Friday, July 26, 2013

Medical Innovation: Mayo Physicians Walk the Talk of Walking
Walk the talk.
Aphorism meaning practicing what you preach

We doctors often preach the virtues of walking as the best form of exercise.  Walking is easy on the joints.  It’s natural. It costs nothing. Anybody can do it. You don't have to sweat.
Finding time to walk  is the problem.  You may be glued to your desk job.  You may need to spend hours in front of a computer or making phone calls or typing memos or e-mails.
But move you must to stay fit.  Move you must to improve your health if you have heart disease, diabetes, or if you are obese.  It’s best thing you can do for yourself.  You’ve got two feet.  Move them.
So we doctors say.  Mayo Clinic physicians are walking the walk talk.  “All businesses with sedentary works should allow employees to use treadmill desks”, says former Mayo CEO, James Levine, MD.    Levine  uses, designs, and promotes treadmill desks. Wherever he works – at Scottsdale or Rochester-  he strolls on his treadmill desk at 1 MPH.  So do Mayo cardiologists and radiologists.  Another Mayo physician, Denise Dupras, an internist, walks at her treadmill desk while dictating, typing, or talking on the phone.  Former Mayo CEO, now Director of Healthcare Delivery and Policy at Arizona State University,  has been hard at work at his desk treadmill for over a decade.  He walks and works at 1.7 MPH. He points out you can buy a desk treadmill at Target for $799.
The desk treadmill is not without critics.  Some say it may have legal  liabilities – falling off  or having a heart attack while treading.  When Jeff Fidler, MD, Levine and others wrote an article the Jounral of American Radiology in 2008, claiming that radiologists have a 10% better detection rate in spotting clinically significant  CT lesions,  one reader thought the article was “ a hoax,” put forth for comic reliefs.
But others have become believers.  When Cheryl Clark wrote in a July 25 Healthleaders Media piece, “Physicians on Treadmill Diagnose with Accuracy, Says Mayo Doctor,”  she went on built her own desktop treadmill, and typed the article while strolling.  She comments, “I’m walking as I type this column.  A few minutes in, there’s a rhythmic, almost hypnotic effect on ability to focus.”
My reaction to news of the desk treadmill innovation is “Why not?” It addresses a clinical  problem in a practical way.  A sedentary lifestyle is a significant impediment to good health.  
I’m reminded of a talk I once read by Alistaire Cooke (1908-2004), the famed English journalist who became an American citizen, when he was invited to address physicians at the Mayo Clinic.   

Here is what he told his august audience,

“How to explain the endurance, but cheerful survival of the British… I was bold enough to offer an answer.  Britain, I had noticed, maintain rights-of-way across fields and meadows and builds footpaths alongside highways, and uses the phase “Let's go for a walk” almost as an idiom. In American you cannot walk across fields except in pursuit of a ball with a liquid center, and there are no footpaths once the town ends.  The British walk, and cycle and walk, even in the rain. Let us face it, gentlemen, I said– “They function!”  Could it be, I wondered – like Harvey groping towards the theory of the circulation of the blood – could it be that lumps of cholesterol could be shaken loose from  the walls of the arteries by a lively bloodstream, as rocks and weeds are carried away by a river in flood?  Perhaps the secret of avoiding blood clots lay in the humble admonition of the London bobby” “Keep moving!”

Tweet:  At the Mayo Clinic, past and present physicians keep the blood moving and stay fit by walking and working at treadmill desks.