I just started a new job on faculty at the University of Florida and I was sitting in my office early one morning last week when I noticed a patient walking past my door ( the IV pole in his hand was a pretty sure giveaway). I looked up to notice that he was markedly diaphoretic (“doctor-talk” for sweaty). On top of that, he was breathing pretty heavily. Now, usually when I see patients that are diaphoretic or out of breath, those are bad signs. I start thinking about serious conditions, pneumonia, heart attack, and so on. So what was going on with this guy?
Turns out, he was exercising. He was in the hospital for observation of a condition that was not life-threatening and was not keeping him from being active, so he decided to take his IV pole for some brisk walking.
“How far do you go?” I asked.
“About 30 or 40 minutes, usually about a dozen laps through the hospital.”
He is not the only example of exercise at work/in the hospital that I see. Every day, usually at lunchtime, many people are walking laps through one of the tunnels we have that connects our different hospital buildings. The tunnel extends about a tenth of a mile, so 10 or 20 laps can get you a good low-impact workout during your lunchbreak. Someone also posted a cute sign on the exterior door to the stairs:
“Free fitness program inside”
Of course, the unfortunate thing is that the number of people taking the stairs or walking the tunnel is but a fraction of the employees here. Obviously many get exercise in other ways (I see several coworkers at the gym before work), but I see little reason to take the elevator unless you are moving a patient or transporting something heavy or cumbersome. While few people in the hospital are well enough to exercise, being up and out of bed can protect against muscle atrophy from lack of use. That said, I can count on one hand how many times I have seen patients insistent on working up a sweat while trapped in the hospital.