Is Your Doctor Physically Active?

Many physicians argue over the best forms of treatment, but we all agree that regular exercise can save lives. There are literally thousands of studies that show that physical activity is beneficial for your heart, your bones, your joints, your brain, and more. However, not all physicians give this advice for reasons that may surprise you.

A recently published study may explain why some doctors emphasize physical activity to their patients and why others don’t: Doctors were less likely to advise patients to lead an active lifestyle if they didn’t lead one themselves. Those that did incorporate daily physical activity into their lives were two to five times more likely to recommend physical activity to their patients. But if they didn’t practice it, they didn’t preach it!

I can understand that notion. As a cardiac surgeon, I would find it hard to tell my patients to eat well and not smoke if I wasn’t doing that myself. Although no two doctors are the same or have the same priorities, they all tend to be extremely busy. They most likely have heavy patient loads, mountains of paperwork to get through, new medical knowledge to learn on the go, and a family at home. I can absolutely understand how a busy physician sacrifices his or her time at the gym to spend more time taking care of patients. However, it’s no excuse.

Physical inactivity is a global problem. One in five adults is physically inactive. It is responsible for approximately 5.8 million deaths a year worldwide. When researchers followed over 10,000 graduates of Harvard, my alma mater, they found that those who “engaged in moderately vigorous sports play” had a 23% lower mortality rate than those who were less active.

This is why it’s important that health-care providers take the time to recommend physical activity to their patients, because so many do listen to their doctors’ advice. In order for this to happen, this study suggests doctors must become more physically active themselves.

Some hospitals and health systems in the United States are creating incentives for doctors and nurses to be more physically active. For example, wellness programs offer staff members free pedometers and yoga lessons, as well as access to local fitness or recreational facilities. Hopefully, more hospitals will follow this trend.

Until then, when you go in for your check up, check in with your doctor. Does he or she find the time to be physically active? If so, how? If your physician is overweight, don’t assume he or she doesn’t exercise! Millions of overweight American’s exercise regularly and have the same risk of cardiovascular disease as their slimmer counterparts .

If you are pressed for time and looking for a quick way to fit some physical activity into your day, try our No Excuse Workout series or our Total Body Reboot fitness series.