Environmental and societal changes ushered in by the 21st century, such as less physically demanding jobs and time-saving technology, have resulted in significantly decreased activity for most adults in the U.S. Combined with a growing trend of unhealthy diets, adults across the country are facing unnecessary illnesses. The demands of practicing law often make lawyers even more susceptible to physical and mental health illnesses than other professions. One way to guard against these illnesses, improve brain function and mood and boost energy is regular exercise.

Helping improve people’s lives

Cristina Rodriguez, a lawyer in Beasley Allen’s Mass Torts Section who is a nationally certified group fitness instructor and National Master Trainer admits that practicing law while maintaining an exercise routine and healthy eating habits can be challenging. However, she has learned that “we always make time to do the things that are important to us and that we love” and she has seen the lives of individuals, and even entire families, improve when they make the commitment to get active and eat healthier.

MG 0720 Lawyer to Lawyer: Exercise and healthy eating for overall wellness

While in college, Rodriguez started teaching group fitness classes as a temporary job to help pay for college expenses. it has since developed into a life journey, connecting her with people all over the world and giving her the opportunity to help them improve their health, wellness and longevity. She now teaches a variety of formats, including kickboxing, dance fitness, boot camp, strength training, active aging movement and water fitness classes, each week to kids and adults of all ages, including 80+ years.
Serving others is where her two careers intersect.

“As a lawyer and a fitness professional, the work that I do can positively change the lives of others,” said Rodriguez. “Knowing that I have played a role in changing the wellness of another person, which impacts the future of their life in a positive manner, is incredibly rewarding and a tremendous blessing.”

Consistency and simple steps go a long way

Consistency is the common factor among the hundreds of success stories Rodriguez has witnessed. What works for Rodriguez is scheduling the classes she teaches and the trainings she conducts in the early mornings, evenings and on weekends. But people have to learn what works best for them and it may require trying different times of the day and different types of activities to determine what will help maintain the consistency.

“Quite simply,” said Rodriguez, “if you show up, so do the results.”

Regular exercise not only helps with weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight, it also improves strength, improves blood pressure, increases confidence and improves a person’s outlook on life. All of which protect the body against stress, fatigue and the many illnesses – physical and mental – that accompany them.

“Small, simple steps can lead to big changes in your health.  With exercise and developing healthy eating habits, something is better than nothing,” Rodriguez said.

Small changes can be motivation for taking more and bigger steps.

Physical fitness tips

Rodriguez offers the following tips and reminders about physical fitness:

  • Park the car at the farthest end of the parking lot to give you more steps.
  • Opt to take the stairs more frequently rather than ride in an elevator.
  • Add short walks throughout the day, such as a 10-minute walk in the morning and another in the evening. Also, stand and walk around when talking on the phone or during conference calls, when possible.
  • Set alarms or appointment reminders to stand and stretch. You can also add in a few arm pushups against the wall.
  • Choose something you enjoy doing and mix up the activities. For example, go for a nature hike or dance to your favorite songs. Exercise does not have to be boring.
  • Bottom line, get active and be intentional. Make the simple changes a priority. That is something that must be done each day and is on your schedule.

Tips for meals and a balanced diet

Similarly, small changes at meal time can go a long way. Balancing meals with good choices is key to incorporating healthy eating into your lifestyle. Rodriguez suggests:

  • Substitute water for soft drinks and replace dessert with fruit.
  • Add more color to your meals. Choose a variety of different fruits and vegetables with each meal. Adding 3 different colors to your plate can create a more nutrient-dense meal.
  • If you splurge on a calorie-dense main course, then make better choices with the selection of side dishes and/or back off on dessert.
  • If you eat out, get a “to-go” box to save a portion of your meal for leftovers. Most restaurants serve at least double recommended serving sizes.
  • Plan ahead and prepare more meals in advance. We tend to eat healthier meals when we plan ahead.
  • There will be days that are challenging and days that we make poor choices. Just be sure to balance it with better choices the next day.
  • Also, put the phone down during meals. Avoid “mindless meals.” Take the time to enjoy your meal and the company of others as you eat. Messages and email can wait until after your meal but checking them while you eat distracts from the amount of food you consume.

“If you have a health goal that you want to achieve, you can accomplish it, even in a high-stress profession like practicing law. Set a goal and be patient with yourself as you work towards that objective. Developing a healthy lifestyle is a process so give yourself room to grow and enjoy the journey!” Rodriguez said.

Beasley Allen
Mayo Clinic

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