We’ve all read the stories: Sitting is the new trans-fat (or sugar, or gluten—name your favorite poison). According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, “A recent study suggested that sitting for prolonged periods increases risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and death, even among people who exercise regularly.”¹
Well, y’all, guess what I do all day. It’s pretty hard to write fiction without spending several hours each day sitting. My mantra, posted on my wall, is BICFOKTAM: Butt in Chair, Fingers on Keyboard, Typing Away Madly. Plus, in order to improve at my chosen genres (blogging, women’s fiction, mystery) I have to read widely and voraciously in those genres, not to mention books, magazines and websites about the craft of writing.
I find that reading while pacing about the house is a good arm toner, especially if the book in question is heavy, but leads to stubbed toes and worse. I do have one piece of furniture at about the right height for reading in a standing position, and I can sometimes be found there, plugged into my ancient iPod, doing a little shuffling dance while reading. Somehow, though, I find it more difficult to concentrate when reading or writing in a standing position.
Research bears this out. According to a study by the Draugiem Group, “…for tasks which require a creative approach—for example, thinking about a possible coding solution, or writing a great article—then the urgency provided by standing is more of a hindrance. We found that for creative tasks, sitting and not paying attention to your corporal self was helpful in letting your mind wander and explore creative options.”²
And writing requires more surface area than my little sideboard offers; in addition to my little laptop, I need note cards, pens, coffee, snacks, pages of comments from my critique group, reference books…
I do go to the gym pretty often, but one hour of exercise doesn’t counteract spending the rest of the day in a chair—and I’ve got the butt to prove it.
My internet search for “workout for writers” and similar terms led mostly to writing tips and prompts—all very well, but that won’t get me out of my chair. I did find this one, good for improving blood flow and de-tensing muscles, but most of these exercises are performed while seated. http://hearwritenow.com/articles/health/exercises-for-writers/
In the meantime, I’m trying measures like these:
- Set a timer at 30-minute intervals. When it rings, get up and clean something. I tend to ignore most housework until it reaches out and grabs me—say, my feet encounter a sticky spot on the floor. This technique could kill the proverbial two birds with one stone, if I can only force myself not to ignore the timer. Or,
- If it’s not pouring down rain (I live in the Pacific Northwest), suit up and go for a walk around the block. Or,
- When the timer rings, get up and dance vigorously to one song. Making a playlist for this exercise will be fun. I’m particularly fond of fast Latin music.
- I could get up and talk to Hubs. He’s currently recovering from knee surgery, so he’s at home all the time, poor man, when he’s not in physical therapy. But once I get involved in a writing project, I tend to temporarily forget the existence of other humans. It’s good for me to switch focus for a ten minutes and go connect, preferably while standing.
- At the end of a chapter, get up and do an online exercise video. You Tube is a rich source of these. My favorite there is a Lebanese belly dance workout that lasts twenty-seven minutes. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8j0htqi76g
Sparkpeople.com also offers a whole library of exercise videos. This twelve-minute Pilates abs workout is tough: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/videos-detail.asp?video=96
So far, my results are spotty, but I’m making progress in getting my butt out of the chair more regularly. How about you? Do you work in a chair? What do you do to break up long spells of sitting?
¹ Prolonged Sitting Linked to Serious Health Risks, Death, AAFP
² We Tested Standing Desks—Here’s Proof They Make You More Productive, by Julia Gifford