The crisp autumn air stings my cheeks as I begrudgingly lace up my Nikes. One foot in front of the other, I sluggishly start my morning jog. With my irregular breathing and burning lungs, I was completely convinced that I had suddenly developed exercise induced asthma or caused a pneumothorax. Still exhausted emotionally and physically from yesterday’s train wreck medical Monday shift, I struggled to plod along the dirt path. I had greeted the morning with a difficult airway, transitioned into lunch filled with sepsis and missed weekend dialysis appointments, and ended with my tiny 5 ft self attempting to dart spit balls and flying fists from an acutely psychotic 300 lb man. Pushing past the initial soreness, I slowly found my stride. My mind cleared, my body no longer tired, my soul newly calmed. The only thought floating through my mind was to breathe as I put one foot in front of another. With each step I felt rejuvenated.
Run for your Heart
According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, causing about 1 in every 4 female deaths. Some key risk factors are high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, obesity, poor diet, and physical inactivity. A study done by the American College of Cardiology suggested that running for even a few minutes a day can reduce your risk of dying from heart disease- whether you plod along or go at a race speed. The study showed that the speed and frequency did not matter much, but it was consistency that was key. This is key especially in our profession as time seems to be the strongest barrier to participate in physical activity. Compared to non-runners, those who ran had a 30% lower risk of death from all causes, and 45% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease. This activity lowers blood pressure and decreases the production of glucose. Running also protects the arteries, keeping the walls and cells intact; thus decreasing the risk of blockages and clots that could potentially cause strokes and heart attacks.
Run for your Mind
Many are aware of the physical benefits of running, however it has also been studied extensively in conjunction with mental health outcomes. In a study published in Psychosomatic Medicine in 2007, it has been shown to be comparable to taking antidepressants for patients with major depressive disorder. Research has shown that running increases serotonin and norepinephrine, the same chemicals that moderate the brain’s response to stress. As we age, our brains aren’t as quick. Exercise, especially between the age 25 and 45, boosts chemicals in the brain that prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, an important area for memory and learning. It also increases levels of brain derived protein, helping with decision making and higher thinking. Research done by the Anxiety Research and Treatment Program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas showed that it was a good tool for treating anxiety. When you run, you have physical reactions similar to anxiety, such as heavy perspiration and increased heart rate. They tested their theory of regular aerobic workouts among volunteers with heightened sensitivity to anxiety. Subjects showed significant improvement in anxiety sensitivity as exercise functioned similarly to exposure treatment.
Run for your Life
In a recent 2016 survey, over 15,800 physicians were polled on bias and burnout. Out of 25 specialties polled, emergency medicine comes in third for being the most burned out and the most overweight. When polled to see which specialty is the happiest, ER comes in 20 th out of 25. Women physicians reported a burnout rate at 55% vs their male counterparts at 46%. The most active physicians are dermatologist and opthamologists, coincidentally those are also the happiest at work. Now more than ever, it is imperative to take back control. Just like anything in medicine, we should focus on being proactive instead of reactive in the issue of physician wellness. The sun peaked through the trees, illuminating the rich colors of fall in Philadelphia. Without even realizing it, one foot in front of another had taken me 5 miles down the running trail. I felt awake, ready, and inspired for another exciting day at Albert Einstein Medical Center. With physician burn out at an all-time high, it is crucial to stay healthy both mentally and physically. To have longevity in a stress filled environment like the emergency department, you must remember that it is a marathon, not a sprint. Make it a point to care for yourself so you can in turn care for others. Give running a shot.
Run for your Heart, Run for your Mind, Run for your Life.