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More Reasons Law Practice is Unhealthy and Some Things You Can Do About It

April 23, 2012

This is the third in a series on health topics affecting lawyers. The first was on cultivating good eating habits and the second on the legal profession’s sleep-deprivation problem.

As we’ve already discussed, lawyers tend to spend a lot of time sitting (burning almost no calories) and not nearly enough time sleepingAs it turns out those aren’t the only perils presented by a legal career. We tend to work long hours, which is correlated with bad habits like smoking, lack of exercise, and infrequent check-ups. Those working long enough hours to disrupt their regular sleep cycle suffer from reduced appetite control as well as elevated stress hormones, blood pressure, and pre-diabetic indicators. Even if we cultivate good eating habits, our sedentary lifestyles can take a toll on our bodies. And, as it turns out, all that sitting doesn’t just add to our waistlines—it significantly shortens our lives.

So are we lawyers necessarily doomed to lives that are nasty, brutish and short?

Thankfully, no. In fact, even a little effort can go a long way here. As it turns out, even light activity can help break our bodies out of the biological standby mode they enter as we sit. I personally try to do at least some of my work, like reading, standing up. If I’m thinking through a tough aspect of a case, I’ll get up to pace around my office or even take a walk down the hall. I also personally keep a small water bottle at my desk so that I not only remember to keep hydrated (which enhances health and can fend off excess weight) but also have a reason to get up from my desk periodically to refill in the office kitchen. I also tend to opt for the stairs over the escalator or elevator and take a short walk at lunchtime if I can spare the time. A growing number of desk jockeys have started using standing desks, some of which are adjustable, allowing users to alternate between sitting height and standing height. Some have even adopted the treadmill desk, which was created by a Mayo Clinic doctor to incorporate light exercise directly into the work day. Although it can take a little work to build the habit of incorporating light activity throughout the work day, you should notice a difference in your thinking and attitude fairly quickly—with consistent, conscious effort on a specific task, the corresponding part of the brain can show physical development in a matter of days.

Next week, we’ll delve deeper into the subject of positive habit formation as it relates to another classic lawyer problem—procrastination.

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