“Burnout”, first termed in 1975, has been described as prolonged exposure to occupational pressure including emotional and interpersonal stressors. (Maslach 2003) It has been defined as consisting of three central components: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and lack of personal accomplishment. (Maslach 2001) While this clearly involves many occupations and all walks of life, this phenomenon is a large problem among health care providers. Not only is there a personal cost but there is an impact on the health care system and individual patients as well.
There is a multitude of evidence of the positive impact of our mental health associated with regular exercise. Clearly, physical activity improves our cognition, decreases depression and improves our mood. The same intensity that improves our cardiorespiratory system will positively affect our well-being. Interestingly, there has been less inquiry about the affect of exercise and the specific problem of burnout.
A recent study by Bretland and Thorsteinsson specifically looked at the benefits of cardiovascular and resistance exercise in reducing workplace burnout. In their small study, they showed both cardiovascular and resistance exercise increased well-being and reduced perceived stress. Importantly, more than one type of exercise program was helpful.
This study, along with other works by Berger and Cox, illustrate the importance of exercise in improving our overall well being, which also benefits our patients. Be a good role model; encourage patients and colleagues to make physical activity a priority as well.
Bretland RJ and Thorsteinsson EB. Reducing workplace burnout: the relative benefits of cardiovascular and resistance exercises. Peer J 2015.