It's been too long since I've written a blog post and I thought I would write one on everyone's favorite topic....exercise!! Okay, maybe not everyone's favorite, but it's one of mine and a really good aspect when it comes to maintaining the health of the body, especially for dental peeps. But, not all exercise is equal and there are some specific types of exercise that are really beneficial for those in dentistry, namely, aerobic exercise and muscular endurance training. Let's talk about why.
For those of us in dentistry, we know the fatigue and pain that can set in after a long day (or even before the day is done)! We are likely holding awkward, static postures, performing repetitive motions, bending, twisting, reaching... all with little time to rest and recover. While we may think this is because we just need to get stronger, this isn't the case for most of us. Studies have shown we typically do not lack in strength, but instead, we lack in muscular endurance. Endurance is the ability of the muscle to hold a contraction or repeat a task over an extended period of time (sounds like what we need, right)? What most dental peeps need is muscular endurance strength training, especially in the deep postural muscles in the back and the shoulder girdle.
I am not a personal trainer so I am not going to advise on a muscular endurance program. But it would be wise to consult with a trainer to work on strength training the stabilizer muscles (such as along the spinal column or in the shoulder girdle). Improving the strength and endurance of these muscles will help us maintain proper posture and stabilize the trunk when working on patients.
Another aspect to exercise is aerobic exercise which is maintaining an elevated heart rate over an extended period. This allows for plenty of oxygen-rich blood to circulate into the muscles, healing microtrauma that occurs when we are practicing dentistry. This has been shown to alleviate pain and reduce the risk of injury among those of us in dentistry. More benefits to aerobic exercise are increased cognition, elevated mood, increased longevity, and better sleep.
Since dental practitioners are prone to muscle imbalances, it is wise to incorporate symmetrical aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking while swinging the arms, using the elliptical or rowing machine, and cross-country skiing.
For us in dentistry, we know we are in a physically demanding career that, if we aren't mindful and proactive with our bodies, can be cut short due to disability. Utilizing the proper exercise can help us get and stay healthy so we can enjoy a long, healthy career while enjoying our lives without pain!