Do you want to improve your brain function, reduce stress, have more energy, sleep better and reduce your risk of obesity and several types of cancer? If you do, the second edition of Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
by the US Department of Health and Human Services (“2018 Guidelines”) has something for you.
The current guidelines for adults are:
- “Adults should move more and sit less throughout the day. Some physical activity is better than none. Adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity gain some health benefits.”
- “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, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week.”
- “Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond the equivalent of 300 minutes (5 hours) of moderate-intensity physical activity a 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, as these activities provide additional health benefits.”
When I was in law school, the idea of 2.5 hours a week of exercise seemed overwhelming. After I graduated and started studying for the Bar Exam, I resumed exercising, and gained some of the benefits of exercising. Here are some ways to make exercise seem less overwhelming.
- Exercise is not an “all or nothing” thing. There are health benefits that one can gain from “reducing inactivity,” so it is worthwhile to exercise even if one cannot “achieve the recommended target range.” (2018 Guidelines, pg.23).
- Exercise does not need to take large blocks of time. The 2008 guidelines said that exercise needed to be done in 10-minute sessions, but based on current research, “[t]he 2018 Advisory Committee concluded that bouts of any length contribute to the health benefits.” (2018 Guidelines, pg.23).
- One can multitask and exercise while studying. In the “I’ll show you how valuable Elle Woods can be” montage from Legally Blonde, Elle is reading a casebook on a treadmill. I’ve personally found that walking slowly on a treadmill while reading cases helped me to focus on the material, though if I needed to take notes, I had to use a treadmill desk. When it came to more vigorous exercise, it was easier to use audio materials. The Law Library's West Academic Study Aids collection has a nice selection of audio guides.
- Study breaks are also a good time to exercise. I found that, when I was studying at a table, my focus improved after a 5-minute break.
- And, if you need to meet with classmates, consider a “walking meeting” on the track at the gym. Research has shown that when people are walking, it improves creative thinking.