A phrase I often use in the TIA clinic is ‘you’re getting an MOT of sorts’. What I mean by this is I’ll take a history, carry out an examination, check some bloods, do a few scans and get an ECG. It’s a pretty comprehensive assessment. People seem to like that turn of phrase – it’s familiar and it’s reassuring.
With this in mind I decided it was probably about time I carried out a similar type of MOT on myself. Like medicine you need to know what specialty to refer to. To my mind life MOTs fall into 6 main areas:
- legal (POA, wills etc)
I’d pretty much done the health MOT to death in recent years so figured I could skip that. Other areas are also in good shape so I turned my attention to fitness.
Since changing jobs a year or so ago I now get loads of fresh air and exercise thanks to all the walking I do in my commute. However my favourite thing to do is swimming. The problem is that my local pools are all quite far away and usually shut on weekends for lessons. So I joined a gym. Well, technically I joined a swimming pool I suppose.
Included in my gym membership was the opportunity to undergo a fitness MOT. Being in the proactive/worried well section of the population I signed up immediately. My first assessment was last week. As excited as I was to know what my VO2Max was (?!?) I just wanted to know I was generally in ok shape. Turns out I am. Hooray! However my celebratory mood was cut short when the assessor said ‘aye but you doctors never stick at it’ This mildly irritated me although I wasn’t entirely sure why. My response at the time was to point out that the gym is intensely boring and I’ve no idea why anyone would want to ‘stick at that either’. I felt I had the moral high ground with that…
For me exercise has never been about the fitness side of things – I use it as stress relief and relaxation. If I get fit, so to speak, it’s purely by accident. I know many medics who view exercise as something else to be wildly competitive at. There are others who periodically train for something e.g. a triathlon or 10K and then not go back to it. For the rest it’s simply that they do not have the time or the energy to do anything other than pour a glass of wine or flop into bed. I would argue that it’s this type of fatigue that can lead to feelings of guilt which in turn can make stress levels worse.
One thing I would like to do is suggest medical staff wear pedometers. To start with I think it would surprise many to see just how far they walk in a day. During an average on call I can walk 4 – 5 miles yet somehow it’s not perceived as exercise. My legs would argue otherwise!
So while I entirely support initiatives to improve the health of NHS workers I do think we need to better recognise covert exercise. The type that many do everyday but don’t realise. With this in mind I’m going to get my colleagues some pedometers to see who is the most traveled within the realms of FVRH. I suspect the notion that we doctors don’t stick to any kind of exercise program is a misnomer. It’s just our gyms are the corridors of the hospital…