Staying Fit on the wards!

By Jocelyn Compton

It’s January, and 2014 is here with all its resolved glory! It can be particularly tough to keep your personal health in mind as a third year medical student, and after a sixteen-hour day, spending a half hour working out seems unreasonable amidst patient notes, studying, and prepping.

I’d like to offer a few quick ideas for what you can do during the long days on the wards to keep you healthy and strong.

  1. Staying fit on the wards!The best thing you can do is take the stairs. Whether it’s one floor or ten, taking the stairs up AND down at every opportunity is a great way to burn a few extra calories. Hospital elevators are slow, and you can bet your residents won’t be talking about patients while riding to the next floor. Make an effort to take the stairs two at a time to get a little extra boost. If you get caught taking the elevator, do a wall sit. For this, put your back against the elevator wall and slide down until your knees and hips are both at 90° angles. Hold until you get to your floor, or until the burn is too much to take.
  2. Next, while you’re rounding and on your feet, do a few sets of calf and toe raises. Get up on your toes and hold for 10-30 seconds and repeat. Squeeze all the muscles in your legs from gluts to quads to calves. Tighten up your abs as well for bonus points. If you go slowly enough, you’ll not only optimize your isometric workout, you’ll do so completely surreptitiously. Same goes for toe raises. Lean back on your heels, raise your toes to the sky, and hold.
  3. Don’t let a day spent sitting around a table keep you from fitting in a little workout. Put your hands flat on top of the table and push downward. Hold this position for 30 seconds, and be sure your abs are tight throughout. Now, do just the opposite – place your hands on the underside of the table and apply pressure upwards. Be careful not to move the table. You can also straighten your legs under the table and squeeze every muscle – quads to gastrocs to toes – and hold tight. After these isometric moves, try a few oblique reps by holding a book or water bottle at your side and lean only from the waist. Keep your abs tight the whole time.

The wards are a tough time to take care of yourself. Be creative and seize every opportunity! For example, lift all your pediatric patients on and off the exam table to get some squat reps done. Post-call days are a great time to energize with a quick trip to the gym. In addition to the above exercises, try to balance sleep and healthy eating habits.

Check out this TED talk about exercising and all its benefits called 23 ½ hours that really emphasizes the importance of exercise.

And this article in Today about physical activity on a minute-to-minute basis.


Got some ideas for staying fit on the wards? Share them below.


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