For Your Health
For Your Health

News from the University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences

From the Dean: Exercise is medicine

By virtue of my administrative and academic positions at UND and at your School of Medicine and Health Sciences, along with my clinical role as a cardiologist, I have the opportunity to talk with a wide spectrum of individuals, including potential and current students, residents-in-training, physicians and other health professionals engaged in clinical practice, researchers, alumni, citizens, and legislators. We discuss a wide variety of topics, but certain common themes – both good and not so good – have emerged from these discussions in the recent past. At the top of the list of good themes is the passion that many express for UND. As I mentioned in my column from a few weeks ago, in January I attended the winter meeting of the UND Alumni Association and Foundation Board of Directors (I, along with several other UND vice presidents and President Armacost, am an ex officio member of the board). What struck me at the meeting was the extremely high level of enthusiasm, support, and energy that the various participants exhibited. An important ingredient in this remarkable level of energy on behalf of UND has been the extraordinary work of President Andy Armacost to connect with the extended UND community and involve everyone in the community effort that is UND. Many of you remember that not long ago the vibes at UND were less positive. What a difference a few years can make!

Other themes that emerge from my conversations are the increasing importance that many of us (especially our younger colleagues) attach to achieving proper work-life balance (as I’ve been discussing recently), as well as an increasing focus on wellness. But I also hear about burnout (especially from clinicians), increased stress levels, loneliness, and an increasing sense of social isolation, especially given the huge increase in virtual interactions we’ve all experienced since the pandemic. In fact, just earlier this week I was invited by the American Medical Association (AMA) to participate in a survey to evaluate the degree of isolation and loneliness experienced by older physicians. The email from the AMA that invited me and other physicians over the age of 65 years to participate in the study stated the following: “Social isolation and loneliness are common among Americans in this age group and have increased in recent years (emphasis added). Physicians in the U.S. have also been exposed to factors that contribute to increased stress, burnout, and depression. The AMA aims to understand experiences of loneliness among late-career physicians to help better support them in their professional and personal lives.”

I completed the survey and submitted it, although I have to share with you that I don’t feel especially isolated or lonely. There likely are a variety of reasons for that – Susan, the grandkids, enjoyment of my work. And I also think that part of it is my exercise routine. Susan and I work out (with weight training) three times a week and play tennis another three times a week. Whatever the physiologic explanation – endorphins or blood flow to my brain or who knows what? – I truly believe that exercise makes a positive difference in my life. Let me be clear – my outlook about exercise is much more positive after I finish my exercise for the day compared to when I’m just starting to exercise! There is a glut of science supporting the value of exercise, so here is my generic prescription for both better physical but also mental and emotional health – find an exercise regimen that works for you and do it conscientiously and periodically throughout the week. As we age, we all get deconditioned more quickly, so exercising on a predictable and recurrent basis is important. It has made a difference for me, so if you are not exercising on a routine basis, please give it a try – I think you’ll feel better for it!

Joshua Wynne, MD, MBA, MPH
Vice President for Health Affairs, UND
Dean, UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences