Listen to the full interview here
Welcome to Coffee with a Coastie. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dr Ash Bowden aka Doctor Do More, as many know him. Originating from the UK, Ash is an Emergency Doctor on the Coast, and has become somewhat of a local celebrity known as Doctor Do More, promoting movement and exercise on the Central Coast. Ash is also a passionate and caring human that just simply wants to do good, and I was grateful to be able to sit down and chat with him.
You moved to the Central Coast from the UK in early 2019. When coming to Australia, what made you choose the Central Coast to live?
I think it was out of my hands, to be honest. I wanted to come to Australia and in terms of the places that I knew, it was Sydney, Melbourne, and Cairns, that was as far as my knowledge went. I had applied for jobs out here through a recruiting agency, and they kept offering me places that I’d never heard of, and I kept on saying no. I mentioned, I kind of fancy something on the coast. Then eventually they said, what about Gosford and Wyong Hospitals? This place called the Central Coast. I Googled it and went, wow, that looks alright, and I’ve come out and I just feel so lucky. It’s such a nice place to live.
When did you come up with the identity Doctor Do More and what was the driving force behind it?
I was back in the UK working in intensive care with a professor who specialized in exercise testing. She did loads of research around exercise and its impact on health, specifically on cancer and why exercise is so important in improving a patient’s likelihood of leaving the hospital. I was in awe of her knowledge and how impactful exercise was. I felt really stupid that I was a doctor and I’d been working two and a half years at that point and didn’t realize how important exercise was. So, working with her in intensive care, was a real light bulb moment. It’s not about being an athlete, it’s just about doing more. So, when trying to find a social media handle. I thought, I’m a doctor, Doctor Do More sounds cool and it sort of just rolled on from there.
What was your life like as Ash before becoming Doctor Do More?
Yeah, that’s a great question because I barely think about that anymore. I love every part of my life now and what I do. Back in the UK I had times where I was quite low and quite anxious, and I struggled with my mental health and with that came depression at times as well. It was only when I broke up with a girlfriend when I was in Southampton that I turned to fill the gap with exercise and thought I’ll talk to a personal trainer, I’ll get a program, I’ll actually really lean into this. I had a program that was five sessions a week and pretty intense. I remember struggling to walk at work because my legs were so sore after the Monday session, but I was just so much happier. I couldn’t believe how much happier I was, and all my colleagues picked up on it. I was in such a better head space, and it made me realise how important exercise was for my mental health. Now out here in Australia, I’ve just leaned into it even more and spreading the message that it’s not just about your physical health, but your mental health too.
You posted a before and after image on Instagram, that said ‘look at how I’ve changed in 12 weeks. But there was a third picture of you much younger. What advice would you give to you if you could speak to your younger self?
It would all be about mental health. It would be worry less and love yourself more, stop thinking about and worrying about what other people are thinking of you. I was so self–conscious, everything I did was because I wanted to have other people like me. But as we get older, we realize that life isn’t about making other people happy. It’s about being happy yourself and funnily enough, when you are happier, everyone else tends be happier around you.
You are very active within the community, and one of your projects is the #MoveAgainstCancer Step Challenge, which raises money for the Cancer Council. Can you talk about this and when the next step challenge will be?
This is one of my favourite initiatives. #MoveAgainstCancer is a step challenge where people can register and then use any device to track their steps. Whether it’s a smart watch or a pedometer. The goal of the challenge is for everyone to gain an awareness of how many steps they’re taking on an average day throughout the month of September. I’m a bit wary of the word challenge though, because a lot of people then think I’ve got to do a certain amount of steps, and it’s got to be really intense. When actually the biggest value for everyone comes from just getting involved. I started it in 2020 when I was fundraising for the Cancer Council when I did Stars of the Central Coast. That year it raised $13,000 and I was using a makeshift website, where I had to send everyone my bank details, there were 600 people and I had all of their emails. I had to register them all, it was the most labour intensive thing I’d ever done. So, the next year I spoke to the Cancer Council and said, this was really cool, loads of people got involved, we raised a good amount of money, can we do it again? It was during restrictions and I was down in Cooma at the time, but I still wanted to run the challenge. So they had a website set up that we could use, which took a lot of the admin off my hands, and that year 800 people got involved and a hundred thousand dollars was raised, which blew my mind. Then last year I ran it again and I think we raised $52,000. It’s not about being an athlete, a marathon runner or a cross fitter, it’s just about walking more steps if you can. I’m really passionate about this project and this year, I’ve put a lot of money into the website development myself, to try to make it even bigger. So come August, I’m going to start promoting it and try and get even more people involved. It will run from the 1st of September to the 30th of September. We give prizes out, we name the top fundraisers and the biggest teams. It’s lots of fun.
Your other project is your Do More Movement Directory at do-more.live. It showcases the wealth of physical activity available within our community on the Central Coast. Can you talk about how this works?
So this idea came about when I was back in the UK. After having my light bulb moment that people needed to move more. I wrote out a questionnaire, made roughly 500 copies and started handing them out everywhere. This was when I was back in the UK working at Southampton General Hospital. I was fascinated to hear what motivated people to move, what they perceived as their barriers, what things they like doing and that sort of thing. When I got the questionnaires back, there were obvious trends. Time was a massive barrier, but then people would also say things like, I’m a shift worker and I can’t find the classes that suit me, or they’d have other really specific barriers. So, with that I thought we’ve got things like Menulog for when you want to search for what takeaway you fancy. So I had this idea of creating a directory for movement and exercise, and then when I got out to Australia, I started looking into website development and started asking friends that were active and ran gyms if they’d sign up to it. I think I got about 120 businesses registered and it started to take shape. I thought this can really add value if this existed and every physical activity provider was on the website. You could then go to the website and put in the things that suit you, times that suit you, whether you perceive yourself as a beginner, intermediate or advanced. The different types of exercise you like, whether it’s weightlifting or outdoors and then you’ll see everything that’s available on the Central Coast, encouraging you to be more active.
We look forward to seeing more of Dr Ash Bowden aka Doctor Do More around the Coast. If you would like to find out more about what Doctor Do More is up to, check to out the Do More movement directory at do-more.live or simply search Doctor Do More.
Go to coffeewithacoastie.com.au to hear the full conversation where we talk to Ash about:
- The impact of #HelloMyNameIs name badges for Healthcare Staff
- The positive impact seeing a psychologist has had
- Our past thoughts and the impact they can have on us
- The effects of exercise on mental health
- Helping deliver babies and patients die comfortably
- Your exercise tolerance and its effect on your recovery
- If Ash had children of his own, the advice he would give them