Is fitness a factor?

I just got in an argument with my boyfriend, that I am hoping someone here can weigh in on.

Here is some background info: He is a fitness nut, and believes that EVERYTHING can be fixed by, or is related to exercise. I have to drag myself to the gym, but I do go.

The boyfriend warns that I will have to defend my ability to “keep up with” the rigorous schedule that med school demands, because my “37 year old body” won’t be able to compete with the twenty year olds.

Okay, so he didn’t put it that way, but I am irritated with him at the moment, and that is what I heard.

Does anyone have any input? Has anyone gone through an interview where this issue was even brought up?

I am probably healthier now than I was in my twenties. (I didn’t even bother to drag myself to the gym then.) I know the hours are going to be long and work will be physically exhausting, but is my physical fitness something that I will need to “defend” at an interview?

Oh, please.

My younger classmates come in all shapes and sizes and I have no problem keeping up with them. I’m 43. I DO work out, and I feel better because of it, but it’s not the central feature of my well-being. If they asked the middle-aged people about their physical fitness, they’d also have to ask the obese younger people, and the ones who look tired all the time (we have a lot of these), and it would just be ridiculous.

In summary, no one asked me a damn thing about my fitness.

Good grief! Another thing to stress out about, eh?

The healthy habits you have already described will hold you in good stead in medical school. But I am talking about YOUR needs and stamina not anything that should matter to someone deciding on your admission. If a person is not exercising at all, has a poor diet, is engaged in drinking + smoking + unprotected sex all the time, his resistance and lethargy and indiscipline I think will doom him in med school. This does not appear to be your case to say the least!

Your boyfriend is correct that older applicants need to prove themselves differently BUT those are questions about the seriousness of your career intentions. We do a lot of standing, I guess, but medical school isn’t exactly a triathlon of physical demands. Tell that guy to go run a few laps and butt the hell out…

OMG this sort of thinking makes me crazy.

I was 46 years old with a BMI of about 30 when I started my grueling third year of medical school. During third year, I actually went to Weight Watchers and started working out so that I was in better shape by the end… although definitely not a fitness queen or a model. I managed about as well as anyone else.

Sure it helps to be fit and to feel your best. Are you at a disadvantage if you’re not? Maybe some people are, but on the other hand I never went to class hung over like some of my younger colleagues either.

Now I am back to that BMI = 30 and 51 years old but somehow I still manage to get through the day. It is always interesting to me when young, fit people project decrepitude on their elders when they do NOT, in fact, have any knowledge of what the experience is like.

Med school is tough on your mind and your body but it is not a literal marathon and lots of less-than-fit folks have managed to get through it just fine.


Thank you all for your responses.

My weight has become a hot button in our relationship. I have gained 20 pounds since I went back to school, while my boyfriend has lost 20. We can’t really do as much together anymore – I sit at home and study, while he surfs, bikes, etc.

I am afraid that I will come out of medical school even heavier. I eat to keep me alert while studying. Anyone have any advice on how to stay awake while reading a Biochem book without coffee and something sugary?

Carbs and protein. If you’re worried about not having enough energy, but you don’t want sugary stuff to get injected straight into your bloodstream, make sure you eat some protein with it. It forces your body to hold on to the sugar longer while it processes the protein. Basically, it will slow down the introduction of sugar into your bloodstream so it’s not a big rush but more metered. Try to make the carbs you eat as complex as possible (whole grains, if you’re going for pasta, fruit if you ARE going to go the simple route) to 1.) further delay the food’s processing, and 2.) give your body something healthy to work with (instead of donuts and rice krispies treats…lol).

Also, don’t drink soda! If you’re generally sedantary because of your studies then soda (the non-diet kind) will kill you. Soda has more sugar in it then your body knows what to do with.

Anyway, there’s my diet lecture for the day.

Are you suggesting chocolate covered bacon?


If you can take up some sort of hobby that’s physically demanding in any way, that would help a lot, even if it’s not the gym per se. I recently took up swimming because I always get shin splints when I run, and I don’t think my weight has changed a damn bit, but to be fair, I only swim once a week if that due to school…but hey, it’s something.

Unless your boyfriend has been through medical school, quite frankly, he doesn’t know jack shit about what it’s like.

Thanx Tim, I will tell him that!

I am only taking a night class now, so I have more time. Meaning that I have had time to go swimming 3 to 5 times a week for 40 minutes. I haven’t lost weight either! I have toned up though, which is something. I know that when I have a full class schedule it will be harder for me to make time to exercise. I was wondering if they have textbooks on tape. I would be great if I could listen to my homework while I work out. It would take my mind off the pain.

Chocolate covered bacon? You might be on to something there…

  • jenniferblue Said:
I was wondering if they have textbooks on tape. I would be great if I could listen to my homework while I work out. It would take my mind off the pain.

They do, but usually you have to be classified as learning disabled in some way to get access to them. They are ridiculously expensive otherwise. When you get to med school, many med schools record lectures and you can listen to those while exercising. Personally, though, I think you would be better off with a pleasure audio book or something while you're exercising. You can't study constantly - you will probably retain far more if you schedule some "down time" so your brain can relax and process.

About the foods, like medeirosaurus said, stick with the healthy carbs and proteins. One other thing to remember is to eat multiple SMALL meals. The reason for the small meals is that every time you put food into your stomach, a lot of your body’s energy then goes into the digestive process. . . . taking away from your ability to concentrate and study. So, keep the meals and snacks lite, healthy, and frequent!

As to the relationship. . . . work hard to keep the communications open. Otherwise that will be an added stress that you don’t need.

I know very few medical students that do not drink coffee…

I love the stuff, it helps me retain more info and stay alert longer. Yeah, some nights are tough to sleep if I drink it too late, then go into class looking like heck, but i just drink more! Many classmates are hooked on Redbull, but I save those for extreme times. What you eat can make a big difference. I am a big fan of fiber, complex carbs, and protein. Lots of water. B vitamins are great too. I take one in the am and another in the evening. Water soluble and brain boosting! can’t ask for more. If eating keeps you awake, choose healthy stuff to munch on.

There are many students in my class that are overweight, some I would classify as obese, but they keep up just fine. Exercise is a great way to relax and to stimulate mental activity in order to retain more info, but not necessary. Many students exercise daily, so if you do not have small children, you are at an advantage!

I am thin but not necessarily healthy. Since the start of school, i have not found the time to exercise, but that is mainly due to having a 6 month old! Classes are long, lots of studying, but very doable. I am 35 with a young child and not exactly peak health, and I am doing fine.

Tell your BF to not talk about something of which he knows not!

crimeny, late for anatomy lab…gotta run! best of luck

I don’t drink coffee, and I stay away from caffeine because it destroys my sleep. But I do occasionally get up and pace while I memorize. This works better for med school, where you’re memorizing lists or groups of four, five, or ten things, or reciting discrete pathways, than in undergrad pre-req courses, where you’re doing problems a lot of the time. I also take a lot of short breaks or even the occasional catnap if I need one. FOR ME (your mileage may vary), eating while studying serves as just one more way to procrastinate actually studying.

I think you don’t actually need food to stay alert (well, not EXCESS FOOD). It’s just that eating gives you something fun to stay awake for.

In my med school, the lectures are recorded on mp3, and some of them are worth listening to while working out. Flash cards are usable on stair climbers, too, and I did quite a lot of that last year. This year I commute to school by bike and I do run three times a week without studying during the runs, and I find that regrouping time to be precious. So I’ve done it both ways.

I did make a conscious decision to lose weight about a week before finals my first semester of med school. I decided it was going to be many years before my life was low-stress, and I’d better learn to limit my snacking (my weight gain was all snacking) now. But I did it for my own reasons, purely for me, and I’m happy about it. It’s not necessary to be thin or super-fit to keep up with the kids in med school.

They’re always reminding us in med school that everything is multifactorial and that’s why it’s so hard to design clinical studies. So you can’t isolate the causes of hard work, sleep deprivation, caffeine consumption, physical fitness, work ethic, personal organization, lack of family stress, and old-fashioned smartness in the success of a given med student. That’s why admissions committees use grades and MCAT scores to help predict how you’ll keep up in med school. They just want to know if you can do the work. They don’t care why.

Do what’s best for you and be aware your definition of what’s best for you will change from time to time.