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Healthy You

Physician Focus on Fitness: Dr. Steven Eisenstein on the Benefits of Exercise and Teaching

Sunday, August 14, 2016 10:40 AM

Steven Eisenstein, MD, spends much of his time educating patients on improving their wellness as a family medicine physician. His role as an educator goes even further, as he also trains students in Shotokan karate as a sensei at the Traditional Karate Club of Wilmette. He talks about how his physical activity benefits his health, as well as his skills as a teacher and a physician below:

You have been doing karate for many years – how has it helped you stay fit physically and mentally?
Karate is a form of exercise that involves both mind and body. Since it involves strength, flexibility, breathing and focus, I find it very relaxing. It’s a complete kind of activity.

What got you interested in the sport?
While I was exposed to martial arts as a college and medical student, I really latched onto karate after looking for something new to replace running as my main form of exercise. Because of the wide scope of activities within karate, I realized that this was going to be my life sport. I hope to practice martial arts for many years to come. The dojo is also a unique environment, which is refreshingly, polite and traditional. It’s a departure from our pressured society. You can concentrate on only one thing at a time; so different from our distracted lives.

You’ve been able to reach a level that allows you to teach others. What type of training did you do to achieve that level of skill?
I was lucky enough to have a really exceptional teacher, Sensei Jordan Scott. He gave me a great start, and guided me through basic training, as well as black belt karate. I have also tried to learn from many other experienced instructors who bring their own personal touch to enrich my knowledge. Most of all, I have pushed consistently with a great group of friends who always advance our training. Karate provides a wonderful community for support.

What do you enjoy most about teaching and training others? Has this shaped how you interact with patients as a physician?
I certainly like the basic teaching to introduce students to the forms and moves that are the foundation of our system. It really gets fun, however, when students have enough exposure to sense the depth of what is yet to come. Most of the satisfaction comes from watching students advance and get excited about the sport. I try and bring some of that excitement back to my medical practice as I work on motivating patients to improving their lifestyles and habits.

Do you ever recommend karate or similar forms of exercise for your patients at NorthShore?
Karate is not for everyone. It is, however, an excellent example of a type of physical activity that serves an important purpose by structuring exercise and working on proper technique. For the right person, it’s a great find. I work with all patients on getting “hooked” on something that gets them moving and keeps them from falling into a sedentary path that’s all too easy in our world.

What steps do you take to prevent injury in your exercise? 
Warm up, vary your workouts and cool down with a good long stretch. This is fundamental to all exercise. 

As a teacher, what tips do you have for staying motivated during workouts and training sessions?
Find an activity you enjoy, at a location that you can reasonably get to on a regular basis. Make a commitment to a schedule and keep it. Put exercise in your calendar and don’t tolerate excuses.

Have an indoor and outdoor option so that weather is never an excuse. If you travel, find activities that are “portable” so you can stay active no matter what the venue. Find a group of like-minded people who will miss you if you don’t show up. Challenge your assumptions about what is possible in your busy schedule. We always find time for the things that really matter, like your health!