Regular physical activity boosts mood, improves memory, reduces blood pressure, builds muscle mass, keeps bones strong, and reduces body fat. These are just a few of the benefits of physical exercise. As the title of this article suggests, it’s time to add physical activity to your daily routine. I’m not talking about dieting and exercising for a few months in order to see results in your outward physical appearance by summer. I’m talking about making a lifelong commitment to improve your health!
The veterinary profession can be quite brutal when it comes to injuries (acute and chronic) and physical stressors in general. “Vets are often great at preventative medicine for our patients, [but] our lifestyles and work demands don’t always leave much time for us to look after ourselves,” writes Rosie Allister on the Veterinary Wellbeing website.1 For overall good health, it’s crucial that you make sustainable and consistent physical changes in regards to strength, endurance, and long-term injury prevention. These habits take time to build. Starting with small steps can make long-term changes more sustainable. This includes you and your support staff. You are the leader and role model in your work environment. Habits and newly found positive mindset are definitely contagious. As you experience change, so will your staff and even your clients.
WHY GET PHYSICAL?
Where to start? Consider the scope of your practice on a day-to-day basis. Think about the physical demands of your particular work environment over the long term. Are you primarily in a fixed (standing or seated) position, perhaps due to prolonged surgery days, or are you constantly on the move (emergency medicine or mobile practice)? Evaluate how physically demanding your job is along with any physical stressors that may result. Once you understand this, you can then tailor a plan for physical activity to strengthen your body and address and/or prevent injuries.
It is very likely that in your role as a veterinarian, you may have already sustained some aches, pains, and other injuries due to day-to-day professional activities. One of the most common work-related ailments for veterinarians (aside from bites and scratches!) is back pain. This may be acute—due to lifting heavy patients or objects without adequate assistance or poor lifting form. Or it may be chronic—due to poor posture, weakness of your core and posterior chain (gluteal muscles and hamstrings), improperly balanced pelvis and spine, constantly tight musculature or poor flexibility. You may have also experienced neck pain due to poor posture, prolonged surgical and/or dentistry procedures, and perhaps even gradual
CREATING PHYSICAL ROUTINES
Remember the overall goal—improving your mindset and finding balance. Creating a new physical routine will be different for everyone and is based on your individual body needs, the physical demands of your workplace, and your personal goals. There are no hard-set rules on the type of exercise but I highly suggest that if you have pre-existing injuries, please seek advice and treatment from your physician, chiropractor, physical therapist, or massage therapist prior to engaging in any new, strenuous activity. We veterinarians (yes, I am including myself) are notorious for “self-diagnosis” and being “noncompliant patients.” If you are hurt, then training improperly will not help and may make things worse. This approach is about having a plan of action and executing it.
There are so many options to get moving, including walking, yoga, cycling, swimming, weight training, Brazilian jujitsu or other martial art, golf, bowling—the list goes on and on. Some of these activities require playing with others (such as a team sport) and others are individual exercises. Once you find your ideal form of exercise and ideal time of day, you will become addicted to the consistent endorphin rush! Over time, this will improve your overall mood and elevate your mindset.
YOUR NEW WORKFLOW
Your energy has improved, you are getting stronger, your mind is getting clearer, and your colleagues and support staff are noticing. So how can you bring your new habits to the workplace? Education! Consider contacting your local expert (physical therapist, certified personal trainer, chiropractor, massage therapist, etc.) to come to your workplace and provide education on basics, such as proper lifting, stretching, and foam-rolling techniques, to help you and your staff handle day-to-day physical demands.
Find the time to maintain your physical fitness groove and don’t be afraid to try something new. Get enough quality sleep, stay hydrated, and make sure you consume quality foods, as the new physical demands you are placing on your body will only work if it is properly fed.
In the long run, you will improve or even resolve existing pains and aches, enjoy an overall increase in strength, prevent or minimize risk of injury, have better athletic performance, and benefit from greater physical endurance throughout the day.
Your investment in yourself will lead to a positive mindset and overall happiness.
- Allister R. Exercise and wellbeing—what’s the evidence. Veterinary Wellbeing. veterinarywellbeing.wordpress.com/2016/05/19/exercise-and-wellbeing-whats-the-evidence. Accessed December 11, 2018.