The Almost Daily Word – Seven Deadly Sins of Bar Exam Preparation – #3 – Being Out of Shape

To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear. The Buddha

Thirty-five years of experience with the California Bar Exam has led me to reflect on the seven deadly sins of bar exam preparation – self-defeating traits that predict bar exam failure. Number 3 is:

Being Physically Deconditioned

In 2011 the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association recommended minimum daily exercise standards for adults wishing maintain cardiovascular fitness. They said “…all healthy adults aged 18 to 65 years need moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes on five days each week or vigorous-intensity aerobic activity for a minimum of 20 minutes on three days each week.”

Since earlier research disclosed that fewer than half of US adults met these standards, and that nearly 25% of all American adults don’t exercise at all, I’d bet that a significant minority of graduating law students go into the bar exam way out of shape. If I’m correct, I have to ask: “What are they thinking?”

Can we stipulate that studying all day, nearly every day, for this life-changing rite of passage is stressful? Can we also stipulate, without further explanation, that there’s beaucoup stress associated with taking the bar exam – for 18 hours or more over three or more days – and even more stress associated with failing it?

Who does not know that exercise produces endorphins, (the body’s own “feel-good” neurotransmitters), boosts the immune system and combats stress? You may not know that exercise increases the production of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) in the hippocampus, the portion of the brain that controls learning and memory. More BDNF equals better memory. Exercise also increases concentrations of serotonin and norepinephrin, neurotransmitters that combat depression.

So … knowing that that brisk half-hour walk in the sunshine would improve your mood AND your memory, returning you to your studies happier, fresher and, in a way, even smarter, are you prepared to get going? To say no would really be a sin.