Insuring your future through your health

As a healthcare worker, I should also practice what I preach. That means eating healthy, exercising frequently, and following sound lifestyle habits.  Unfortunately I’d be lying if I were to tell my patients that I adhered to all healthy behaviors. I actually see quite the contrary in the workplace.

Overweight healthcare workers.

Fast food establishments in walking proximity of the hospital.

Vending machines with credit card readers or “Flex” spending through hospital ID cards.

Fluorescent lighting in medical buildings.

Good health for healthcare workers isn’t completely a bust. I see many medical practices implement discounted gym memberships for its employees. Other incentive programs include “free” Apple watches for employees who reach certain activity milestones (but additional withholding of paycheck when you don’t meet those goals). Some hospital systems discount your medical insurance premiums if you have normal cholesterol, blood pressure, and hemoglobin a1c levels. Good for them.

I’ve come to realize that good health habits are probably learned in childhood. My parents emphasized that I should take walks and play outdoors, but there was never any emphasis on regular exercise to become more fit. I was never athletically gifted, so I never focused my energy on getting fit.  Who knew that weak core muscles would start haunting your future self?

My eating habits were horrendous essentially up until the end of the fellowship.  Long work hours combined with limited time and money to took a toll on my health. I never felt physically “bad”, but youth was probably the only advantage I had on my side. I remember there were instances where I strained my neck, back, or arm muscles that left me aching for weeks. Yes I was in bad shape.

Jillian Michaels probably saved my career.

It’d be a huge claim to say that a single person changed my life, but I picked up a Jillian Michaels exercise video at the local library one day. We all know that the first step to better health is to stop lamenting, get off your ass, and put in some time.  Time, at least in my mind, was something that was in short supply.  Like all of my patients, I was looking for a quick fix.  An exercise video that promised great results with only 15-20 minutes of daily work sounded great to me. Yes, exercise videos are notorious for promising results with minimal effort, but I figured that in theory there should be some optimized cardiovascular and weight training in a condensed 20 minute video.

I committed to exercising at least 20 minutes a day on these workouts and failed miserably.  I came home on most days fatigued and too burned out to exercise.  Moreover, I still had to check work e-mails, deal with administrative fires, and whatever else that needed to be taken care of at home.

Don’t laugh. I’m pretty sure that I can actually finish a cardio stress test without dobutamine assist (maybe).

Daily workouts ended up becoming more like two to three times a week.  However, that was okay. I still burned calories. My muscles felt sore every single time I did them (yes I was that wimpy). After a year of doing these workouts, I came to realize that they were incredibly basic. My next door neighbor who was twice my age still had greater endurance than I did. To me, it didn’t matter.

I stopped getting neck and back pain.

At this point, I can confidently still say that I am at or below fitness average for my age, but that is okay. There is still room to improve, but the moral of the story is that you have to put your mind into whatever goals you want to achieve in order to succeed. I did that for medical school and in my career. There should be no reason why I couldn’t apply that to my health. I feel a whole lot better at work because I exercise.  Not a bad price to pay to insure that I can have a long working career if I choose to!

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