Contributing Author: Lou Anna Red Corn, Fayette (KY) Commonwealth Attorney
You already know about exercising discretion, exercising independent judgment, and exercising diligence in the pursuit of justice. We all recognize these exercises are fundamental, but what about exercise in general?
The pursuit of well-being is multi-dimensional. This means that well-being includes emotional, occupational, intellectual, social, spiritual, and physical well-being. Regular physical activity or exercise contributes to each of these components. In the last few years, we have come to recognize that well-being is an indispensable part of a lawyer’s duty of competence, so as prosecutors we must be physically active or exercise.
What does exercise do for us? The better question is what doesn’t it do for us? According to the American Heart Association, physical activity helps keeps the doctor away by lowering our blood pressure, boosting good cholesterol, improving blood circulation, keeping our weight down, and reducing bone loss. Regular exercise is also good for our wallet — we will save money through fewer doctor visits and medications.
Exercise or regular physical activity is also good for our mental and emotional state. It relieves stress, anxiety, depression, and anger. We have all experienced that good feeling that follows physical activity — the endorphins or the “runner’s high.” The endorphins released in our bodies after a workout leave us with a positive and energized outlook on our day.
A large-scale study of 200,00 Swedish athletes found that being physically active reduces by 50% the risk of developing clinical anxiety over time. While the study focused on cross country skiing, the researchers said almost any kind of aerobic activity likely helps protect us against excessive worry and dread. So even thirty minutes of brisk walking or similar activities on a regular basis has good effects on our mental health, and these benefits appear to apply to more than just Swedes.
But it doesn’t have to be cross-country skiing in Sweden or equally demanding activities to contribute to our well-being. During the pandemic, when gyms were closed and before the arrival of the vaccinations, my husband and I, and another couple, created our own “quaran-team”. Each Friday night, the “team” met for dinner in our garage and afterwards learned a new country line dance. Dancing is a moderately intense physical activity that is social too, so besides being good for our physical health, it is good for developing and maintaining positive interactions with others, i.e. it contributes to our social well-being. And bonus for us by the time warm weather and vaccines arrived we had learned eight new country line dances — with the help of YouTube.
It is never too late to start a routine of regular exercise — in fact it seems that nature meant for us to be active especially as we age. A recent editorial in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science discussed the theory of the “Active Grandparent Hypothesis.” The theory is that it is genetically in us to continue to be physically active as we get into our 60s, 70s and beyond. This gives benefits to our children and grandchildren, and also physically benefits us — the grandparent. The notion is that we are each designed to stay physically active throughout our lives, and the longer we stay active, the healthier we will be. Another way of saying this is that we aren’t meant to move to Florida and sit around the pool in old age.
Here are some things to consider as you begin your new exercise routine. According to the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, for substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Preferably, this aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week. Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity and that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.
Like it or not — exercise is a vital component of our well-being.
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