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Happiness means skipping the Happy Meal

It’s 7:30 p.m. You have spent roughly 65 minutes in terrible traffic trying to get home. Your stomach started growling about halfway into that commute. You spot the familiar set of golden arches as you exit the highway. You could order a salad, but you get a cheeseburger instead. After all, you’ve had a rough day. As you enter your home, you spot a pile of laundry, dirty dishes and a floor that is in dire need of vacuuming.

What do you do next? You collapse onto the sofa with your 1,500 calories worth of dinner and flip on the TV. A workout is the last thing on your mind in the recent sweltering heat and all you want to do is wind down.

Oh, did I forget to mention that you had just spent the last 10-to-12 hours sitting at a desk?

As attorneys, we spend a lot of our time at our desks staring at a computer monitor or hunched over something we are required to read and review. U.S. News and World Report last week reported research shows the increase in sedentary jobs is a major contributor to the obesity epidemic.

“It’s all about calories in and calories out, and we’re putting more calories in than we’re taking out,” said Dr. Robert Graham, a primary care physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

It’s no wonder why.

“The demands of everyday life are competing with exercise,” he said.

It doesn’t take much to make a small change in your lifestyle. If Americans just followed the federal guidelines for physical activity (150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of more vigorous activity), the extra calories would even out. However, only one in four Americans is doing the recommended level of exercise according to researchers. One Baltimore City law clerk took the “small change” advice to heart, and replaced her desk chair with a stability ball. After she made the switch, three of her fellow clerks followed.

Happiness among lawyers is not a new topic, but the issue persists. When I participated in brainstorming sessions within a steering committee for a professional organization that was planning a women’s seminar, the topic of work-life balance, happiness and fulfillment and raising a family as a female attorney were all subjects of huge interest.

We can’t tackle the entire profession’s health and wellness problems in one day, but you can make the small changes to have a more balanced and fit lifestyle. Choose healthier food options, even if you are flying by the drive-thru window. Remember that 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week is only 21.43 minutes per day. I am pretty sure you are worth it.