Dr Ash Bowden is fondly known as "Doctor Do More" on the Central Coast due to his tireless efforts to get active.
"The benefits of physical activity for our health surpass any other treatment modality I know of," Ash explained.
After a light-bulb moment with an Intensive Care Consultant in the UK, Ash decided to dedicate his career to improving how active his community can be, and now he's visiting GP surgeries and healthcare practices in his community.
"It takes passionate GPs to give up their lunchtimes to let me come in and talk to them about physical activity. I am amazed at the great response I have had!"
The benefits of getting active are extensive, and Ash hopes to inspire doctors to not only add physical exercise to their own schedules but also to their prescriptions.
"One systematic review demonstrated a reduced risk between inactive and highly active groups of ischaemic heart disease by 25%, ischaemic stroke by 26%, breast cancer by 14%, colon cancer by 21%, and diabetes by 28%. We know it's at least as effective as antidepressant medication for mild to moderate anxiety and depression, we can reduce cognitive decline, reduce falls risk, and in case that isn't enough, physical activity has been shown to reduce all-cause mortality," explained Ash.
"If you could bottle exercise up in a pill, it would be the most sought-after medication, and they'd make a film about it starring Bradley Cooper."
It is vital for doctors to stay active, both physically and mentally, to ensure they provide optimal patient care. Regular physical activity promotes overall health and well-being, enhancing a doctor's endurance, stress management, and cognitive abilities. Ash is using technology to make getting active accessible to healthcare workers in his community.
"I've created a website to find activity in the local area – the Do More Movement Directory. With the right support, this can be a tool that healthcare professionals use when they're counselling patients/clients about exercise."
Since starting his "Do More" initiative a few years ago, the programme has taken off. "A normal week has me connecting with exercise providers locally to let them know about the free directory. I showcase the range of exercises available on my social media (@doctordomore, @domorecentralcoast), this varies from ninja warrior training, pole dancing, and horse riding — you name it!"
Delivering in-services to local GPs and other allied health practitioners is the next step in Ash's campaign.
"I start by asking how often they're able to counsel patients about exercise. Time has been the biggest barrier for GPs; patients arrive with an expectation of a quick fix, medication, or referral, so health-behaviour changes fall to the back of the pile. I then tell them about the website, designed to help people find movement that suits their needs. I've given four in-services so far, and it's been fantastically received! I cannot tell you how encouraging it's been, knowing that my fellow healthcare professionals are excited to help people move more."