To Keep You Inspired, Dr. Franklin Zimmerman
Westchester Cardiologist Dr. Franklin Zimmerman helps Club Fit support healthy hearts AND our first responders.
Club Fit celebrated American Heart month in February, helping members maintain their commitment to regular exercise, a nutritious diet, and a healthy heart. But if you ask cardiologist Dr. Franklin (Bud) Zimmerman, a Club Fit Briarcliff member affectionately known as Dr. Z., a healthy heart is a prize to celebrate and maintain all year long.
A graduate of the Brown University Medical School, Dr. Zimmerman is a Senior Attending Cardiologist and President of the medical staff at Phelps Memorial Hospital. He trained at Columbia University, St. Luke’s Hospital and has been a cardiologist at Phelps Memorial Hospital since 1989 alongside his partners at Phelps Medical Associates, Dr. Arthur Fass, Dr. Dina Katz (both Club Fit members), and Dr. Jay Doshi.
The field of cardiology has always excited Dr. Zimmerman, especially working with acutely ill patients and making them healthy again. As important and rewarding as that aspect of cardiology is, however, he has an equal passion for preventative care. “It’s very dramatic when you help a patient with a heart attack,” says Dr. Zimmerman, “but I’d much rather work to prevent the event than respond to an emergency.”
Dr. Zimmerman’s commitment to preventative care and education has made a lasting impact in his field as well as his community. He is an assistant clinical professor at Columbia and created the Heart and Health Education Foundation with his partners. He is also the director of Phelps Memorial’s Center for Occupational Medicine and Public Safety Services (COMPASS), a center in development that is devoted to the health needs of first responders. Dr. Zimmerman shares his expertise directly with Club Fit on heart healthy initiatives such as training staff members to use automatic defibrillators, a move that has already saved lives at the gym. He consulted on the Health Rx program, a referral program for people beginning an exercise program, and he created the Club Fit Chief’s Challenge, an exercise challenge for policeman and firefighters. Preventing cardiovascular disease in police and fire department personnel is an important area of research for Dr. Zimmerman. “First responders have a risk of heart attack that is out of proportion to the general public, and this strikes close to home for me, because I come from a police family,” said Dr. Zimmerman, whose sister is the current Police Chief of San Diego. After sharing this concern with Club Fit president Bill Beck, the club began offering a half-price membership for active police officers and firefighters, and Dr. Zimmerman created the Chief’s Challenge to encourage first responders to keep their hearts healthy through exercise. Every year Dr. Zimmerman’s foundation awards $1,000 each to the local police and fire department with the most check-ins to the gym. Club Fit tallies the visits, and at year’s end reports the numbers to Dr. Zimmerman. The 2016 winners were the Yorktown Police Department and the Mohegan Lake Fire Department.
According to Dr. Zimmerman, the most overlooked preventative measure for heart disease is exercise, and he feels that “many people would rather take a pill than spend an hour at the gym.” He is always quick to share his favorite mantras with his patients such as “Exercise is medicine” or his wry “You only have to exercise … on the days when you eat.” In 25 years at Club Fit, Dr. Zimmerman says “the most gratifying thing about going to Club Fit is the number of my patients that I see there following my heart-healthy advice.”
Barring a medical emergency, Dr. Zimmerman works out at Club Fit four to five times a week during his lunch hour, focusing on cardiovascular exercise and weight training. He begins with a five-minute warmup on the treadmill, light stretching, and a half-mile run on the track – either an easy jog or more vigorous interval running. For weight training, he uses the Nautilus and Cybex machines along with free weights for his arms, varying his routine to devote certain days to different muscle groups. Cross training keeps his workout both physically challenging and mentally stimulating, and he feels that Club Fit offers a distinctive advantage in its variety of equipment. On the weekends, he includes some distance work on his home treadmill before going out to dinner with family and friends where he admits to “eating some things a cardiologist avoids during the week.”
Dr. Zimmerman and his wife of 37 years, Laurie, enjoy an active lifestyle, as do their children: Stacey, a devoted runner, and Rick, an avid cyclist. But something you might not know about the Cleveland native is his passion for baseball and the Cleveland Indians. A lifelong Indians fan, he attended his fifth Cleveland Indians Fantasy Camp in January at the team’s spring training facility in Goodyear, AZ. A pitcher and infielder, Dr. Zimmerman modifies his Club Fit workout three months before camp to prepare himself for its physical demands and daily double-headers, drills, and practices. His managers this year were Mike Hargrove and pitcher Jaret Wright, who Hargrove started in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. Dr. Zimmerman jokes, “Now, Hargrove’s managing me—how far he’s fallen.” Besides the joy of seeing his patients exercising and his love of Indians Fantasy Camp, what keeps Dr. Z. coming to the gym? “Exercise is fun—it makes you feel better and just keeps you healthy,” he says. “Plus, I want to get a few more miles on my fastball.”