Exercise to Prevent Surgeon Burnout

Every doctor will tell you that regular exercise is good for your physical and mental health. But doctors are often blind to their own advice. I know many surgeons who, for one reason or another, do not work out on a regular basis (Psst…I used to be one of them). Often it’s long hours that lead to exhaustion after work. It’s easy to forego a workout because of a long shift, but putting exercise on the back burner can increase your stress levels and make you more susceptible to burnout. In this article, we are going to talk about how exercise can help ward off surgeon burnout. We’ll also offer some easy exercises you can do at work or home.

How Exercise Helps to Fight Burnout

Having a structured exercise routine can do wonders for your physical health, as well as your mental health. Regular exercise decreases your stress level, and improves your mental faculties. Exercising on a regular basis may not completely eradicate burnout, but it is an essential element of your overall health and wellness. And feeling healthy is a great way to help prevent burnout.

Easy Exercises to Do at Home or Work

OK so exercise is good for your health, but how can a busy surgeon working 80 hour weeks find the time to work out? Even if you can’t carve out time to visit the gym a few times a week, there are exercises you can do at work or home. Here are a few:

  • Sitting Core Strengthening. Many surgeons are on the go for most of the day, walking around getting everything done. This, in itself, is good exercise. But there is also a lot of clerical and bureaucratic work that goes along with being a doctor. When you’re stuck at a desk (or if you operate sitting down) consider a brief warm up exercise for the core. Press your knees together, squeeze your buttocks, sit tall, pull your belly button toward your back, and hold while breathing smoothly and relaxing your neck and shoulders for 10-15 seconds. Relax and repeat.
  • Take Mini-Breaks. Remember to take mini frequent breaks throughout the day. If you have long surgeries standing, find a couple times to step away from the OR table to move your feet and legs. Between cases   take a quick walk. These short stints of exercise add up.
  • Stretches. If you are confined to a desk or even standing at a certain spot for long periods of time during the day, there are numerous stretches that you can do while stationary. While seated, rotate as far to the left as you can and hold for several seconds, then repeat this to the right. You can grab the backrest with your hand or hands for extra support.

The 8 PRACTICEs of Highly Successful Surgeons

After struggling with burnout without even knowing it for years, I went to work developing a methodology to increase my satisfaction and to create a lifestyle-friendly practice. The 8 PRACTICEs of Highly Successful Surgeons approaches burnout strategically and can help surgeons in any specialty, and even those not experiencing burnout. Regular exercise is just one factor to manage stress and create sustainability. This methodology is flexible and can be effectively applied to any surgeon’s situation. Drop me a line today to learn more about the 8 PRACTICEs and how this methodology can help you achieve the work / life balance you desire.