Neurosurgeons perform lifesaving procedures, but there is surprisingly little research on how they can maintain their own health in their grueling line of work.

Neurosurgeons perform lifesaving procedures, but there is surprisingly little research on how they can maintain their own health in their grueling line of work.

But two Upper Arlington residents, personal trainer Demi McBeath and neurosurgeon Chris Karas, have teamed up to address this issue.

The neighbors are marketing a fitness program for neurosurgeons that McBeath designed for Karas, who practices at the Ohio State University Medical Center. McBeath and Karas recently presented their program at a prestigious national conference of neurosurgeons.

The partnership resulted from Karas describing his physically demanding work to McBeath during one of their frequent chats in their cul-de-sac.

Brain and spine surgeries can take anywhere from six to 14 hours, with surgeons standing in one position for hours at a time while performing the most delicate and precise incisions.

"Doctors and surgeons, they work beyond what their bodies are capable of and they keep going," Karas said. "When you're in the middle of surgery and you're not supposed to move, you don't move because you're going to hurt somebody."

Ironically, neurosurgeons, who wear heavy lights on their heads while operating, often end up with chronic and neck and back problems.

As a neurosurgeon, "you're in a very high-stress job," McBeath said. "A lot of high-stress people carry the stress in their shoulders."

McBeath, a certified personal trainer who runs a business called Body Ready, designed a program to strengthen the muscles Karas uses during surgery.

"We focus on upper body," McBeath said. "He did core (abdominal) exercises, too."

The exercises McBeath designed helped alleviate the strain on Karas' neck and back.

"Often surgeons focus on their fingers" when exercising, Karas said. "I can strengthen my fingers all I want, but if I'm in a certain posture for hours, I really need my core to be stronger. We talked about all those positions. I told her the specific positions I use. There's a bank of exercises and we narrowed it down to the ones she thought would be best."

In preparing for their presentation at the annual conference of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, held May 2-6 in San Diego, McBeath and Karas found precious little research about occupational hazards for surgeons.

"You look up any other occupation with a lot of patient lifting and things like that, there's a lot of research," Karas said. "Even hairdressers, there's research on that. Nothing on surgeons."

In their presentation, McBeath and Karas demonstrated some of the exercises she'd designed for him.

"We talked about different ways to hold yourself in those surgeries that are easier on your back," McBeath said.

She also pointed out that formal gym equipment isn't necessary for a good workout. A neurosurgeon can go into the doctor's lounge and use whatever is handy, such as lifting water bottles.

"If they had 20 minutes a day, even if it's in between surgeries, to get down and do 10 pushups and really strengthen their core, strengthen their backs, strengthen all their body parts that are important," McBeath said. "But most importantly, not overdo it. You don't want to be sore in surgery."

McBeath and Karas' presentation was such a hit that they have been invited to present at an upcoming medical conference in Chicago and pen an article for a neurosurgeons' lifestyle journal.

Karas said one of the things he and his colleagues are most impressed with is that McBeath's workout is tailor-made to fit in neurosurgeons' hectic schedules.

"The more doable you make it for somebody's who's already busy," the more likely they are to stick with it, Karas said. "If it's not doable, you're not going to do it."

For more information on McBeath's fitness program, visit