400 days and counting: ER doc’s exercise streak improves his mental health

May 2, 2024, 5:38 PM | Updated: 5:42 pm

MURRAY — 406. That’s the number of days Dr. Adam Balls has exercised in a row.

But to him, it’s more than just a streak.

“I think there’s a really strong connection between how our bodies feel and how we see ourselves from a mental health standpoint,” said Balls, the senior medical director of emergency medicine and trauma for Intermountain Health.

Over the years, the dad of three has faced his own set of mental health challenges, experiencing trauma and death in the Air Force, in his family, and his work in the ER.

“I’ve been in some pretty dark places,” he said. “All these things kind of spurred me into action in my own personal life to say, you know, how do I become an advocate for mental health issues amongst our emergency department teams? But in order to do that, I needed to have my own mental health be as resilient and strong as possible.”

A photo with Balls (left) and his family.

A photo with Balls (left) and his family. (Courtesy: Balls)

A year ago, he committed to daily exercise. Whether that means a walk on the treadmill or a few minutes on the rowing machine, Balls has found that sticking to his self-care routine has made him physically and mentally healthier.

“It’s really helped to kind of put me in a different mindset,” he said. “The way I manage stress; the way I sleep at night. I think it’s been a game-changer for me personally.”

Balls said that “showing up” for himself allows him to be a better leader.

“I’m in a better spot to show up for them, and we’re in a better spot as caregivers to show up for our patients,” he said.

His journey proves that finding a routine, in something meaningful to you, can bring out your best.

“Do something you love, whether it’s a hobby, whether it’s taking time for yourself to read a book, to see a new place. It’s really finding what’s going to uplift us the most.”

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400 days and counting: ER doc’s exercise streak improves his mental health