Dr. Elizabeth Benjevin is one of our physicians here at the UMass Memorial Weight Center. She shares how she keeps moving by enjoying exercising in the outdoors year round, how she overcame an injury, and stays active on busy days in the clinic.
What do you currently do for exercise?
Currently I like to mix it up when it comes to exercise. I enjoy exercising outdoors and being close to nature, so many of my activities revolve around that. On weekends and my days off I will often go hiking, kayaking or biking in the summer. During the winter that will switch to skiing – primarily downhill but also cross country as well as occasionally snowshoeing or winter hiking (I use yak trax when walking/hiking to avoid slipping when there’s slippery conditions on the trail.) I enjoy exercising in the cold. I realize a lot of people will often hibernate in the winter, but I’ve found that with good warm clothing and practice, one can enjoy exercising outdoors in the cold air. I often prefer it as I find the cold more invigorating. But I don’t like being cold so I have invested in some warm jackets, socks (woolen or polyester are much better than the usual cotton), hats, and mittens as well as the footwear. If I didn’t have these things, I’m sure I would be hibernating as well!
On days that I am working, I will try to get at least 6000-10,000 steps per day. I wear my Fitbit and will find excuses to get up and log some extra steps. It starts in the morning when I park my car in one of the furthest parking spots. If I have some free time I may walk around the medical school and hospital (outdoors if it’s nice, indoors if not.) If things are busy then I try to at least get a few steps just walking from my office to the Weight Center front desk – I will often bring charts back one at a time instead of all at once to get more steps as well as to get a break from sitting. After work, I will often walk with my husband around the neighborhood.
What has been your biggest challenge with exercise in recent years?
One of my biggest challenges to exercise has been my knee problems. I had major knee surgery almost 10 years ago. That knee does have a tendency to act up from time to time. Often just pacing myself (going on shorter hikes, taking a break from getting my step goal for the day and babying it a little – but not too much because then it can stiffen up) will be all that is needed. About three years ago when it was not getting better by my usual routine, and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do my usual hiking and skiing, I finally bit the bullet and made an appointment with my orthopedist. He recommended physical therapy and what a game changer that was! With a lot of stretching, a little bit of strengthening exercises and attention to form, I was back hiking again and with much less discomfort than I previously had. (I had almost hung up my hiking boots so I was thrilled!)
Why is exercise important to you right now in your life?
Exercise is obviously a very important part of my life. I find that I feel not only physically better but also mentally more alert when I exercise. It can also be stress relieving (even more so when I can get out in nature) and I feel that it keeps me young. When I was a primary care physician and saw healthy 80 and 90 year olds in the office, the one thing they all had in common was that they stayed physically active. It also gives me pleasure – the accomplishment of hiking up a mountain or successfully tackling a black diamond ski trail cannot be beat!
Thank you Dr. Benjevin!
Keep moving, Be Well,