Take two power walks, call me in the morning

June 1, 2005

Radiology is a sedentary profession. My body and I have struggled with this fact for the last 25 years. I spent the first part of my career sitting in front of viewboxes. Now I'm planted in front of a PACS terminal most of the day.

Radiology is a sedentary profession. My body and I have struggled with this fact for the last 25 years. I spent the first part of my career sitting in front of viewboxes. Now I'm planted in front of a PACS terminal most of the day.

With film, at least I frequently had to move jackets or piles of film. Now, my coffee cup is about the biggest thing I pick up. Since I entered radiology I have gained about a pound a year, maybe a little more. Like most people, when estimating weight gain, I tend to round down.

There are days when I get some exercise wearing lead for several hours. I don't believe this does much more than strain my back. And the simultaneous rapid heart rate and sphincter tightening that often occurs during an interventional case does not count as aerobic activity.

I have tried many (and thought of even more) ways to increase the amount of exercise I can get during the workday. Elevators are bad. I always walk up and down the two flights of stairs to the doctors' lounge to get my free chips, bagels, cookies, candy bars, and sodas. I also walk to the cafeteria.

The cafeteria has always been a popular place to eat in our community. A lot of elderly people come here for meals, especially Sunday lunch. Every meat, every vegetable, every starch is fried. If you can fry dill pickle slices, you can fry anything. Although there is a time lag, the cafeteria is very good for hospital business.

We used to read in our offices. Now we rotate to one of five reading stations each day depending on which services we are covering; kind of like moving through Dante's stages of hell. For the days when we read out of our own offices, I experimented with placing exercise devices by my desk. I tried various spring and rubber band thingamajigs, but without hands-free dictation, these were cumbersome. I toyed with the idea of putting an exercise bike at my office viewbox, but knew I would get too much grief from colleagues. Isometric exercises seem to help, and they are very doable at the workstation. Jumping jacks are not.

Like most hospitals, ours has built a big wellness center. Tied into our physical therapy program, the center is a massive gym with classes and courses of every type. I have been going there for several years, but I always work at my own sweat-free pace, and I had never taken a class. Several months ago, my wife and I had dinner with two other couples. All three wives attend fitness classes regularly, and they chided all three males to start attending the morning class before work. Under the influence of a good Pinot Noir, various rewards were promised if we would start exercising regularly. (We would not admit that exercise and fitness are their own reward; we were thinking like men.)

Beginning the following Monday and regularly since then, I have been attending a 5:45 a.m. exercise class. My muscles recently stopped hurting, which was exciting. I have actually lost a few pounds, although you cannot tell to look at me. They say exercising in the morning gives you more energy all day. I'm still waiting for that to happen. I'm just tired all day from getting up at 5 a.m. And, much to my chagrin, the rewards system quickly went the way of Green Stamps.

Passing 50 has made me more aware of my own mortality. While radiology has been wonderful to me in many ways, it is not the healthiest of jobs. I hope to stick with my new exercise regime so I can continue to bring my weight down, increase my stamina, and improve my cardiac function. I want to die healthy.

Dr. Tipler is a private-practice radiologist in Staunton, VA. He can be reached by fax at 540/332-4491 or by e-mail at btipler@medicaltees.com.