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If Sitting Is the New Smoking, How Does a Judicial Officer Quit? 

(Using lifestyle to maximize health on the bench and in life) 


By Hon. Roberto Ramírez and Hon. Priscilla Loew 


"Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV, and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death. The chair is out to kill us." 

James Levine, Mayo Clinic professor of medicine  


Obviously this is not good news for a profession in which sitting for long periods of time is the norm. However, while we can’t necessarily change the job, a change in body mechanics, associated exercises, better nutrition, and a plan can make a significant difference in our lives.  


When you sit all day long, four things happen: (1) you weaken your glutes, abs, quads, hamstrings, and back muscles; (2) you gain weight (especially in the first 24 months on the bench); (3) you become more susceptible to disease; and (4) your stress levels increase. 


With only two modifications, you can combat these problems—reasonable exercise and nutrition. For some, this might just take some tweaks. For others, it might involve a lifestyle change.  


Reasonable exercise. With only four movements (squats, lunges, pushups, and crunches) and just 15 minutes per day, you can target each muscle that suffers from sitting all day. Better yet, you can do it in chambers, with zero equipment, very little space, and no special clothes.  


These four movements hit your quads, hamstrings, abs, and back. You can do them before you leave for work, right before you start your morning docket, or when you take breaks during the day. You can do it as a Tabata, AMRAP (As Many Rounds as Possible), EMOM (Every Minute on the Minute), or FT (For Time). If you don’t know how to get started, reach out to us and we can get provide you with a series of beginner exercises. You can do it by yourself, with your neighbor, or with a group.  


Also, never underestimate the power of a walk in the middle of the day. This is good not only for your physical health, but also your mental health! Don’t think you have time? You don’t have time not to. A short walk now can prevent time-consuming health problems later.  


Nutrition. Being a judicial officer is an endurance sport. You need to fuel your body similar to an endurance athlete. What’s going to give you the right start? What’s going to keep you going throughout the day? What’s going to ensure you don’t hit that 2 p.m. bonk? These are questions that endurance athletes ask themselves and ones you should be asking yourself.  


What you don’t need: Anything refined (sugar & processed foods). If you can stay away from only those two things, you will feel better and look better. Your A1C levels go down. Your risk of diabetes goes down. Currently, almost 20 million Americans have diabetes and almost 90 million Americans are prediabetic. There is a direct correlation between this and how people eat.  


What you do need: protein. This is how muscle is made and kept. Your body does not need animal-based protein. There are plenty of plant-based protein options. Don’t be afraid of carbs, but make them count. Your body needs fat. (Fat does not make you fat. Sugar and things that turn into sugar makes you fat.)  For protein, turn to lean meats, eggs, nuts, beans, lentils, hummus, cheese, whole milk products, Greek yogurt, seeds. For fat, go with avocados, cheese, dark chocolate, nuts, eggs, salmon, EVOO, coconut oil, and full fat dairy. For carbs, stick with fruit and vegetables. Pile them high and don’t fry them.  


Nutrition is just like anything else: What you put into it, is what you will get from it. Healthy eating is a lifestyle. You can have variety and not sacrifice taste when developing healthy meal planning. We live in a society where you can get pasta made out of vegetables, where you can make rice from cauliflower, where you can make amazing waffles with protein powder. Food prep can be the difference between type-2 diabetes and the fountain of youth.   


Resources. Finally, some ideas to implement your health and exercise plan:  


*Locations: Your chambers, any running trail, local gyms (many have discounts for government workers), Classpass, yoga studios, group classes, Pilates.  


*Apps: Couch to 5k, Pacer, Strava, Runcoach, Mapmyrun, Endomondo, HIIT, Asana Rebel, 7 minute workout, Fiit, Meditation, Calm, The Mindfulness App, Headspace, Stop, Breath and think. 


*Equipment: Nothing special—just move.  


Less sitting and more moving contributes to better health.