Exercise: The Cure For Stressed Out Lawyers

By Connie Morrissey Ruiz

        “Exercise and application produce order in our affairs, health of body, cheerfulness of mind, and these make us precious to our friends …” Thomas Jefferson.

These words were true when said by Mr. Jefferson but resonated from times past with the words of Hippocrates who said:

        “If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.”

As active attorneys today scramble to operate in the new Covid-19 environment, the ordinary pressures of too much to do in too little time are aggravated by isolation in the pressure cooker of quarantine/lockdown rules.  Existing health issues, physical and mental, can become inflamed unless addressed by an effective response.

Exercise can contribute to a preventive strategy in personal health planning.  It also serves to maintain good physical and mental health as part of health maintenance planning.  Equally important, it has already been established that exercise can play a major role in various treatment regimens for existing diseases and injuries.

According to Dr. Robert Sallis, a family and sports medicine physician at Kaiser Permanente:

        “Regular exercise may be the most powerful medicine we have – more powerful in most cases than any pill or procedure.  We literally have thousands of years of data, going back to Hippocrates, that exercise has a powerful therapeutic effect.”

In February, the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee submitted its Scientific Report to the US Secretary of Health and Human Services. The report summarized the scientific evidence on physical activity and health and was used to develop the second edition of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes provides one example.  For years it was common for doctors to prescribe Metaformin; considered the standard treatment.  Metaformin lowers blood sugar levels by improving the way the body handles insulin which is a benefit for both those with Type 2 Diabetes as well as those who are pre-diabetic.   This drug is listed on the World Health Organization as an essential medicine deemed effective and safe.  However, doctors were amazed at the results of the Diabetes Prevention Program after a lifestyle of exercise and diet outperformed the drug Metaformin in a head-to-head comparison over 15 years, preventing people at high risk for diabetes from developing the disease.   Additional information on exercise treatment benefits can be found in the article Exercise Is the Answer for All That Ails You by Markham Heid.[1]

The impact on mental health cannot be overstated.  Studies have consistently shown that exercise can also enhance memory, improve attention, alleviate depression and equally important, can ward off neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.  

The same endorphins that are released with exercise to make one feel good also stimulate the growth of new brain cells and help prevent age-related decline.  As explained in the article This Is What Exercise Does to Your Brain by Dana G Smith[2]:

        “Scientists are starting to discover how exercise increases levels of important hormones and neurochemicals that help forge new connections between brain cells, and may even lead to the birth of neurons in an area of the brain called the hippocampus, the organ’s mood and memory hub.”

If Exercise were Classified as a Drug, It Would Be Called A Miracle Drug

Exercise is the ultimate “work smarter not harder” to be healthier for day-to-day wellness essential to our daily performance in our jobs and careers.  It can strengthen immune systems to combat Covid-19 as well as the yearly flu and cold season and to prevent and/or treat diseases that we all long to prevent in our aging years like cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. Here are some stark statistics in 2020 from Research America:

  • More than 78 million adults (or 35.7%) and more than 12.5 million children (or 16.9%) in the U.S. are classified as obese.
  • By increasing the risk for cardiovascular diseases, Type 2 diabetes, and most cancers, obesity contributes to 1 in 10 deaths, making it the second leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.
  • Obese individuals with diabetes or high blood pressure have a 26% greater risk of death than healthy-weight individuals.

Not enough attention is paid to the fact that the widespread adoption of effective exercise programs by Americans, combined with a proper diet plan, could result in a major reduction in health care costs associated with funding levels in Medicare and Medicaid, not to mention the private insurance market.  Americans have become too accustomed to taking pills as the first answer to nearly all health exigencies and doctors have been incentivized by pharmaceutical manufacturers to push their drugs.  Exercise, the miracle drug, is the elephant in the room.

How to Get Started: Begin With An Honest Assessment.

Are any of the following self-descriptive:

  • lethargy
  • irritability
  • depression
  • health issues
  • increasing dependency on pharmaceuticals and/or alcohol
  • strained personal and/or professional relations?

The answers should be honest as the information need not be shared with others.  The assessment should indicate the extent exercise can be a solution to any of these.

How quickly can an effective exercise program be incorporated into your lifestyle?  The short answer is immediately.  Any exercise is better than none.  Even desk-bound, standing up and walking around regularly, doing push-ups even against the wall can provide a start.  If gyms survive the Covid-19 shutdowns, there may remain multiple options available with qualified fitness professionals to guide the development of tailored exercise programs.  Multiple self-administered and group-led exercise programs also can be found online.

If a busy professional is unable to dedicate the World Health Organization  recommendation of 2.5 hours a week for exercise as a preventive health strategy (far short of the 2 hours each day adopted by Mr. Jefferson in his regimen), there are emerging alternatives available to achieve real results in record time.  One such method utilizes electronic muscle stimulation (EMS).  

EMS initially started gaining recognition as a means of enhancing sports training starting in the 1960’s when the Soviet sports scientists were using it with elite athletes and claiming force gains up to 40%.  The first EMS approach was with self-adhesive pads used both for rehabilitation as well as for strength performance in athletes.  However, since 2007, EMS has transitioned to Whole-Body EMS so when combined with an exercise routine lead by a certified Personal Trainer specialized in working with the technology, a 20-minute workout can elicit enough muscle contractions to be comparable to a traditional 90-minute workout.  Since then, the whole-body EMS approach spread thereafter to fitness clubs in Europe and has been made available to the public in multiple countries, now including the United States.

EMS represents the new wave of efficient exercise opportunities for Americans to ward off multiple medical/mental health issues and to promote overall well-being. One US provider of EMS technology is Personal20, owned and operated by this author, located in Herndon, Virginia, for time-limited professionals, with an additional location being planned.  There are a few other providers of the EMS technology and the industry is expected to grow.

Specifically, the development of the evidence-based P20 Method provides a whole-body workout with little pressure on joints.  By sending electric impulses to the muscles through the motor nerves, while doing simple exercises, they stimulate even weakened muscle connections.  Both slow and fast-twitch muscles are activated from the start so that a more intense, although low impact, level of training is received. On the Personal20.com website, there are multiple Google reviews from professionals, touting its effectiveness, including a review by the Chief Legal and Compliance Officer at Tata Communications.

More recently, EMS has been successfully introduced in clinical settings to help patients requiring physical therapy and chiropractic services. Promising results are emerging for those suffering from back pain, hypermobility issues, injury rehabilitation, and even pre-surgery strength development, especially for joint replacement/surgery.  

Summary

Attorneys are not excluded from the physical and mental health afflictions impacting all Americans.  Moreover, the pressures of stress and time limitations increase the chances of serious illness.  Knowledge about reasons and opportunities for change comes first.  Then taking the first/next step follows.  Addiction to the miracle drug of exercise is one addiction everyone can get behind.  The potential for improved health is unlimited and the potential for lowered healthcare costs is enormous.  Today is not too late to start.

About the Author

Ms. Ruiz is a co-founder of Personal20 EMS Studios and the Vivafit Women’s Boutique Fitness Franchise.  She is qualified as an EMS Specialist, Health and Fitness professional with several present and past certifications including:  EMS Certification by E-Fit, XBody, and Miha Bodytec; also American Sport & Fitness Personal Training, Michael King Pilates (formerly Pilates Institute),  AFAA and ACSM Group Fitness, Les Mills Body Pump, RPM, and Body Combat.  Ms. Ruiz has been invited to speak at national and international fitness conferences such as those sponsored by the International Health, Racquet & Sports Club Association (IHRSA), the ForumClub International Congress & FIBO Global Fitness.

For questions and additional information, she may be contacted through the website Personal20.com, or directly at constance@personal20.com.


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