March 2019

Career Support

5 Tips on How to Get Fit and Stay Fit During Residency


Donald Kasitinon, MD

PGY-3, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
Academic Chief Resident, UT Southwestern Medical Center
Vice President, AAPM&R Physiatrist in Training (PHiT) Council

Residency can be busy, but making time for your own personal health is essential. Building good fitness habits early on in your career can set you up for a lifetime of fun and fitness. Below are 5 quick tips on how to get fit and stay fit during residency:

1. Pack your own meals and snacks.

There are a lot of diets out there, including intermittent fasting and the keto diet, but the most important thing is to eat according to your physical activity level and weight goals (e.g.: If you would like to lose weight, calories taken in must be less than calories expended.). Eating schedules in the hospital and clinic can be variable, making it difficult to control when and what you eat during the week. Additionally, after a long, stressful day, sometimes a bag of Doritos or a chocolate chip cookie is all you want. One of the best ways to combat this is to pack your own meals and snacks. Doing this, along with drinking water instead of soda or juice, are simple ways to control your calorie intake and save money.

2. Find physical activities you enjoy.

There are a multitude of options out there to help you stay active, ranging from traditional sports like soccer and tennis to long-distance running, weight-lifting, and yoga. There are also workout plans that have become popular over recent years such as CrossFit and Orange Theory Fitness. I personally enjoy going to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) classes and playing basketball. It does not matter what it is—just find activities that you enjoy. Incorporating simple exercises into your normal day can also be helpful. Some examples include taking the stairs while at the hospital and doing push-ups and sit-ups at home.

3. Exercise with others.

Camaraderie will keep you going. Having a fitness buddy or being part of a fitness community will push you on days that you don’t necessarily feel up for working out. Exercising can even serve as a social outlet. The key is to make sure you enjoy the exercise you are doing, and doing it with people you like will motivate you that much more to stick with it.

4. Set goals.

Like in all aspects of life, accountability is really important for achieving fitness goals. Set a goal, whether it be a weight loss goal or a physical ability goal such as how much you can squat or how fast you can run a mile, and track your progress. I personally use a weight-tracking app, which lets me know when I am slacking.

5. Make your health a priority.

There will always be obstacles keeping you from getting or staying fit, but remember that your health is important. No matter how busy you are or become, set aside some time (whether it be 15 minutes or an hour) to reward your body with the gift of fitness. Your back and joints will thank you later.

These tips will not make you a fitness model overnight, but they will give you the basic framework to starting/maintaining a healthy lifestyle. By following these general guidelines, I was able to lose ~20 pounds during residency. I definitely don’t follow all of these rules to a T, but the most important point is to have something that works and is sustainable for YOU. Good luck on your fitness journey!