Between desk jobs, driving and television, attorneys are spending more time on their butts than ever.

It’s part of a broader trend: the average American sits for more than eight hours every day. One in three Americans have body mass indexes (BMIs) classified as obese, and new measurements suggest the number of obese may be closer to a whopping 2 out of 3.

Sitting is a dangerous occupation

The “prolonged sitting” (sitting for more than six hours a day) that comes with many legal professions slows down metabolism, decreases levels of good cholesterol and impairs insulin sensitivity, leading to dramatically increased risk of Type II diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

But some attorneys are taking this problem to court.

They’re walking and working at the same time, using treadmill desks.

Walking and working back to wellness

Attorney David Zoll of Zoll, Kranz & Borgess in Toledo, OH got a wakeup call this October, in the form of a heart attack.

“I had quadruple bypass surgery, followed by 12 weeks of cardiac rehab,” said Zoll. “When I got back into the office, I still had to walk a certain distance on my non-rehab days, so I looked into treadmill desks.”

“When I need to review hard copy material and take notes, I ask my receptionist to hold my calls, and I move over to my treadmill desk. I find I can really focus on that task, and get a really good walk in at the same time. It’s also a stress reliever, because you’re getting things off your desk and getting the benefits of exercise.”

A more efficient law practice

Attorney Mary Merchant of Ballard Spahr in Atlanta had been following the research of Dr. James Levine at the Mayo Clinic since 2005, and was aware of the detriments of sitting for long periods of time. However, she said, culture at law firms doesn’t always encourage attorneys to be up and walking around the office. So she began looking to treadmill desks for an answer.

“I got it in January, and I usually get in one to 1.5 miles per day when I’m in the office – and my colleagues want to use it when I’m out,” she said. “I like using it on conference calls, when I’m reading documents and when I’m sending emails. I’ve lost five pounds since January, and really miss it on days when I’m gone.”

An open-and-shut case

Now we’re hearing that the recommended 30-minute daily workout is not enough to reverse the effects of prolonged sitting. Researchers in multiple countries have come to the same conclusion: no matter how physically fit you are, the more time you spend sitting each day, the shorter your life may be.

But not everyone can carve out that extra time for an extended trip to the gym, before or after work. We want to get our exercise in while we’re doing something else – while we’re not even thinking about it.

The American Cancer Association recommends walking 10,000 steps, or five miles, each day; studies have shown that it can reduce Type II diabetes by 50%, Alzheimer’s by 50%, and rates of stroke, heart attack, and certain cancers. On a treadmill desk, you can knock out those 10,000 steps before lunchtime.

Whether it’s a treadmill desk, a standing desk, an exercise ball or making a point to get up for a short walk between tasks, we need to keep moving to stay healthy and productive.

Most attorneys’ work tethers them to a desk – but who says they need to stay seated?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Peter Schenk is the president of LifeSpan Fitness, a company that makes fitness gear that fits your lifestyle. LifeSpan created the first treadmill desk that was designed from the ground up to be a complete unit, based on feedback they collected online from consumers who had been building their own treadmill desks, or were unhappy with aftermarket options. LifeSpan was founded in 2002, and is based in Salt Lake City. Schenk practices what he preaches, and works every day from his very own treadmill desk.