Just what the doctor ordered

6/22/2017  By HealthNews

June 22, 2017 

June is National Great Outdoors Month.

It can be tough to follow directions from someone who doesn't practice what they preach. We've all been on both sides of the adage, "Do as I say, not as I do." And while healthcare providers are certainly qualified advocates of eating right and exercise, we hope they also take their own advice.

Good medicine

With busy schedules and sometimes crazy hours, it's understandable that those who tell their patients to watch their eating and activity level would just want to put their feet up and eat bon bons after a hard day's work. So we took notice when we learned how one of our surgeons spends much of his free time. (Let's just say that any bon bons would be eaten over a high-altitude campfire.)

"I've always loved being outdoors, in the wild," says Dr. Tom Penoyar of KVH General Surgery. Penoyar was raised in a green environment, "even greener than we have here," he grins, a nod to the rainy coastal area of South Bend, Washington, his home town. Penoyar is no shrinking violet. When he says he's going out for a bit, he could be mountain biking, rock climbing, kayaking or ski mountaineering.

So much for bon bons.

It's not just the natural environment that keeps him engaged. "I don't do these things alone. There's a great social bonding between friends as we tackle mountains and trails together." Penoyar also enjoys the technical aspects of outdoor recreation - the equipment, the pre-trip and contingency planning.

In case you were wondering, his family also gets in on the act. Penoyar appreciates "the values I can instill in my kids" from their time spent recreating together - hiking, canoeing, and camping. "My four-year-old and I go rock climbing every week," he adds. No big deal.

A healthy advantage

While many of us are not up for the pace of Dr. Penoyar's recreational activities, there are so many ways we can enjoy the outdoors this summer and stay active - for our health, and our enjoyment.

"The two go together. When you're outdoors, you're going to be active," says Penoyar. "You tend to work out longer, and be more committed to it, especially if you've taken the time and effort to travel to an outdoor destination. You'll be exercising longer, burning more calories, and, if you prepare for it, eating good food to fuel yourself," says Penoyar, who admits to a weakness for Pringles on hiking trips.

Getting started

Penoyar has some advice for those who are either new to the area or new to outdoor recreation. "Start with hiking. It's good for groups, so people can split into smaller groups and hike at their own pace." For young families like his, he recommends finding other families to recreate with. And as for location, "There are good options near you, no matter where you live. With so much open land, you don't have to go to a trailhead to find a hill to climb."

If outdoor recreation is something you've wanted to do but aren't sure where to begin, "Don't be intimidated," encourages Penoyar. "Your active friends will help you. Just get a good pair of tennis shoes and get started."

Managed by Kittitas Valley Healthcare, HealthNews does not provide medical advice. For medical advice, please see your healthcare provider.