How Physicians Can Make Time for Exercise

October 9, 2012

When it comes to physical fitness, it’s hard to counsel patients to do something we ourselves fall short on.

I think we all battle with how to fit exercise into our already jammed-packed schedules.  It seems that the more we need it - because of stress, poor nutrition, difficulty sleeping - the harder it is to do.

Yet, as physicians, it’s hard to counsel patients to do something we ourselves fall short on. One of the more challenging times to start or restart an exercise program is after a big life change - a move, starting a residency, having a new baby in the home, or changing your schedule significantly. Yet, arguably, these are the most important times to do it. 

 During my fourth pregnancy, I let exercise go. I was tired, uncomfortable, and busy. Add to that cold Wisconsin winters and dark mornings and I had zero motivation.  After I delivered my baby, I was determined to spend my 12 weeks of maternity leave re-establishing an exercise routine - as much to combat my baby belly as to help with my mommy stress. Here are a few ideas that ended up being very helpful for me during this time that busy physicians who are time strapped may want to consider:

1. Video-game based exercise: We have a Wii and my husband kindly researched the best programs that actually caused you to work up a sweat. I ended up with Wii Fit. It was easy because it was already hooked up to the TV set in our toy room. It was flexible: I could exercise for anywhere from five to 60 minutes. It was always available. And, it was varied enough to keep my interest piqued.  If you are already a triathlete, this probably isn’t for you as it won’t be challenging enough, but for most of the rest of us, it can give you a good workout.

2. Videos from the Library: I checked out different exercise videos and tried them out. I get bored pretty quickly with the same routine over and over again and this allowed me to do different things. I also found a couple of workout videos that I really enjoyed and could do multiple times.

3. New workout DVDs: Purchase your favorites. I ended up buying a few on Amazon that I thought were sufficiently challenging and relatively easy to fit into my schedule.  One of my favorites was Jillian Michaels’ “30 Day Shred.” Each workout is only 18 minutes long, but I definitely felt like I was working hard the whole time.

4. Exercise Classes:  Even if I don’t know a soul in my exercise class, I somehow feel that everyone will know if I don’t show up. My attendance at classes is always better than my attendance at what I’ve only promised myself I will do. Especially when life is chaotic, it’s nice to have a group of people that you spend time with that don’t have anything to do with all the other things going on in your life. 

5. The Internet: There are some great sites out there with short and long workout videos.  Two of my favorite sites for videos are Sparkpeople.com and Yogajournal.com.  These outlets offer videos that are free and can vary in length and difficulty. It’s helpful to have something to do for 10 minutes here and there.