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Fit Physicians: How MD Anderson Docs Get Exercise

Focused on Health - February 2012

by Adelina Espat

Who has time to exercise? We’ve all got busy schedules. That includes our MD Anderson doctors and researchers, who might be some of the busiest people of all.

But, they understand the importance of taking care of their health. After all, even our doctors have to make time for exercise to lower their chances of getting cancer.

So, how do they find the energy to work out after a long day at the hospital? We’ve put the spotlight on a few to learn how they stay motivated to fit in exercise.

Shah found success when he stopped “working out”

fitness exercise workout“Several years ago, I made a decision that has made me healthier and fitter than ever before: I decided that I will never work out again. I tell everyone I meet to stop working out. I don't enjoy ‘working out.’

I am a cancer surgeon by day and a father to a five- and six-year-old by night. The last thing I want to do with my free time is go to the gym to mindlessly pump weights or plod along on the treadmill while watching bad TV.

Instead of ‘working out,’ now I ‘train.’ Several times a year, I pick a competitive event that seems beyond my reach, and I sign up for it. It started out with small 5K running races. Over the past few years, I've graduated to Olympic distance triathlons, marathons and half-Ironman triathlons.

Knowing that I'm working toward a big competitive event always motivates me to keep training.”

—Jay Bakul Shah, M.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Urology

Basen-Engquist adds her favorite music or book to her workout

fitness exercise workout“Even though I do research on the benefits of exercise and how to help people stick with an exercise program, I don’t really love to exercise.  My strategy is to do something I enjoy while I exercise. 

For example, when I’m at the gym on a cardio machine, I always have my Kindle so I can read while I exercise.  The real challenge for me is resistance training – you can’t read a book when you’re lifting weights! But, I make a playlist of my favorite music that I only listen to when I’m doing resistance training and that helps to motivate me. 

Because so much research has been coming out on the health risks of too much sitting, even for people who exercise, I try to find more ways to fit activity in my day. I take the stairs as much as possible. If I want to buy a cup of coffee, I walk to the coffee shop in the next building. I use my pedometer and try to get at least 500 steps an hour. 

For the past month I've been sitting on an exercise ball when I'm at my desk.  If MD Anderson decides to let us try treadmill desks, I'll be first in line!”

—Karen Basen-Engquist, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Behavioral Science

Ward believes in constantly mixing up your workout

fitness exercise workout“I'm a firm believer in changing the focus of my workout every three to six months. This means at times I'll be doing more aerobic work than strength work. Then, I'll mix it up within those periods with different routines.

Constantly mixing up your workout pushes your body to keep re-adapting and growing. It also keeps your mind from getting bored with the same activities. When I get into too much of a routine, I find it easier to miss a workout, and I don't get as much of an endorphin rush.

The only thing constant about my routines is that I'm constantly changing them!”

John Ward, M.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Urology

What’s your fitness routine? How do you keep yourself motivated? Visit our Facebook page and tell us. We’d love to hear from you!

Segments of this post were originally featured in MD Anderson’s internal blog, Faculty Voice.

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