

Anaerobic Exercises: These are exercises that involve short, intense bursts of physical activity. High intensity interval training (HIIT), sprinting, weight lifting etc are examples of anaerobic exercises.

Potential benefits of Anaerobic Exercises:-

  • Improves blood circulation
  • Increase muscle mass
  • Increase bone density
  • Lose body fat

Exercising also helps lower risks of many health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, some cancers, arthritis, metabolic syndrome, anxiety, depression etc.

It is advised that adults practice either 150–300 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75–150 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity each week and anaerobic exercises at least 2 times a week.

Although, if one has any underlying health condition, he or she should take expert opinion before starting a workout regime.

Now that I have highlighted the benefits of exercise, I will provide some tips to incorporate them slowly and most effectively into one’s regime with a hectic work schedule.

  • Start off with minimum time– The key to incorporating exercise and gym into a doctor’s life is by starting small, as abrupt changes to the daily regimen can get confusing and the person may get flustered. Starting off with even 15 minutes of workout everyday is efficient as it is not a lot of time so as to make a drastic schedule change but enough time to show small results for a newbie to the gym or any physical activity. Then gradually the exercise duration can be increased accordingly.
  • Take the initiative– Starting off is the hardest part, hence one should remember that once he or she is in the gym or any workout setting, performing the exercise or activity will naturally become easier. Taking the extra effort to even just initiate the activity can in turn pay dividends.
  • Start off with minimum intensity– Starting off with light exercises has also proved to be beneficial as sudden strenuous exercise everyday can be taxing for someone new to physical exercise. Then gradually escalating the intensity of the workout accordingly.
  • Move more at work– Certain doctor specialties are more sedentary than the others but actively trying to get more steps in or moving more in general at work is a good way to stay healthy as the physical activity is taking place passively without having to think too much about it. Taking walk breaks during work is also a great way.
  • Have a set time for work out– Allotting a time for workout and sticking to it will help give more clarity and purpose to exercise. Make sure no other activity is performed during the allotted time apart from exercise. It can be done before work or after work.
  • Resort to alternatives– If one finds it difficult to go to the gym, performing home workouts with resistance bands or going for a run is also equally beneficial.

All in all, exercise should be a part of one’s daily lifestyle no matter how hectic the schedule. Health has to always be the priority and sacrificing a few minutes every day for physical fitness and well-being should not be considered as an obligation but as a means for a healthier life.

References

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About the author

Dr. Siddharth Sunil is an International Medical Graduate from the Charles University in Prague. He is currently interning in the United Kingdom and aspires to work there for the NHS upon completion of the internship. Besides clinical medicine, he also shows an avid interest in research medicine and has partaken in various research projects and conferences out of which one was even chosen for a national competition. He is also passionate about writing and has written numerous blogs for a UK based educational organization as it’s community ambassador. He also enjoys reading and actively practices martial arts. As a healthcare professional, he is a strong advocate of maintaining a good work-life balance as well as maintaining good health. His life goals include, becoming an experienced and an amiable doctor; and owning a martial arts gym.

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