By: Ash Bowden
I went from exercising because it was a habit, to realising it was an incredible therapy for my own physical and mental health. Now I want to share it with the world!
I was born in the UK and have always been grateful for my active upbringing. I had an ex-army dad who was always in shape. Despite developing a brain tumour, which significantly impaired his vision, he would go running and take me along as his guide dog. My step-dad, who can play any sport you name, encouraged me to try it all: kickboxing, football, basketball and the list goes on. He literally built me a court to train on (after he’d finished the roof over my head). After school was always a team practice and weekends a match or tournament away. It’s so easy to underestimate the time and effort required of your parents to get you to and from any training…and I’m one of four! This priceless investment I’ll forever value.
Going through my teenage years I had the usual ups and downs; relationships that felt too strong for even Shakespeare to describe, school stresses with exams and university applications, parental divorce I was certain no-one else would understand and a dash of family illness. The peaks and troughs continued through university when I lived with a baseline state of anxiety over whether or not I could make it through medical school. On a reasonably frequent basis I would have days where I couldn’t describe how I felt but facing work, people or even outdoors was an impossible task. I would lay in bed thinking “What’s the point?” and then genuinely try to talk myself around that question in a pit of rumination. On the rare occasion I could get myself out for a run it would put the world to rights; but even knowing this didn’t seem to get me up on those darker days.
It was January 2018 when I took the annual opportunity for self-improvement; I started training with a personal trainer to fend off the ‘winter blues’ that had my number of sick days rising. With someone now expecting me to turn up I could no longer pause to figure out the meaning of life each morning. After mere weeks I had more energy, improved sleep, perpetually sore legs and was the happiest junior at work.
Working in Intensive Care was when the penny dropped. On a ward round with Professor Levett, who I later learned was the president of the Perioperative Exercise Testing and Training Society (POETTS), I realised my ‘Why’. With each patient she asked me, “What’s their exercise tolerance?” I’d look to the unconscious patient with the ventilator attached, a combination of drugs running through their veins to keep their heart pumping, and think, “I didn’t ask” (they couldn’t answer!). As the ward round progressed, Prof. Levett highlighted just how important the patient’s physical fitness was if they were to survive their admission. I went and found her afterwards, with a new sense of purpose and enthusiasm, wanting to be involved in anything to do with physical activity.
I now live and work on the beautiful Central Coast of Australia. I fuel the enthusiasm to get people more active with the goal of improving health and happiness. I’ve started a search engine for physical activity here on the coast (pictured) and I spend my time in and out of work demonstrating the benefits of exercise. I’ve connected with the local community, all ages, all inclusive, to showcase everything active there is to offer. I have never been happier than I am now as ‘Doctor Do More’. That black dog of depression now looks more like a patient-therapy puppy.
About the author: Ash Bowden is an Emergency Department Doctor living on the Central Coast of NSW. He is passionate about promoting physical activity to all people and is an emerging presenter and writer. His business and persona ‘Doctor Do More’ strives to connect his local community with physical activity and showcase the innumerable benefits of living well by living active (whatever that means for you!).