Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

A Five Minute Walk Might Save Your Life

jay reeves headshotThe headline says “New Research Shows Our Workplace Is Killing Us,” but the culprit – too much sitting for long periods of time – is all too familiar.

And lawyers and legal professionals, who spend much of their day at their desks, are at the highest risk.

The average adult worker in the US is seated for 12.5 hours of their typical 16-hour waking day, according to this new study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

That’s up from nine to 10 hours just a decade or so ago. And it’s a major contributor to health crises ranging from heart attacks to depression.

“The way we work is a public health issue, and one the private sector and our city, state and federal governments should be working to fix,” writes this expert. “But the entire framework of modern American life is built to incentivize lethargy, from employers to infrastructure to public policy.”

As the country continues moving to an information economy, the problem will only worsen. And while it is easy to pin the blame on poor personal choices, the reality is more complicated.

“For most Americans, sedentariness is less a lifestyle choice than a financial and structural one,” says health writer Jill Filipovic. “Many of our jobs require sitting, often in front of computers, for long periods, whether you’re a lawyer or work in a call center. And we are vastly overworked, with nearly 30 percent of legal and management-level employees working more than 45 hours per week.”

The Five Minute Solution

There isn’t a specific cutoff point at which sitting becomes hazardous to your health. But by hooking 8,000 people up to sensors that recorded their body motion all day long, researchers made some startling discoveries:

· People sit for an average of 12.5 hours per day and 11.4 minutes at a stretch.

· People who sit for more than 13 hours per day have twice the risk of death (from heart attack, stroke, diabetes, hypertension) than those who sit for less than 11 hours.

· Those who frequently sat in stretches less than 30 minutes had a 55 percent lower risk of death than those who usually sat for more than 30 minutes at a stretch.

· People who frequently sat for more than 90 minutes at a stretch had twice the death risk than those who almost always sat for less than that duration.

The best solution: get up and move around.

“For every 30 consecutive minutes of sitting, stand up and move/walk for five minutes at brisk pace to reduce the health risks from sitting,” the study recommends.

Change the Status Quo

Unfortunately, changing work habits is not easy. Many of us are sitting down from the moment we leave home in the morning (86 percent of us drive to work, according to the latest census stats) to when return at night. And then, after we’ve sat for dinner we plop ourselves down on the couch for our daily five hours of television viewing.

Breaking this unhealthy cycle is no small thing. New habits – two to three hours of cardiovascular exercise each week, plus regular weight training – take time to develop.

Here are some positive things law firms can do:

· Cap working hours.

· Talk about healthy habits.

· Offer standing work stations (though the evidence is mixed as to the benefits).

· Create an office culture that encourages getting up and moving around.

· Encourage working from home or alternative arrangements.

· Allow half-hour breaks for brisk walking.

· Include gym memberships in the company insurance plan.

· Support neighborhood initiatives for bike lanes and safe sidewalks.

· Offer flex time and paid vacations.

The result will be a happier, healthier and more productive workforce.


· Annals of Internal Medicine

· New York Times – TV Viewing Habits

· CityLab – Transportation Habits · CNN · CNN

About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

Read More by Jay >

Related Posts