Surgeon leads by example
Nadia Badarudin talks to a cycling enthusiast on the benefits of the sport to heart health and general fitness
Ardent cyclist Dr Jeswant is one among the many IJN’s health practitioners who have taken up cycling to stay fit.
WHAT will you do if you wake up in the morning feeling lazy or tired? Some may give in to the situation and stay longer in bed, if they have the option. Others, though, turn to exercise, in fact any physical activity, to rid themselves of that lethargy and laziness.
Ardent cyclist Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Jeswant Dillon, senior consultant cardiothoracic surgeon at the National Heart Institute (IJN) does just that: He grabs his road bike and goes for a long ride whenever he feels too lethargic.
“I’m mentally very strong. I’ve fixed it in my mind that I’ll feel better after exercise. I stick to that mindset every day and never let laziness or tiredness get in my way,” says Dr Jeswant who heads the department of cardiothoracic surgery.
In his early 50s, Dr Jeswant is a member of the IJN Cardiac Cycle (IJNCC).
The club was established in 2014 with the aim of promoting a healthy heart and healthy lifestyle through cycling. At present, it has 20 members comprising personnel from IJN and IJN Foundation, a charity body that raises funds for underprivileged patients at IJN. Its members include IJN chief executive officer Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Azhari Yakub, cardiothoracic surgeons, cardiologists, physiotherapists, cardiovascular technicians, cardiac angiographers and staff from IJN’s corporate division.
“It’s among our various initiatives in practising what we preach at IJN. Rather than merely focusing on treating patients, we also want to promote healthy living and preventive healthcare among our staff and the public,” says the father of two boys.
Apart from weekly weekend rides and races, IJNCC organises My Heart, My Life, an annual cycling convoy event cum community outreach programme that raises awareness on the importance of being active to reduce the risk of heart disease, while, at the same time, raising funds for the IJN Foundation.
“The convoy is a collaborative effort between IJN and IJN Foundation. Last year, we went down south and rode from Johor to Kuala Lumpur. In February this year, we rode from Batu Feringghi, Penang and ended at Kuala Kangsar, Perak, covering a
The IJN Cardiac Cycle cycling club at the recent My Heart, My Life convoy in Penang. Dr Jeswant has covered more than 8,000km at various local and international rides in Asia and Europe. Dr Jeswant (second from left) is a member of IJN Cardiac Cycle, the institute’s cycling team which was established to promote a healthy heart and lifestyle through cycling.
distance of about 360km within three days,” he says.
Dr Jeswant adds that besides the cycling club initiative, IJN also provides a gym for its staff and organises various activities such as zumba classes and healthy cooking contests in line with its efforts to encourage a healthy lifestyle at the workplace.
Dr Jeswant has always been active in sports, even in primary school and did well in football, athletics and rugby. The former student of High School Bukit Mertajam used to represent Penang in football at the national junior level and represented Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in the Kuala Lumpur football league.
“I stopped playing football after my knees were injured. And that eventually led me to cycling to keep fit. Cycling is the ideal sport for me since it has low impact on joints and muscles, unlike running. I became a serious cyclist in 2013,” says Dr Jeswant, who rides between 80km and 120km every Sunday on his Pinarello Dogma bike.
To date, he has covered more than 8,000km at various local and international rides including in Asia and Europe.
Dr Jeswant uses Strava GPS cycling and running apps and Garmin Connect to keep track of his fitness level and performance. He loves using apps because besides tracking his performance, they keep him motivated and make him competitive especially when they allow him to see how others (who
are using the same apps) are progressing.
“It’s like being in a virtual reality computer game. That makes working out more fun.”
Dr Jeswant†says besides being a good cardiorespiratory workout that burns loads of calories, cycling encourages discipline and dedication. “It teaches discipline and dedication in the sense that it requires a lot of effort to wake up early on weekends to commit to a group ride or go to the gym after a long day at work during weekdays to maintain fitness levels.
“Cycling may be seen as an individual sport but it is more fun to do it as a team. It fosters teamwork and camaraderie regardless of age, sex or status,” he explains.
The adrenalin rush and endorphin release always adds to the joy and feel-good factor. The sense of accomplishment after a ride is really satisfying too, he says.
“Cycling allows me to explore roads less travelled. For instance, the stunning sights of the rising sun bisecting the morning mist on the hills of Grik’s East West highway is a sight to behold! It also allows me to eat more and enjoy food better as I burn more calories.
“And on top of it all, compared to running, a cyclist gets to sit. Sir Winston Churchill once attributed his success in life to economy of effort “never stand up when you can sit down”. We presume Churchill was a fan of cycling.”