When you think of dangerous professions, writing is probably not high on the list. After all, except for war correspondents, writers aren’t being shot at, dashing into burning buildings, or working with heavy machinery (okay, maybe sometimes, but only in our imaginations as we try to conjure up an action scene).
So where’s the risk?
It’s in your butt.
The Office Chair Terror!
According to several studies, including one published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, sitting will kill you. The more time you spend at your desk may help you get that novel finished, but it’s also causing all manner of health problems. Here’s a short list of problems caused from spending too much time on your bum:
- Spinal damage including hardening cartilage and herniated disks
- Muscle atrophy leading to weakness and pain. Some muscles, such as those in the legs also shorten from too much sitting making you inflexible…which only leads to more pain.
- High blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Pancreas issues that can lead to diabetes
- Certain cancers
Oh yeah, and in addition to all that nasty stuff, sitting boosts your mortality rate. So, while you may have completed your novel, you’re not going to live very long to enjoy the royalties and accolades the book will earn.
It Gets Worse
As if getting diabetes, having crappy bones and muscles, and potentially dying wasn’t bad enough, there’s another factor to throw into the bad news fire: Your regular workout doesn’t counteract all the bad stuff sitting causes.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t exercise. Besides keeping your cardiovascular system fit, toning your muscles and burning off calories, exercise is a great time to refresh your brain. According to the Centers for Disease Control, you need to take at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week (you can halve that if you exercise vigorously), plus doing all-over strengthening exercises a couple times a week.
But that’s still not enough. In fact, a report from Harvard states you should try to sit for no more than six to eight hours a day.
How to Keep Your Novel from Killing You
Okay, many times writers feel they’ve put their heart and soul into a book, but if you want to keep that a figurative phrase, you need to get off your duff.
Here’s some ideas to help you battle the dangers of the office chair…
Get an uncomfortable chair. No, seriously, I know many writers’ advice columns encourage choosing a comfortable chair, but that comfort can keep you in the seat too long and eventually kill you. Also, hard-seated chairs (as opposed to those cushy monstrosities at Office Depot) have been shown to provide an opposing force to muscles – meaning you’re getting a very mini workout as you sit.
Drink heavily. Before you reach for the wine bottle, that’s not what I mean. Drinking water, tea or coffee not only keeps you hydrated (and perhaps caffeinated), but it also makes you have to pee. Every time you get up to go, you’ve gotten off your butt and moved a bit. While your up, why not stay up and moving for at least five minutes?
Set a timer. Ideally, reports say to get up and move every 30 minutes. That’s not realistic when you’re knee-deep in a good bout of writing. Setting a timer for an hour and then getting up and moving should still allow you to craft a good bit of writing without growing a tumor. During your break, take a quick walk around the block, climb stairs, do some gardening, strike some yoga poses, or just jog in place. Anything to get yourself moving.
Stand as you work. This is a hard one. I tend to not think well when I stand at the computer. Still, I can do mundane tasks like checking email, typing a few pages, and reading articles and blog posts. You can go out and buy an expensive computer-raiser thingie at the office store, or you can just find a bookshelf or counter top to type at. I’ve found one of the ledges on my cat’s play structure is the perfect height for typing. Using voice recognition software to “type” your work also allows you to stand while still getting your words on the page.
Avoid sitting during non-writing times. If you have a tablet, you can easily stand as you read or catch up on your favorite programs. When watching the boob tube, don’t skip the commercials, leave them running while you stroll around the house. Walk or take your bike to run errands. Take a look at all the times you sit and figure out how you can turn that into non-sitting time.
So writers, we may now have a dangerous profession, but unlike being a cop or fire fighter, we can easily avoid the hazards of our work. Now get up and go for a stroll (after you read about my writing week, of course).
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TAMMIE PAINTER IS THE AUTHOR OF THE TRIALS OF HERCULES: BOOK ONE OF THE OSTERIA CHRONICLES AND AN ARTIST WHO DEDICATES HERSELF TO THE TEDIUM OF CREATING IMAGES WITH COLORED PENCILS.