How hot is your doc?

If you want to live a healthy lifestyle, choose an MD who knows his way around the fitness floor.

How good does your doc look in that lab coat? According to new research presented at the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual meeting, if you want to live a healthy lifestyle, you may want to look for a fitness-minded MD.

After polling med students over the course of five years, scientists found that those who were fit themselves were much more likely to "prescribe" exercise to patients and take physical activity into account when considering treatment. In fact, those who supported fitness counseling were almost twice as likely to be cardiovascularly fit and more than three times as likely to have normal triglyceride levels as their nay-saying peers.

"I often joke with patients and say 'If your physician doesn’t look well, head for the door'," says Justin Mager, MD, an internist specializing in longevity and preventive medicine at the Clear Center of Health in Mill Valley, California and an Equinox advisory board member, "but in all seriousness, you want to find someone who practices a healthy lifestyle so that he or she is more focused on promoting health as a way of preventing disease rather than managing it."

Mager, who hits the gym hard for his workouts, which include high-intensity interval training and working with a trainer on bodyweight exercises and even some light Olympic lifting, feels strongly about the topic: "The philosopher Allen Watts said effective communication can only happen if you have a shared experience. So if you have a physician who believes in fitness and practices fitness, then there’s a shared experience with a fit patient. That’s going to influence how that doctor approaches your health because he or she understands the impact.”

Jeffrey Morrison, MD, an Equinox advisory board member who champions a nutritional approach to health in his practice at The Morrison Center, agrees. His 4-day-a-week morning workouts include Kung Fu, cardio, abs and weightlifting followed by one of his proprietary fiber-filled daily detox shakes with glutamine — an amino acid that helps repair muscle.

"When a new patient comes in, one of the first things I ask is for them to recount the past week of what they did exercise-wise and what they ate during the last 24 hours," says Morrison. "In my opinion, that is the foundation for how we can lay the groundwork for someone to get on track to lead a healthy lifestyle."

Morrison even goes so far as to "prescribe" training sessions for his patients, in large part because he has had success working with a trainer himself. "The trainer can speak with me and ask me what my goals are for the patient, and then he or she can come up with a plan," he says. "I act as the overseer, but the trainer is the true expert on program design. It becomes a solid doctor, trainer, patient relationship." All of which certainly beats an apple a day.