Lifestyle

Why Exercise is my #1 Prescription

As a primary care physician it’s my job to educate patients about how to live longer, healthier lives.

Exercise is my #1 prescription and without a doubt the best preventive drug.

Being physically active prevents heart disease and stroke, increases energy and bone strength, improves mood and much more! All of these benefits have been studied extensively and the conclusion is always the same: physical activity is key.

Have you ever wondered if your doctor exercises? And what this looks like?

Most doctors will tell you that finding the time to exercise changes drastically at different points in training.

Med school

I was an athlete growing up and exercise was a part of daily routine through college, but when I got to medical school things changed. With the added pressures of school I suddenly found myself feeling “guilty” for taking any time off from studying. Needless to say my physical fitness was no longer a priority. I have a very distinct memory while on clinical rotations: I was counseling a patient on diet and exercise while in my head I felt like the biggest hypocrite. This was a turning point for me and I realized that I need to prioritize my own fitness, after all shouldn’t a doctor practice what they preach?! My med school workouts were sporadic and I fit them in whenever I had time. My motto was “any movement counts.” I would wake up at 5am for a quick 20 minute run or living room workout (during the snowy Syracuse winter) before rounds. On nights when I was burnt out from studying I’d take a late night yoga class to destress. The change in my mood, stress and energy level was SO noticeable that I knew I had to continue to be active, even if that meant as little as 15-20 minutes a day.

Med school was when i discovered yoga! I started with a hip hop power yoga class recommended by a friend and was soon HOOKED. I have tried meditating countless times but have always failed to clear my mind of my to-do list. Focusing on something physical like the position of my body in a yoga pose is the only way I have ever been able to clear my mind.

Intern year

Intern year changed my routine yet again. 80 hour work weeks don’t leave much time for anything other than eating and sleeping but I knew I had to do something active for my own sanity. I was lucky enough to have a gym in my apartment building this year which made access much easier. My typical routine consisted of circuit workouts at 5am before rounds or (if I needed to catch up on sleep) a quick treadmill run at the end of the day before bed. I tend to get energized by activity so I found it VERY hard to sleep after night workouts, hence my slightly insane 5am wake-up times.

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Residency

My last year and half of residency has been a DREAM as I (mostly) work 8-5 office hours. My workout routine now consists of a gym workout or group class at 6am before work. This routine is ideal for me because it wakes me up and energizes me for my work day ahead while freeing up the afternoon for reading/seeing friends/blogging/cleaning/cooking etc. I also throw in a fitness class after work about once a week with my girlfriends, the company helps me stay accountable and is a fun way to catch up!  I am SO thankful for my specialty, family medicine, which truly values work-life balance and provides me with the free time to actually prioritize my physical/mental health and happiness (shameless plug for primary care <3)

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