5 Tips for Staying Healthy During Your Medical Residency
When working up to 80-hour weeks in residency, it’s easy to put personal fitness on the back burner. As a result, many young physicians find themselves putting on unwanted pounds and getting into some unhealthy habits that can affect their overall wellness. In order to prevent this problem from affecting you, here are some tips for staying healthy and fit while practicing in your residency program.
Top 5 Health Tips for Medical Residents
1. Bring your lunch
When you’re constantly on the move at work and a fellow physician suggests grabbing a quick bite, that opportunity may sound too good to pass up. Unfortunately, that is usually not a healthy decision to make, especially if your only options are fast food.
Instead, pack your own food—concentrating on lean meats or other proteins, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables—so you can ensure that you eat the healthiest options possible. A balanced diet is imperative when trying to maintain sufficient energy and a healthy weight.
Although you may feel deprived when your co-workers are eating pizza in the middle of the night, you will feel vindicated at the end of your training when you have managed to keep off that extra weight.
2. Avoid the vending machine
One of the worst habits to pick up while on the job is visiting the vending machine. Though some hospitals have managed to add a few healthy options, most of what you’ll find inside will be high in calories and fat—two things that can equate to poor nutrition.
Because you will need a snack or two during your long shifts, it’s best to bring some healthy options to have on hand. Things like almonds, strawberries, apples, celery, and other assorted fruits and vegetables are excellent alternatives to chips, candy bars, or other fatty snacks one might find in the vending machine. A nutrient-rich protein shake that is low in sugar is another good choice.
Keeping healthy food options within reach is the best way to avoid being tempted by other choices that can contribute to a poor diet.
3. Take the stairs.
Taking the stairs instead of the elevator is an excellent way to keep your body constantly in motion while exerting some physical activity. It seems trivial, but this small activity can contribute tremendously to your body’s overall health. Stair climbing for 10 minutes, three times a day, can establish your 30-minute workout recommended for each day.
Finding any unique way to squeeze in some additional walking or other physical activity throughout your busy shifts will add to your healthy living efforts.
4. Set aside at least 30 minutes each day for exercise
Even though it can be tempting to forego exercise given the busy schedule residents have each day, it is important to make time for as much physical activity as possible. Fitness experts recommend engaging in aerobic exercise balanced with low-to-moderate-level weight training a few days a week.
Take advantage of the days you have off, as well as any day you have the chance to leave early, and utilize that time to squeeze some exercise into your schedule. Find a workout partner, use your smartwatch fitness tracker, or do whatever it takes to help motivate you. You can also choose some fun sports to break up the routine.
Physicians who exercise regularly are less likely to miss work due to illness and will have reduced levels of stress.
5. Sleep as much as you can.
Getting enough sleep is of paramount importance as a physician in residency, and the National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours per day for healthy adults. Is that challenging with a resident’s schedule? Absolutely. But adequate sleep is vital to ensure that you are at your best, both mentally and physically, and your patients are depending on you to be well-rested in order to provide the best care.
Try to get on a regular sleep schedule, as much as possible, and ensure your home environment is conducive to letting you sleep without interruptions. Then supplement with naps. Whether it’s in a car or on a chair in the break room, take a nap anytime you can.
Also, if you have difficulty getting to sleep once you get home, avoid heavy caffeine intake, especially during the last few hours of your shift.
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