Invest in Yourself Now. Save Money Later 

Today’s guest post is penned by colleagues who wear the white coat by day (and sometimes night) and athletic gear in their spare time. As an OB/Gyn resident and physician researcher, their spare time is limited, but Alex Robles, MD and Brittany Noel Robles, MD, MPH not only make time to stay in shape, but also to share their stories, tips, and tricks with the world via their website, The White Coat Trainer.

You can learn more about the duo here, and be sure to check out their blog and picture-laden tutorials. What do the good doctors have to say about fitness and money?


 

Being a physician and being wealthy isn’t as common as it used to be. The rising cost of tuition, increasing student loan burden, and improper financial planning are the major contributors to the decline in a physician’s net worth.

Thankfully, a number of physician bloggers have been providing a great deal of resources to help fellow doctors get their finances in order. These include: strategic use of different types of retirement accounts, living like a resident until your loans are paid off, and saving a large percentage of your salary as you grow into your income.

These methods are both simple and effective in dramatically increasing a physician’s net worth, helping to achieve financial independence.

While these strategies are important in improving your future financial health, there is one more factor that isn’t considered as often as it should be when it comes to saving more money.

Investing in yourself.

How Can Fitness Save You Money?

 

Time and time again, studies have shown that individuals who engage in physical activity have lower rates of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and depression.

These four medical conditions constitute an extremely large percentage of hospital admissions, as well as healthcare spending. The amount of people living with one or more of these four conditions exceeds 200 million!

In addition, did you know that medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy in the USA? And the majority of these people have insurance!

Unfortunately, medical school doesn’t teach us anything about financial planning, and it does very little to teach us about fitness.

You can do everything right with your finances, and have a large nest egg in your retirement portfolio, but nothing will prepare you for a catastrophic medical event that could have been prevented.

Invest in yourself just as much as you invest in your retirement.

Why not enjoy your retirement with a youthful body that can still participate in all kinds of activities?

 

White Coat Trainer

White Coat Trainers Training

How Fit Are You?

 

Many hospitals have begun to implement wellness initiatives for their employees, including blood pressure screenings, meditation sessions and even blood work testing.

When was the last time you had your hemoglobin A1c and lipids checked? What about your blood pressure? Is your waist circumference greater than 35 inches?

These are real medical conditions that can begin to manifest at the age of 25 and over, right around the time you begin residency training. Unfortunately, residency is the time when doctors tend to ignore their health the most, exacerbating the possibility of developing chronic metabolic conditions.

What about your genetics? Are they stacked against you? My family history is notable for many chronic medical conditions that respond well to lifestyle modifications.

Start to take care of your health now, while you still can. Preventative medicine is a lot cheaper than therapeutic medicine, both to you and to the healthcare system.

 

Simple Methods to Improve Your Fitness

 

I know what you’re going to say. You’re too busy to exercise and make time for fitness.

Just like the stock market, investing in yourself doesn’t have to be complicated. If you invest in low cost index funds, you’ll be in great financial shape over the long haul.

If you invest some time on a few simple fitness strategies, you’ll be in great physical shape over the long haul too.

Start by walking more. We live in a very sedentary culture that spends 8+ hours a day sitting in front of a screen. The hospital system exacerbates the problem by continuously making electronic medical records and charting more laborious and time intensive.

Get a Fitbit and move more. Take a walk for lunch rather than ordering in. Take the stairs instead of using the elevator. Take your children for a walk when you get home from work. Do your best to get 10,000 steps a day. Just the physical act of moving around can counteract the negative effects of being sedentary.

Drink more water. Stop drinking sugar and other nonsensical beverages. Stop chugging down caffeinated drinks to stay “energized.” Your body is made mostly of water and it’s begging to be hydrated. Try drinking water and nothing else for one week, with every single meal, and see how you feel. It will cost you nothing extra, and take no additional time to perform.

Check out 7 Simple Ways to Eat Better Immediately to find other quick dietary strategies that you can use right now to improve your current diet on a busy schedule.

 

Get Some Sleep

 

Make sleep a priority. This is one of the best things that you can do for your health.  Do you sleep 4-5 hours a night and then wonder why you’re so tired? It’s like expecting your bank account to have money in it without showing up to work.  You need to ensure that you’re getting 6-8 hours of sleep every day.

Did you just work a 24 hour shift? There are no exceptions. Sleep 6-8 hours during the day time.

Keep your room dark and cool. Wear an eye mask. Sleep is non-negotiable. It’s free, and has the potential to earn you great dividends as you will be more focused when it matters the most.

 


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Get a Little Exercise

 

Exercise. This should go without saying, but far too many people ignore the tremendous benefits exercise has on the body. As a physician, exercise is usually the first thing to go when your schedule gets busy.

The good news is, you don’t need to spend countless hours at the gym to get great results. Utilize large compound functional exercises to get the most out of your workouts. 30 minutes a day three to four times a week is more than enough. Carving out 30 minutes a day for yourself is a small and reasonable investment that anyone can achieve.

Check out The Best Workout Template for Busy Professionals to find a routine that I have utilized with great success over the years.

That’s it. It’s that simple. Start slow and find ways to integrate these small changes into your life.  If you stick it out for the long haul, your body and your bank account will thank you.

Don’t get caught with a large investment portfolio and a frail body.

Invest in your physical fitness for your own sake. It’ll be the best insurance policy you’ll ever get.

 

[PoF: Thank you for the insightful guest post. For more information on this subject, check out my take on the topic of fitness and retirement and be sure to visit The White Coat Trainer for tips on exercises, posture, sleep, and much more.]

58 comments

  • Love to see content like this on a personal finance blog. Health and financial well-being go hand in hand. It takes discipline to be healthy just like it takes discipline to be wealthy. Not to mention how many poor financial decisions could be made when one is tired!

  • Touché. Fitness leads to savings! Far too many people in the US have health conditions and ailments that lead to exorbitant medical bills to maintain these health conditions.

    Thank you for this write up, we definitely needed to be reminded that our financial health can be affected by our physical health.

  • One other factor I love about exercising is stress relief, especially in the gym.

    Nothing gets rid of all your thoughts and situation replays in your head like putting some weight on the squat bar!

    Thanks for sharing.

  • I agree a strong foundation is important. It begins with nutrition which provides fuel to exercise. Then you will have the energy to work and be productive.
    Too many (even physicians) neglect their health. Looking around a meeting of senior physician leaders will confirm that.
    Here is a good starter guide for HIIT too:
    http://www.thefirsthabit.com/high-intensity-interval-training-a-fountain-of-youth/

  • Yes, I totally agree that staying healthy is so important. And investing in our health will yield a great return now and in the future without having to cost an arm and a leg.

    But I have to admit that I haven’t gotten enough sleep since I started blogging. I’m aware every day that being sleep-deprived will affect my skin (I’m 30) and my long-term health, but when I feel passionate about blogging at night (quiet and alone), I tend to forget about everything else, including my sleep >_<

    • I hear you. Blogging is extremely time consuming, and when you’re on a roll, you can’t stop.

      I actually just started a series of posts on how to improve your sleep quality with a Busy Schedule, because it’s another aspect of health the majority of us need to focus on.

  • Thanks for this post! The way I look at it is this, we get one body in life, there are no trade-ins (yet). But most folks in America seem to take better care of their cars than they do their body. It’s really sad.

    Not only does fitness help with all of the things you mentioned in the post such as heart disease etc, the neurological benefits are well documented and numerous. A great read is a book called “Spark, the science of exercise and the brain” by John Ratey (I’m not connected in any way). There’s a reason I get my best ideas on long runs and bike rides…. it’s the exercise that’s sparking the thoughts.

    • It’s amazing how beneficial exercise is to our bodies. The best part is, it’s free! The only thing it will cost you is a couple of hours a week. Definitely an investment worth making, every time.
      Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll look into that book.

  • Always good to hear health feedback from a professional. As an engineer, I have a similar work schedule that demands close to 60 hours or more each week. That coupled with a new Baby leaves little time for exercise. So I get up at 4:30am at least 2-3 days a week to hit the gym. The next thing I need to work on is getting to bed earlier to get the 6-8 hours of sleep you mentioned.

    • That’s awesome. Congratulations on the new baby. I’m glad to hear you are maintaining a good balance and still making time for exercise. 2-3x a week is all you need in these situations.

      When it comes to sleep, don’t forget that quality could be just as important as quantity. I have started to write a series of posts on sleep 🙂

  • Thanks for the tips WCT. I do have a Fitbit and try to do the 10K steps a day. But my 1 yr old hid it a few days ago and I havent found it yet. Might need to buy a new one 🙁

    As for sleep, I only get like 5 hours of sleep. I need to work on that.

    We can’t enjoy FIRE without good health.

    • Oh no, I hope you find it.

      You are very welcome. Thanks for reading.

      It is important to note that 10K is just a target. We are designed to move, and unfortunately our society promotes as much inactivity as possible.

      As long as you are aware that you need to get up and move around constantly then you should be fine. Going on regular peaceful walks is icing on the cake.

  • hatton1

    Interesting. I will check out your site. I am 60. I was a gym rat for a number of years working with a trainer. Then I did the 10000 steps for several years. I have developed arthritis in my knees so I am now limited to 6k. I also am developing osteoporosis so I need to replace the 4k steps with something with impact any ideas?

    • Hey, good to hear that you are still very active. As I mentioned in another comment above, 10K steps is just a target to strive for. Getting 6K steps a day is still really good. I would recommend to continue taking walks at a pace that is comfortable for you.

      You can also use a lot of the exercises I have outlined in the post The Only Exercises You Need – particularly the Deadlift Variations as well as the Upper Body exercises. Only perform the exercises that you can tolerate with no pain and you can do consistently.

      Sounds like you are already in one of the top percentiles for 60 year olds 🙂

  • BOOM! There you have it. The water part is where I fall short. It’s not that I drink sugary drinks, just that I drink nothing….today I will try and change that thanks to this post.

    As a cardiologist I couldn’t agree more. Get out there and move people.

  • Vagabond MD

    Great advice. I was overweight and out of shape in med school, and in my third year, decided to get in shape. I started running and have been running regularly for 30 years. I still run events, mostly trail runs, and am occasionally competitive in my age group.

    I love the health, social, and mental benefits of running, and it has kept me thin, much trimmer than most of my colleagues in their 50’s. My wife is occasionally angry because I still have clothes that fit me from 20+ years ago! In fact, our first date was a running date.

    Great article and great advice. I look forward to reading more of your blogs.

  • Oh to be financially and physically fit!! I notice that I’m
    More effective at work when my fitness routine is in place, i also happen to stick to my budget better. Wonder if if anyone has studied a correlation there.

  • Arrgo

    Great reminder and all very true. Now in my late 40’s I recently had a bunch of dental work done that cost a lot even with insurance. I’m sure some of it could have been prevented by having better habits over the years. Also I’ve realized I can’t keep living like i’m 25 all the time. I started changing my habits for the better with eating smarter, getting more sleep, drinking more water, etc. You can feel it and it definitely makes a difference. I’ll check out your blog for more ideas and motivation.

    • I’m glad to hear you have started to notice improvements in the way you feel.

      It’s amazing how it even holds true in your 20s. Once I started to focus on all of the things mentioned above, (instead of only focusing on exercise), I have begun to feel so much better. It’s never too late to start, and it’s never too early!

  • SG

    Any advice on someone who is “all or none”. I have done a lot of home workouts (p90x, insanity, t25, etc). It seems like once I get going they become part of my routine. However when I stop I find it incredibly hard to start again. I am in a big rut right now, haven’t consistently exercised for 2-3 months.

    Great post, look forward to reading your blog

    • The same thing happens to me. I get into a good routine, get busy, lose the routine and take lengthy breaks.

      I think it’s smart to have a minimal routine you can do (7 minute workout, Sworkit app) even you’re away from home or super busy.

      • SG

        Yea, I like to be on a “program” and it seems like if I get derailed, the thought of starting all over is enough to make me put it off. I have done the sworkit and others but never seems like enough. I know it is better than not doing anything, but I guess that is my personality flaw.

    • I Know exactly what you mean. While it is true that something is better than nothing in the realm of exercise, something you can stick to (for the ong term) is even better.

      The Problem with p90x and all these other programs is that they are meant to be temporary and very short sighted. Once they end, they don’t provide you with the tools to remain on a consistent regimen.

      It is important to follow an exercise regimen that is easy to do, not time consuming, and easy to implement into your busy schedule.

      It is also important for it to be focused on training as opposed to simply working out. Training is goal oriented and each session has a purpose. It makes you look forward to your routine. I speak about it in the post called The Most Powerful Benefit of Exercising . I can go into more details about this in future posts if you’d like 🙂

      • SG

        Thanks, I will have to read your entire website. I am frugal so I prefer to not have a gym membership. I have a space at home with a pullup bar, adjustable dumbells (powerblocks up to 90lbs) and weight bench. I would like to begin training as you put it with that equipment. Any suggestions on basic routines? Thanks so much

  • You are right about exercising being the first victim of a busy life. Medical training was the first hit for me – I was fit going into medicine and getting fat by the end of my residency. At that point, my wife made fun of me once (lovingly of course) and I was so horrified that I got back on track. Then kids hit as the next time demand and it happened all over again.

    A couple of tips I learned to make efficient use of the time demands of work/family and get exercise:
    1) Bike to work if you can or use an e-assist bike if needed to eliminate the weather, travel speed, or fatigue excuses (I needed the later to be consistent).
    2) Do some physical activities with your kids. My kids and I joined a Martial Arts club a few years ago. Best thing ever for our fitness, bonding, personal development – and an efficient use of time. Great for modelling healthy behaviour too.

    • Excellent points. Happy to hear that you were able to get back on track.

      PoF actually wrote a post about biking to work that was pretty good. You save money and you get in shape!

      • Yes. I loved that post about the electrified commuter machine. Like POF articulated in that post, having an e-assist bike really helps to remove a lot of the barriers that most of us put up. Some may say that biking without the electrified option is better exercise, but the reality for me is that without it I would wimp out. It is a 16km trip each way. It is still a good work-out because I have to pedal like mad – it is just way faster than I can pedal on my own on the way home which is uphill and seems to always have a headwind. Highly recommend it.

        I have used the ebike in spring-fall for about seven years. I just finished making an electrified trike (for the slippery ice factor) that I am going to use to try and brave the winter this year. Will have to make a post about it if I survive.

        • I look forward to reading about the eTrike!

          My eBike is probably parked for the winter unless we have an unusually mild December. It will probably be late March or April before it’s safe to ride again. Now, a fat tire bike…

  • NH

    Excellent site. I really enjoyed looking through it and totally agree with your recommendations and thoughtful posts. I did find the mobile version of the site to be difficult to navigate though, with overly intrusive ads and the right upper menu navigation instead of leading me to the rest of the site popped up an ad for baby clothing (not even close to the right demographic) that I couldn’t get past to access the rest of the site content.

  • Good post and so true that health and wealth go hand in hand. When my kids were younger, it was very hard to find time to get any exercise. I started to get a ‘Dad Bod’ if you know what I mean. Now, I go to the gym during my lunch break and make it a habit. I also try to incorporate exercise and fun with the kids (wrestling them, playing basketball, etc). Any chance to get my body moving and heart rate up helps.
    I’m also trying to hydrate more. I fill a 1 L bottle in the am and drink that before noon. I then do that twice in the afternoon before I go home.

  • Building your net worth requires the same attitude as building your muscles: patience, discipline, and right mindset. Arnold Schwarzenegger was a multi-millionaire even before he became a household name. He invested heavily in Santa Monica real-estate and had a thriving brick laying business with fellow bodybuilder, Franco Columbo.

    As part of his training ritual, Arnold would visualize his biceps to resemble the peaks of a mountain. Perhaps we can perform the same kind of mental visualization when it comes to our personal finances. As I’m writing this, I’m visualizing that my 401K is big enough to pay the national debt… lol.

  • Awesome!!! I am a cyclist and really don’t like the fitbits and the like myself due to the fact that they make me look like a sedentary individual. Riding 200+ miles per week, I average 5000 steps per day because it shows me not moving. Oh well. I know I am active and the Garmin and Strava show it.

    Staying healthy is definitely the best way to go about saving money. Looking to get in more exercise? Turn the commute into exercise by walking, running, or biking to work. It’s easy, reasonable and a great stress reliever.

    • it is funny you say that because my wife is in total agreement with you. She is currently in a fitness challenge at her hospital where each employee must try and get 10,000 steps a day. She bikes to and from the hospital and also trains in the gym five days a week yet she only gets 5000 steps a day. Her coworkers complement her on how active she is yet her Fitbit tells a different story

  • Hahaha ahhh man, I quite literally said in my mind -I don’t have time to exercise while in school- then the very next sentence I read was “I know what you’re going to say. You’re too busy to exercise and make time for fitness.” You called me out!

    It’s also sad that I have stopped exercising since I majored in Exercise Science before dental school…But I am glad to say I started to do planks every night again for at least 1 minute or longer and I’m stretch every morning and night! So that’s something right?

    • Haha.. it’s because I have heard that statement a thousand times.

      Yes, glutes and abs (core) are one of the, if not the most important muscle group to train. Keep it up! Maybe you can add another movement slowly over time. I also created a 31 Day Challenge using just pushups pull-ups and Planks.

  • ArmyDoc

    Terrific advice! 2 corollaries –
    1) Consider a big dog. My 70 lb mutt needs exercise every day so no matter how tired/lazy I feel, I am taking her out on the morning run before heading into work.
    2) The military does not always do fitness correctly (but getting better), however having a biannual physical fitness test is a good reminder to stay fit. Just took my autumn test and I like that I am able to do the same pushups, situps, and 2 mile run times now at age 53 as I could at age 35. (Perhaps I just was lazy and out of shape when I was younger…)

    • Good point. I hadn’t realized that a dog is another great avenue of increasing your steps and getting a nice walk every day.

      And yes, I hear you. I used to work for the ROTC for work study during college and would see the cadets working hard to maintain their scores.

      Too bad physicians dont have a physical fitness test they have to take every year lol

  • Hi Drs. Robles (and POF),

    I agree, exercise is so important and can’t be set aside or ignored. For me, what works best is having a home gym, even if it’s just a treadmill and some resistance bands, or a multifunction machine. That way, I don’t use up time going to a gym. I think it’s also a matter of personal preference, but it works for me.

    I also think that a concern for those of us with Type-A tendencies is to be careful not to overdo it. I know this from personal experience, as I had surgery earlier this year for a shoulder injury, directly related to weight training.

    That said, I agree that regular exercise is critical, both for the physical and mental health benefits.

    • Great points. I am actually in the process of writing a post of home gyms. I agree, if you can eliminate the commute, it can help significantly.

      And yes, I have been down that road of overdoing it. I have learned to be more well rounded (rather than lifting heavy all the time) over the years 🙂

  • Love the different viewpoint of this post!
    A different perspective, and all great points.

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