President's Message

May 18, 2022

Rodney Erickson, MD

It is spring. The weather is warming up. Get outside. Exercise.

My granddaughter arrives like magic in the photo frame, her pictures and short videos come alive like the characters in a Harry Potter painting. And today Margo is “marching” to a song as only an adorable 15-month-old can. Of course, she’s MY granddaughter, which makes her the MOST adorable child and thank God she has her parents’ sense of rhythm, not her grandfather’s. She shows sheer joy with movement and exercise. And that’s our topic, exercise. It’s something we should all do and when we can do it regularly, it is something we enjoy doing. Maybe not as much as Margo, but we still like the surge of endorphins.

This is to be a “news” letter, so the news is from a medical headline this month: “Researchers define the ideal amount of exercise for optimal health”. This or similar headlines appear in the medical news almost monthly. Scientists have been defining the optimal amount of exercise to stay healthy since there have been scientists. For the past 40 years it has been 20 to 90 minutes a day for 3 to 7 days a week of light, moderate, or intense exercise doing something specific or doing cross training. * These guidelines vary depending on who did the study and who they studied. This much I’ve discovered: some is better than none, more is better than less (unless one does too much over too short of time-then depending on how you define “too much” and “time” bad things can happen), and regular exercise is better than-I don’t know-irregular exercise (?). Perhaps the best recommendation on exercise comes from the late Dr. George Sheehan, a running advocate, when asked “What is the best exercise?”, he commented, “the one that you’ll do”.

Personally, I like exercise because it allows me to eat more. But it also gets me outside and often into nature. Over the past three years I’ve had very little time to cross country ski, something I really enjoy. In February I was delighted to have time skiing with family. After a couple days my wobbly legs were becoming stable, my balance on hills was returning and by day three I was keeping up to my much younger daughter-in-law. Some would point out she was very pregnant at the time, but hey, she also had the advantage of an expanded intravascular volume, whereas I only had an expanded volume. It was my first ski with yet-to-be-born Rosalie. While she will not remember, it’s possible by the time she does remember our outings, I may not remember; take the opportunities when they arise.

Joe DiMaggio said the legs go first. I’m not so sure, I think it’s the VO2Max. It takes longer to get in shape, more work to stay in shape, and less time to decondition. And in the process, everything hurts. But eventually it lets us do things we otherwise could not, like hike or bike with family and friends, walk the dog, garden, or bring the phone out to our spouse doing the yard work.

Aside from a shameless opportunity to plug my grandchildren, I bring up exercise because it is good. Exercise helps prevent bad stuff and because most of my newsletters focus on bad stuff, I wanted to be positive. We are after all in the Age of Epidemics. The opioid epidemic, the obesity epidemic, our growing mental health crisis, and the emerging trauma epidemic. Exercise has been used to help people overcome addiction, combat obesity, and is a great adjunct to improving mental health. It does take support, encouragement, and at times specific recommendations from one’s family physician to get patients started so be ready. Trauma? Firearms: Sports or time in nature may redirect some would-be shooters. MVA’s: Feeling better physically may reduce road rage and riding bike improves fitness. Falls in the elderly: Exercise improves balance, strength, and bone strength in our aging population, reducing fall and lessening the injuries. And maybe we can respond faster to emergencies if we are more fit.

If you regularly tell your patients to exercise, great. Keep it up. If you don’t, please start. There are many sources that provide recommendations. For some the opportunities are readily available (i.e., Ozaukee County, healthiest county, highest per capita income, 94% white) for others, finding a safe place or obtaining facilities is more a challenge (i.e., Menominee County, least healthy county, lowest per capita income, 11% white). Be prepared to think creatively.


Take care of yourself. Have an exercise routine. Get outside when you can. As for me, I’m going back to check for incoming pictures of two little girls. Then maybe I’ll kayak.

ACSM and CDC current recommendations state that:
All healthy adults aged 18–65 yr should participate in moderate intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 30 min on five days per week, or vigorous intensity aerobic activity for a minimum of 20 min on three days per week.

Include 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise and muscle strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups.  

Nineteenth century lumberjacks burned up 7000-8000 calories doing their work. My heroes. This is exceeded by sled dogs who may require 15,000 calories a day during races.


- Rod

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