Keep Moving: Best Fitness Tips from Former Dancer/Physician

Make exercise a part of your daily life

Keep Moving: Best Fitness Tips from Former Dancer/Physician

With our busy lives, it can be challenging to make time for exercise. We asked Kim Gladden, MD, sports and exercise medicine physician at Cleveland Clinic how she does it. Before she was a physician, Dr. Gladden enjoyed a rich career in dance as a performer and instructor of ballet, modern and jazz.

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“My original exercise plan was built into my day — it was my job,” Dr. Gladden says.

Today, as a busy physician, she understands the challenges of incorporating exercise into your daily routine. She offers common-sense tips to making exercise a part of your life.

How it all started with dance

When she started college, Dr. Gladden originally set out to earn a degree in painting. She took a dance class because she felt the “Freshman 15” coming on.

“I was never a super-jock, but I was always active,” she says. “I think because I am naturally flexible, my body responded well to dance in general,” she says. “Before long, I was spending more time in the dance studio than in the painting studio.”

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After graduating with a Bachelors of Science in dance from Kent State University, she moved to the West Coast, where she taught and performed. As she neared the age of 30, the usual decline of a dancer’s prime, she began to consider her second career.

“I really thought I would go into physical therapy, but a good friend of mine who is a neurologist encouraged me to look at the potential of studying medicine and thought I would enjoy physical medicine and rehabilitation.”

Today, Dr. Gladden is a physiatrist with a specialty in sports and exercise medicine after completing medical school at George Washington University, residency at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, and a fellowship in sports medicine at Cleveland Clinic. During that time, she stayed active by biking, running and dancing.

How to make exercise a part of your life

Movement is really the essential ingredient to staying fit, Dr. Gladden says. “Every aspect of your day where you can incorporate more movement, do it,” she encourages. That includes walking to do errands, taking the stairs rather than the elevator and parking in the farthest spot from the store to get a little exercise.

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Dr. Gladden likes to mix up her exercise today by keeping it realistic, relevant and within reach. That means taking her 50-pound dog for a walk twice daily, which usually amounts to a solid hour on foot. She runs with her pooch a couple of days a week as well.

Fit tips from Dr. Gladden:

  • Start small. “If you’re someone who does not have a history of being active, being told, ‘You need to exercise to lose weight,’ is like someone who has never played the piano being told to, ‘Just go play Beethoven,’” Dr. Gladden relates. Walking up the street or half a block counts as exercise. Start where you are — take small steps toward being more active.
  • Think ‘you.’ If you love what you’re doing, you’ll do more of it. Consider what you enjoy: the outdoors, being around people, enjoying some solace. Then choose an exercise that suits your personality.
  • Just move. “I can’t speak highly enough about the power of incorporating exercise into your day, and that means if the store is a block away and you only need a gallon of milk, take the opportunity to walk instead of drive,” Dr. Gladden says.

The key is to squeeze fitness into a busy schedule. “Do something you enjoy that fits into your day so you’ll stick with it,” she recommends.

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