You should walk for 30 minutes every day – unless you’re too busy. Then you should walk for an hour.
— Variation on a Zen proverb about meditation
The benefits of exercising every day are many. One of the most beneficial forms of aerobic exercise is walking and that’s what we’re going to focus on in this article. Chief among walking’s many benefits are health, peace of mind, and the fact it’s easy (almost anyone can do it – almost anywhere – at almost any time). Not only will walking improve your health, but the best part is that it can be done at any pace that is comfortable for you. If you incorporate walking into your daily routine, I can almost guarantee you it will help you regulate your stress levels, your weight and your blood pressure.
You can walk fast or slow. You can walk for long periods of time or short ones. You can do practically anything you want, any way you want to do it. The main thing is that you do something.
Furthermore, if you were to start walking for 30 minutes or more daily, you’d probably find that your walking sessions do a better job of relaxing your mind than perhaps any other activity you’ve tried. You can combine many activities with your walking, such a making phone calls, catching up on email correspondence, listening to music, listening to nature, listening to audiobooks and best of all – walking meditation.
Let’s step back for a minute and look at the big picture. If you’re like most lawyers (me included), you spend most of your day taking care of others and their problems. That can get pretty stressful and it takes an emotional and physical toll on us as individuals and as a profession.
Face it. As lawyers, we’re a unique subset of society. Our incomes tend to be greater than average. Our education levels tends to be greater than average. The opportunities we encounter tend to be greater than average. Unfortunately, the stresses we face tend to be greater than average as well.
2014 data from the Center for Disease Control shows that lawyers have the fourth highest suicide rate among professionals, with only financial workers, dentists and doctors being higher. Lawyers also suffer from depression at alarmingly high rates, which is a huge problem in and of itself. Additionally, some studies suggest that lawyers suffer from substance abuse problems at a rate nearly twice that of the general public.
State bar associations have taken notice of this and they’re beginning to do something about it. Several states have even added a “mental health” component to their continuing legal education requirements. While the Arizona state bar doesn’t require this, they have taken (and are continuing to take) a huge role in promoting legal continuing education programs that focus on health and wellness issues we face as attorneys.
Can daily exercise help us do something about these disturbing statistics?
Absolutely. Walking or exercising is the perfect opportunity for each of us to take 30 minutes or so out of our busy days and do something for ourselves. Not for others. Just for ourselves.
It’s time to get personal. Let’s assume you’re willing to stipulate that you would benefit from instituting a daily walking program. It then becomes a matter of finding the time in your busy scheduled and the willingness to do so.
If you’re like most lawyers, you’re way too busy (and stressed out) to find time to walk every day. What if I were to tell you there’s an easy solution to that problem?
The solution is to incorporate your walking program into your workplace. If you’re willing to entertain that idea, you might just find it’s the perfect way to not only get your work done, but to get your exercise done as well.
There are two primary ways to incorporate walking and fitness into your workplace. The first (and easiest) is to bring your work with you and go for a walk, outside the office. The second is to bring a treadmill (or an elliptical or exercise bike) into your office. Both ways are fantastic and I highly recommend either one (or both).
Smartphones make it easier than ever to take your work with you outside the office. All you have to do is make a commitment to step outside your office, at some time during your workday, and go for a 30 minute walk. If you’re willing to give this a try, you’d probably find it’s the perfect opportunity (i) to catch up on emails or phone calls; (ii) to gather your thoughts on your most important projects; or (iii) to simply clear your head.
Alternatively, you can bring a piece of exercise equipment into your office. Treadmills, ellipticals and stationary bikes are perfect for this. Just set up the equipment next to a telephone and you’re ready to begin. The next time you’re getting on a long phone call, just hop on the treadmill and set it to 2 miles per hour. 2 mph is a nice, slow, steady pace that won’t leave you out-of-breath. If you want to get even fancier, you can put a desk on your treadmill and put a desktop computer or a laptop on that desk. I’ve been doing that since 2010 and it’s worked out quite nicely for me.
At this point, you’re probably thinking this all sounds too easy and there’s got to be a catch. Well, here it is:
Incorporating walking and fitness into your workplace requires a long-term commitment. Not short-term, but long-term. Quite simply, if you want to live a long and healthy life, daily exercise should be a part of your routine, for the rest of your life.
- You must be committed to getting up each and every day with the intent to walk (or participate in any other form of aerobic exercise), and
- You must be committed to improving your life and be willing to put forth the necessary effort to do so.
If it’s really this easy, why don’t more people exercise daily?
Personally, I believe it’s a matter of mindset.
All our lives we’ve been told that we have to exercise. I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear the words have to, it makes things sound like a chore — like an obligation. In fact, it seemed like such a huge obligation that I waited 49 ½ years to get started. Fortunately I got started BEFORE it was too late.
What if we started looking at things differently? What if we stopped saying we have to exercise daily and we started saying we get to exercise daily?
This slight difference in word choice is powerful. Instead of daily exercise being an obligation, it becomes a privilege. Just think about it. You’re not obligated to exercise daily. You’re privileged to have the opportunity to exercise daily.
When we perceive something as an obligation, it only adds to our stress. It becomes something we seek to avoid. When we perceive something as a privilege, it becomes something we look forward to. It becomes something that reduces our stress levels instead of adding to them.
The next time you decide to get some exercise, just think what a joy it would be if you realized just how privileged you are to be able to do so. I came to this realization in 2010 when I had the privilege of interviewing a woman with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) who was completely bedridden and on a ventilator. Despite her condition, this woman had the most incredible joy for life. She would have given anything to simply go for a 30 minute walk. From that moment on, it made me realize that I should stop complaining about exercising and I should start realizing how privileged I am to be able to exercise.
Marcus Aurelius said: When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.
What did you say this morning BEFORE you read this article? What are you going to say tomorrow morning AFTER you’ve read this article?