Kowalchuk talks about the importance of keeping active and the benefits regular
exercise brings to her busy life. She also addresses how to safely
exercise during the COVID pandemic.
What do you do to stay fit?
I like a mixture of
things to keep me motivated and interested. I alternate running with low
impact cardio such as cycling to minimize the risk of overuse injury such as
stress fractures. I also do strength training to maintain lean
muscle mass and lower the risk of osteoporosis. Currently, I subscribe to
a fitness app to change up the strength training,
How often do you exercise?
I try to do
something active every day ,even if it is just a walk on my lunch break.
Most weeks I work out 5 or 6 times and on my rest days, stretch and go on a
Do you work out alone or with others?
I typically work
out in the early morning, so most of my workouts are alone unless I do a group
fitness class like cycle (or if you count morning runs with my dog).
Group fitness definitely helps motivate me and keeps me accountable even if it
is just competing through an app.
As a doctor, what do you tell your patients about the value in exercise both physically and mentally?
I deal with a lot
of injuries, so I always ask each patient what his or her goal is, whether it
is walking a few days a week or getting back to sports. We then develop a
plan to slowly progress them back to normal activity or gradually start a new
program. The mental benefits of exercise are quite apparent when injury
or surgery limits activity or weight bearing on a limb. So encouraging
some level of exercise even if it is non-impact or chair and bed level
exercises when a patient is unable to bear weight can go a long way to maintain
positive thinking, reduce pain, and expedite overall healing.
As a doctor who is on the front lines helping patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, has exercise helped you even more than usual in dealing with stress or other factors?
As an orthopedic
surgeon, I have not been on the front lines like my much respected colleagues
in the emergency room, internal medicine and the medical ICU physicians.
However, exercise has been even more important in keeping me positive and
reducing stress that we have all felt in one way or another. Exercise
also helps boost the immune system which can help lessen the symptoms of COVID
or the flu.
Have you been taking any extra precautions while exercising during the pandemic?
Like most, I only
ran outdoors and converted my living room to a home workout center with some
light weights and bands. Luckily, there is a tremendous amount of
resources for working out at home and I was easily able to switch my program to
fit the limited equipment I have at home. Once my gym opened up with
added safety measures, I felt safe to return to the gym since it is a large 2
story space that can allow for social distancing. I maintain precautions
by wearing a mask when I cannot maintain social distance, cleaning all
equipment before and after, and using hand sanitizer throughout.
What advice do you have for women who are just beginning an exercise routine?
Start slow and
build confidence. Do not progress too quickly as it can easily result in
pain and overuse injuries including tendonitis and stress fractures.
Also, do not forget to warm up and stretch!
Why is exercise important to your life and what positive benefits do you personally get from it?
energize my day. Beyond the obvious health benefits, exercise helps
brighten my mood and confidence.
As a busy physician, how do you arrange your schedule to make sure you can fit exercise in?
If I do not work
out in the morning, then I am not likely to make it in the evening after a full
day of surgery, seeing patients in the office, and evening meetings.
Mornings are clearly not for everyone though, but you have to make exercise and
personal time a priority even if it is a quick 30 minute walk on your lunch