To Your Good Health

January 8, 2016

Advice for radiologists on jumping on the healthy bandwagon.

A new year. Following a series of holidays often celebrated by gluttony, it’s no wonder resolutions to adopt healthier habits have become so commonplace that they’re more likely to be regarded as bad jokes than serious commitments.

Still, gym memberships enjoy a seasonal bump, and those attending get accustomed to maneuvering around a greater mass of humanity in their chosen fitness places around January…sometimes even lingering into February. Having to deal with such crowding might be part of the reason the surge in the exercising population winds down well before winter does. For that matter, winter itself-the thought of venturing out into subfreezing temps, snow, and ice in order to go exercise-surely inspires more than a few folks to do other things with their time.

But the real issue is that it’s too easy to come up with other uses for one’s time. Especially if one is already using most of a typical 24-hour cycle for “musts” like sleeping, working, eating, and hygiene. Exercising is often considered an optional extra, like watching TV, returning phone calls, and otherwise having a social life…and once given an equal level of priority, those other, often more pleasurable pursuits very easily win out.

Having something of a clue about health care and biology in general, it seems reasonable that we’d be a little less susceptible to such thinking. Not only do we have textbooks’ worth of knowledge about the detriments of insufficient exercise crammed into our minds, we see the sequelae routinely in the patient population…from fatty livers and atherosclerosis to corpulence that can’t be crammed into our scanners.

In short, we should know better...especially those of us in radiology, since we’re particularly prone to spending our working hours sitting stock-still in front of monitors (does anybody actually use those treadmill-workstations I used to hear about?).[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"44741","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_5600790169694","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"5038","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"height: 113px; width: 171px; border-width: 0px; border-style: solid; margin: 1px; float: right;","title":"©Zerbor/Shutterstock.com","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

Knowing, anyway, is insufficient. Talk to those woefully out of shape, and it’s unlikely they’ll express ignorance or surprise that they’re doing themselves no favors in this regard. It’s what one does with this knowledge that matters. Some might need no extra willpower or other mental gymnastics…I am told there are folks who say they enjoy exercising.

I, along with most of the healthy folks I know, do not. I might enjoy being able to run at a decent speed for over an hour, or lift weights that I could not have just a few years ago. I might feel good about what I’ve done when the day’s activity is completed, and I might be happy (or at least less unhappy) when I look at myself in a mirror after having kept up a decent regimen for years on end. But do I rub my hands together gleefully when the day’s exertion is in my imminent future? If anything, I grumble and groan a bit.

But it gets done, because I know the price of not doing it. And I have thus included it in the daily “musts.” Indeed, if I have tried packing a little too much into my days, I’ll sooner short myself a bit on sleep than sacrifice the time I have set aside for the gym or my running route. Because I saw what happened when I made it a “should” rather than a “must.” One way or another, exercising found ways not to happen.

Thus, for my brethren in the health care machine, folks who arguably could be leading the rest of the population by example, I offer what I consider to have been my best mechanism for adhering to that “must” status: Budgeting my time.

Much like a bank account, I size up my typical day and break it down into what absolutely has to happen, forcing me to see where the available hours are and where they are not. Ten hours for work and 8 hours for sleep? Okay, I have 6 hours left in the day…1-1.5 of those gets set aside for exercising, and short of an emergency absolutely CANNOT be cannibalized for anything else. And that “must exercise” time is almost always set for a specific time of the day, since an ability to move it around is a dangerous step towards making it an optional extra.

One size, of course, does not fit all. I’m sure some readers have other mechanisms that have worked to get them from meaning to get in shape to actually doing it. Just as I’m sure other readers would be interested to hear about them. Comments, as always, are eagerly invited.