Authored by IHRSA
“I don’t have enough time” is probably the most common excuse for not exercising, which is one of the reasons why the 7 Minute Workout has become a fitness sensation for individuals healthy enough to participate.
According to the NY Times, the 7 Minute Workout “fulfills the latest mandates for high-intensity effort, which essentially combines a long run and a visit to the weight room into about seven minutes of steady discomfort — all of it based on science.”
And since the 7 Minute Workout requires nothing more than a wall and chair to complete, it goes a long way toward eliminating barriers to exercise on those days when a trip to the gym or local bike trail are out of the question.
I’m wondering if the concept of the 7 Minute Workout – condensing the elements of a program to maximize efficiency for time strapped individuals – could be applied in the primary care setting.
How about a 30-Second Annual Checkup?
Just the following two questions…
- In the last 7 days, on how many did you do moderate to strenuous exercise, like taking a brisk walk?
- On the days that you engaged in moderate to strenuous exercise, how many minutes, on average, did you exercise at this level? (Based on the “exercise vital signs” developed by Kaiser-Permanente.)
…and an appropriate exercise prescription.
Now, let me be clear. I am not a doctor and I am totally unqualified to be discussing medical protocol. But given a situation where a physician has a very limited window of time to gather information and provide feedback to a patient, is it unreasonable to think that physical activity should be the first topic of discussion?
Consider the list of health benefits associated with regular physical activity:
- Lower risk of early death
- Lower risk of coronary heart disease
- Lower risk of stroke
- Lower risk of high blood pressure
- Lower risk of adverse blood lipid profile
- Lower risk of type 2 diabetes
- Lower risk of metabolic syndrome
- Lower risk of colon cancer
- Lower risk of breast cancer
- Prevention of weight gain
- Weight loss, particularly when combined with reduced calorie intake
- Improved cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness
- Prevention of falls
- Reduced depression
- Better cognitive function (for older adults)
The list covers nearly every condition that might be addressed during a standard checkup. I understand, of course, that a checkup or wellness visit must be longer than 30 seconds and much more comprehensive than just two questions about fitness. But, here’s what I don’t understand: Given all we know about the benefits of physical activity, given the overwhelming time restraints that require overworked physicians to maximize a very brief time with their patients, and given that the topic of physical activity can be covered in just 30 seconds during a checkup, why do so many checkups not include any physical activity questions at all?
What do you think? Why don’t more doctors talk about physical activity?