Why Doctors Unintentionally Give Bad Exercise Advice
Recently, my client Rose reminded me about a conversation she had with her doctor about 15 years ago. Back then, she regularly experienced knee pain, and her doctor told her she’d need a knee replacement soon. And she was advised to avoid doing squats to prolong her knee health.
Rose started personal training soon after that conversation with her doctor.
Flash forward to today, and Rose hasn’t needed a knee replacement, rarely experiences knee discomfort, and does squats regularly to help keep her knees strong.
Why was Rose’s doctor so far off?
Doctors are our trusted allies in the pursuit of good health. When it comes to medical issues, we rely on their expertise, guidance, and recommendations. However, there's an interesting phenomenon that often goes unnoticed: many doctors unintentionally give bad exercise advice. It's not because they want to lead us astray, but there are several factors at play. Let's delve into this topic and understand why this happens.
The Limited Curriculum
First and foremost, it's essential to acknowledge that doctors receive extensive training in medical school, but their education about exercise and fitness is often limited. The majority of their coursework focuses on diagnosing and treating diseases and illnesses. While they become experts in their respective fields, they might not receive comprehensive training in exercise science and physiology.
Doctors are incredibly busy individuals. They often have a tight schedule, with back-to-back appointments and paperwork to manage. In the limited time they have with patients, they must prioritize addressing immediate health concerns. Unfortunately, this leaves little room for discussing exercise in detail.
Due to time constraints and the vast array of health issues they encounter, doctors might resort to a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to exercise recommendations. They might suggest a standard "30 minutes of moderate exercise a day" without delving into the patient's specific needs, goals, or limitations.
Lack of Updated Knowledge
Medical knowledge evolves constantly, including our understanding of exercise science and its impact on health. Doctors may not always have the latest information at their fingertips, especially if they're not actively staying up to date with exercise research. This can lead to outdated exercise advice that might not align with current best practices.
Different Specialties, Different Expertise
Within the medical profession, there are various specialties – from cardiologists to dermatologists to pediatricians. Each specialty has its unique focus, and not all doctors are experts in exercise physiology. For example, a cardiologist might have limited knowledge about strength training techniques, while a sports medicine specialist might be well-versed in exercise prescriptions.
Overlooking Individual Differences
Humans are wonderfully diverse. We come in different shapes, sizes, ages, and fitness levels. What works for one person might not work for another. Doctors, who often deal with a broad range of patients, may unintentionally overlook these individual differences when giving exercise advice.
The Importance of Collaboration
Now that we've explored some reasons why doctors might unintentionally give less-than-ideal exercise advice, it's crucial to highlight that this doesn't mean you should disregard their recommendations. Doctors play a vital role in your overall health, and their advice is valuable.
However, it's equally essential to recognize the limitations and consider a collaborative approach to your well-being. Here's how:
Seek Out Specialists: If you have specific fitness goals or health concerns that require tailored exercise guidance, consider consulting a certified fitness professional or a physical therapist. These experts can create personalized exercise plans that align with your needs.
Communication Is Key: When discussing exercise with your doctor, be sure to provide detailed information about your goals, limitations, and any existing health conditions. The more they know, the better they can tailor their advice.
Stay Informed: Take the initiative to educate yourself about exercise and its impact on health. This doesn't mean you need to become an exercise scientist, but having a basic understanding can help you make informed decisions.
Advocate for Yourself: Don't hesitate to ask questions and seek clarification if you receive exercise advice that doesn't align with your goals or feels inappropriate. Your health is a partnership between you and your healthcare team.
While doctors may unintentionally give bad exercise advice due to various factors, they remain essential guides in your health journey. By recognizing their limitations, seeking specialized guidance when needed, and actively participating in your own health decisions, you can find a balanced approach to exercise that works for you. Remember, your well-being is a collaborative effort, and you have the power to advocate for the best possible care.