Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your physical activity? – Healio

January 14, 2022

3 min read

Disclosures: Mazzotta and Sheppard report no relevant financial disclosures.

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A fruitful time

Initially, the containment measures introduced at the onset of the pandemic drastically reduced my physical activity practice.

Cosimo Mazzotta, MD, PhD
Cosimo Mazzotta

I used to attend a fitness club that was closed due to the first nationwide lockdown. However, because most of our professional activities were put on hold, I started getting organized for exercising at home. I subscribed to online CrossFit workshops and coaching programs and purchased some fitness equipment on Amazon, including an indoor rower, barbells and dumbbells. I also adopted a nutrition plan based on my fitness program, and the combination of aerobic exercise and high-intensity interval training maximized the afterburn effect. As a result of working out 40 minutes a day, I lost 27 kilos in 12 months, and my muscle mass increased significantly. Determination, perseverance and more time for myself turned the lockdown into a fruitful time.

Now I am back to a hectic schedule at work and more social interactions, which make it difficult to stick with the previous fitness program and regular eating schedule. However, my mindset has changed, and sport has become an essential part of my lifestyle. Before the pandemic, I had a sedentary lifestyle in the office and at home. I was often eating out with friends in the evening, leading to caloric overload and the slowing down of metabolism. I am now more aware because I have direct experience of the multiple benefits of a healthy lifestyle. My workout schedule is no longer daily — it is rather every other day — but I keep it regular, and I am determined not to lose the healthy habits I have acquired.

Cosimo Mazzotta, MD, PhD, is from Alta Val d’Elsa Hospital and Siena Crosslinking Center in Siena, Italy.


A temporary stop, followed by a restart

Disability is far more likely to occur than death during an ophthalmologist’s career. One in four workers will become disabled, and one in eight will experience a long-term disability.

John D. Sheppard, MD, MMSc
John D. Sheppard

Prolonged slit lamp and operating microscope use frequently leads to cervical and lumbar spine inflammation, compartment syndrome and carpal tunnel syndrome, which in turn inhibit vigorous physical activity. Ophthalmologist self-reported back pain incidence is 76% in India, 65% in Iran, 52% in northeastern United States and 54% in the United Kingdom, with the longest-serving consultants having the highest incidence. Thus, proactive postural awareness, physical therapy and exercise measures should improve quality of life and extend careers for every eye surgeon — clearly essential as the number of ophthalmologists worldwide is continuously declining relative to burgeoning population growth.

Major disruptions thrust upon the international community by COVID-19 included drastic clinic volume cuts, elective surgery in particular. Two divergent physician lifestyle outcomes emerged: More relaxed providers recovering from the unique physical stresses of our profession engaged in much needed healthy behaviors remediation, or on the other hand, lockdown constraints prohibited usually convenient access to physical fitness facilities and abetted excessive dietary indulgences. Unfortunately, despite a keen professional interest in preventive medicine, my workout schedule became irregular, and my personal caloric indulgence increased with inversely proportional caloric dissipation.

Ironically, our return to full clinic hours later in the fall of 2020 resurrected a customary daily routine including regular exercise and mealtimes. Our patients eventually rescheduled, encouraged by adequate PPE and approaching normalcy, many sadly delayed for chronic conditions such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, corneal neovascularization, herpetic keratitis or ocular surface disease. With vaccine distribution, our seniors and nursing home patients returned as well. Clinic and personal life still remain far from the forgotten abundance of 2019, but my own BMI, waistline and resting pulse are happily drifting downward once again, alongside my patients’ IOP, glare and osmolarity.

John D. Sheppard, MD, MMSc, is from Virginia Eye Consultants in Norfolk, Virginia.