Mens Sana in Corpore Sano

By Barbara Engstrom, Executive Director

While getting on my bike to ride to work in the cold rain and dark during Seattle winters can seem like torture, it is usually the best part of my day.  I often have “Ah ha!” moments during my ride where I can resolve issues that seemed intractable day before.  The connection between the mind and body is an idea as old as the ancients. Roman poet Juvenal wrote orandum es tut sit mens sana in corpore sana – you should pray for a healthy mind in a healthy body.

The practice of law is already a time consuming and stressful profession.  Adding daily exercise may feel like another burden loaded on to an already too full plate.  With that in mind, here are some suggestions for adding wellness activities to your daily routine in a low impact way.

No Time to Exercise?  What About 7 Minutes?

When I’m travelling and my schedule is too full for my normal exercise routine, my go-to option is the original “Scientific 7-Minute Workout” popularized a decade ago by the New York Times.  “In 12 exercises deploying only body weight, a chair and a wall, it fulfills the latest mandates for high-intensity effort, which essentially combines a long run and a visit to the weight room into about seven minutes of steady discomfort — all of it based on science.”[1]  I’ll admit I was skeptical of the 7-minute workout before I tried it, but when done correctly, the intensity of the exercises leaves you feeling like you completed a much longer workout.

The term of art for these short duration workouts is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).  Researchers have found that HIIT workouts can improve overall cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength with less soreness than longer workouts.  In a study with obese participants insulin resistance was improved.[2]

Once you master the original 7-minute workout you can move on to the Standing 7-Minute Workout and even graduate to the Advanced 7-Minute Workout.  Don’t have 7 minutes to spare?  What about 4 minutes? The 4-Minute Workout is a very short, intense burst of activity such as running, biking, or swimming.  If you search for HIIT workouts you’ll find programs catering to any demographic including older adults, pregnant people, and overweight folks.

Computer Sloucher Pain Relief? Try Spinal Flossing

Many of us experience pain from slouching in front of a computer for hours on end.  Between bad office ergonomics and ignoring discomfort to forge on with work, this pain can become chronic especially for our spines.  Studies have shown that extensive sitting can be as bad for you as obesity or smoking.[3] Physical therapist Vinh Pham created a 15-minute daily routine to “future proof your body against chronic pain.”[4] Pham’s exercises target the most common pain points for computer slouchers — our necks, shoulders, spines, and lower backs and focus on preventative steps to avoid long term problems.

Pham equates good spinal health with good dental health.  Many people take a reactive approach to back pain.  Ignoring the pain until it becomes so acute that they feel the only option is surgery.  He wants people to think of spinal health like they would dental health. Just as we brush and floss daily to maintain good dental health, we need to take 15 minutes a day to maintain spinal health.    He even has an exercise called spinal flossing.   Check out Pham’s spinal flossing exercise and several others including one to prevent plantar fasciitis.

Take a Deep Breath to Lower Blood Pressure

You probably never give a thought to breathing, but respiratory muscles and how we breathe also have significant impacts on our physical and mental well-being.  Just like any other muscle group, our respiratory muscles can become less productive over time.  This is problematic because breath is essential not only to our ability to exercise effectively but also impacts weight, allergies, mood, stress levels, and cognitive performance.  As James Nestor, author of “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art” says “You can’t be truly healthy unless you’re breathing correctly”[5] These nine exercises can help. 

What’s more, a five minute daily breathing routine can help lower blood pressure.  A study out of the University of Colorado, Boulder showed “Working out just five minutes daily via a practice described as “strength training for your breathing muscles” lowers blood pressure and improves some measures of vascular health as well as, or even more than, aerobic exercise or medication”[6]  The CU Boulder study had subjects do daily High-Resistance Inspiratory Muscle Strength Training (IMST) using a resistance-breathing training device called PowerBreathe.  The results were similar to what blood pressure medication would produce.  The study indicated that the breathing routine may also be a preventative measure for high blood pressure.[7]

In good news for post-menopausal women, the IMST routine improved cardiovascular health for women not taking supplemental estrogen. [8]

Sleep to Be a Better Lawyer

Pulling all-nighters and always being on-the-clock has traditionally been a badge of honor for the legal profession. But rather than leading to better outcomes, sleep deprivation can undermine a lawyer’s ability to function effectively.  According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, “not getting enough sleep can cause trouble with learning and focusing, making decisions, and solving problems, as well as accurately judging other people’s emotions and reactions. Sleep deficiency can take an emotional toll, resulting in irritability, frustration, difficulty controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. It may take longer to complete tasks, or to complete them accurately.”[9] Chronic sleep deprivation increases anxiety, stress, and blood pressure levels and can contribute to serious health outcomes like diabetes, heart disease, and depression.

The Path to the Land of Nod

·         Set up a consistent sleep schedule even on weekends

·         Get regular exercise and eat meals on a regular schedule (Don’t exercise or eat too close to bedtime)

·         Avoid caffeine after 3pm and alcohol before bed

·         Turn off screens an hour before bedtime

·         Use deep breathing, meditation, or visualization to decompress and clear your mind before bed

Simply put, the secret to good sleep is to develop routines and stick with them. But don’t beat yourself up if you get off track.  Consider napping.  According to WebMD “A short nap in the mid-afternoon can boost memory, improve job performance, lift your mood, make you more alert, and ease stress.”

Let the Law Library Help 

Check out Yoga for Lawyers: Mind-Body Techniques to Feel Better All the Time or A Lawyer’s Guide to the Alexander Technique: Using Your Mind-Body Connection to Handle Stress, Alleviate Pain, and Improve Performance from our Lexis Digital eBook collection.   Let us help you take a load off your plate with our paid research services. Visit our website at or email us at to find out more about available resources to ease your work burden so you can focus on achieving a sound mind and sound body.

[1] See Gretchen Reynolds, The Scientific 7-Minute Workout, New York Times (May 9, 2013)

[2] See Christie Aschwanden, Super Short Workouts Can Be Surprisingly Effective, Washington Post (May 7, 2022)

[3] See Edward R. Laskowski, M.D., What Are the Risks of Sitting Too Much?,

[4] See Vinh Pham, Sit Up Straight: Futureproof Your Body Against Chronic Pain with 12 Simple Movements. (Headline Home 2022)

[5] See Kelly DiNardo, Breathe Better With These Nine Exercises, New York Times (July 18, 2020)

[6] See Lisa Marshall, 5-minute Breathing Workout Lowers Blood Pressure as Much as Exercise, Drugs, CU Boulder Today (June 29, 2021)

[7] See Allison Aubrey, Daily “Breath Training” Can Work as Well as Medicine to Reduce High Blood Pressure, (Sept  20 2022) 

[8] Id at 5

[9] See Allison C. Johs, Simple Steps: Want to Be a Better Lawyer? Get More Sleep, ABA Law Practice (July 18, 2022)