Friday, February 29, 2008

Does anyone walk less than a radiologist?

Radiology is a fairly sedentary occupation. Unlike other physicians, who spend their days scampering from patient to patient or slogging through endless hospital rounds, we sit quietly in the dark all day, staring at images. After learning of the following paper via the Dr Shock MD PhD blog, I began to wonder -- just how sedentary is my specialty? This seemed like a fine topic to research for a Leap Day post.
How many steps does a doctor take in the hospital? No difference between internists and general surgeons, but a relationship with age and BMI. Goosen JHM, Ettema HB, Kollen BJ, Verheyen CCPM.  Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd. 2008;152:203-6.
Disclaimer: The original paper is in Dutch, and my Dutch skills are on a par with my Croatian, Chinese and Tagalog skills. Therefore, I turned to good old Google Translate for assistance in reading this article.
These researchers tagged a group of 131 internists and 131 surgeons with pedometers. The internists walked an average of 5457 steps/day (564 steps/hour), while the surgeons walked an average of 5193 steps/day (536 steps/ hour). This difference was not statistically significantly different.

To put this in perspective, the authors compared these physicians with the hourly step rates of air crew serving on long haul flights (842 steps/hour) and of patients with prosthetic (artificial) hip joints (143 steps/hour).

As it turns out, I just happen to wear a pedometer every day to keep track of my own activity (or lack thereof). Below is a plot of my daily step count, which averaged 4909 steps/day for the past week.

The spikes of activity on days 2 and 5 are, respectively, days in which I went folk dancing and spent some time walking on a treadmill. After eliminating these two outliers, my average drops to 3108 steps/day, or 194 steps/hour (during the 9 work hours out of 16 hours awake). This is probably a pretty fair estimate of my step rate while at work. Plotting this up against the other groups, I got the following plot:

Is my step count representative of all radiologists? I don't know, but I suspect I'm probably somewhere in the middle of the pack.

So, I can finally answer the question posed by the title of this post: does anyone walk less than a radiologist? The answer is yes, patients with hip prostheses walk less than a radiologist (at least this one). Can it get any more pathetic than that?

Short of pathologists or paraplegics, I don't see how. I guess this would be a fine time for me to start walking laps of our building during lunch.


Dr. Shock said...

May be I should try a pedometer for a while as well. Were do psychiatrists stand on this issue?
Regards Dr Shock

The Samurai Radiologist said...

@ Dr. Shock:

Good point -- I suppose that any couch-based specialty has to be considered sedentary until proven otherwise.

However, "recline" might be a more accurate verb than "stand" in this regard. :-)