“Get off your buttocks”: the baby steps approach to role modelling in general practice

As GPs we really should be setting a good example to our patients regarding our health.  GPs know all too well what we should be doing – we preach it every day to our patients. We sometimes get frustrated when patients don’t follow our advice, perhaps not reflecting on whether we always take our own advice regarding our lifestyle choices.

Having said all that, I know as well as anyone that we are imperfect creatures. I’m not holding myself up as a poster child for good GP behaviour.  It would be hypocritical of me to preach to others about being hypocritical when preaching to patients about lifestyle modification.

Just like for our patients, contemplating adopting an “ideal for health” lifestyle (regarding exercise, diet, alcohol, sleep, stress etc.) may be overwhelming for some GPs and as a result, lathered with a plethora of excuses and tossed in the too hard basket.

But don’t despair… every little bit counts.  Baby steps.

If you are someone who is not following every preventative health recommendation and living a completely indulgent-free life, whether GP or non-GP, and wish to start with something relatively easy-to-do but with huge health benefits, read on…

But first, stand up.  Get off your buttocks and have a good stretch.

Done? Good.

No, don’t sit down again, stay standing while you watch this…

Of course, we’ve known that a sedentary lifestyle is bad for your health for decades but the thing that gets me going is the increasing body of evidence which suggests that the adverse health effects /risks of prolonged sitting are not ameliorated by daily exercise.

6.5 – 8 hrs a day of sitting will increase your risk of  things like heart disease, diabetes, obesity and even things like distal colon cancer (100% increased risk) even if you exercise before and after work every day.

I’m not suggesting we routinely conduct GP consultations standing up.  But I’m sure there are lots of opportunities during your day to spend more time on your feet and less time on your buttocks.   For the past six months or so I have been doing about half my computer work at home standing up and I feel so much better for it physically.  There are some great sit-stand workstations available – they adjust so that you can work at them either sitting or standing. My “standing” set up home at home is much more crude – an external screen and keyboard on top of my  3 drawer filing cabinet, raised with old phone books!  Works just fine, but is not the most professional look.

I’d love to hear from anyone who has adopted more standing / walking into their daily lives – how they’ve managed the process and whether they feel better for it. Please feel free to comment below.

And if you need some motivation…..

For people who sit most of the day, their risk of heart attack is about the same as smoking” ~ Martha Grogan, cardiologist, Mayo Clinic

Today, our bodies are breaking down from obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, depression, and the cascade of health ills and everyday malaise that come from what scientists have named sitting disease … Every two hours spent just sitting reduces blood flow and lowers blood sugar, increasing the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.”~ James A. Levine, MD, PhD

Prolonged sitting should be considered within occupational health and safety policies and practices just like other elements of posture.”~ British Journal of Sports Medicine

We’ve become so sedentary that 30 minutes a day at the gym may not counteract the detrimental effects of 8, 9 or 10 hours of sitting. ~ Genevieve Healy, PhD

OK, I’m off to get some sleep… I should have been in bed 2 hours ago. What was I saying about not always practising what I preach?  I have written this entire blog standing up, so it’s not all bad!

2 thoughts on ““Get off your buttocks”: the baby steps approach to role modelling in general practice

  1. Interesting food for though, Genevieve.
    I think that one of the great things about being a GP is that we are on our feet a lot more than an average office worker. Up and down from the chair at least once or twice every 15 minutes to escort one patient out and the next one in. Up again to examine the patient on the examination couch. Up again to fetch something from the procedure room or to do a U/A.
    Now if only they would stop filling the tea room with those oh-so-tempting biscuits…

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