Image courtesy of Grant Cochran / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
We are trained to sit in a chair from preschool up until we are about to retire. Sitting is tangential with learning, education and having a successful career. Those who use their hands andare on their feet all day are typically seen as having jobs performing manual labor, acquiring less pay and are simply considered less educated as those who sit in a chair at a desk and click away on a keyboard all day.
But the joke is on us. I’m not sure when someone decided that the less movement you perform during the day the more intelligent you are but society seems to have gravitated towards that belief. This applies to everyone who sits at a desk all day, but I will apply it to writing, since that is what I am doing right now.
Here is a small list of the problems that sitting in a chair all day can cause to our bodies and overall livelihood:
- High cholesterol
- Deadly blood clots
- Slowed metabolism
- Increased risk of depression
- Back problems
- Shorter life expectancy
- Higher risk of cancer
- Increased waist size
It’s not a question of how it affects our bodies, it’s a question of how writers can work to avoid these deadly repercussions.
As writers we are embarking into a profession that requires us to spend countless hours hunched over a keyboard, or a piece of paper and shutting our bodies down, exposing us to harmful side effects.
Honestly, I love writing, but if it means shortening my life, I’d rather go work on a construction crew.
I propose one simple (yet possibly scary) suggestion for all writers in order to avoid the pitfalls of sitting at a desk all day. And this goes for freelance writers as well, who maybe go to another job during the day and then write afterwards.
In fact, when I had my fulltime job and wrote on the side, my situation was even worse. I slouched at my desk for 8 hours, would take the bus home and then plop right down again at my at-home office to hammer out some blog posts or articles. This was not healthy.
Here is my proposal: Ditch the desk.
Literally take your desk and get rid of it. Donate it to charity, throw it out, sell it on Craigslist or give it to a friend.
Then your search begins. Seek out places that will allow you to lie, sit or stand in a more relaxed, natural position.
- A couch
- A reclined lazy boy
- A bed with two pillows to prop up your head
- Standing at the kitchen counter (this can be done for maybe 30 minutes to an hour, but I always get the most writing done while standing).
- On the beach
- At a park, sitting against a tree (great for inspiration and relaxation)
The bottom line is, writing should be treated as work, but it is actually a combination of work and leisure. Writing requires an exponential amount of inspiration and unique experiences. Therefore, writers should not be working in the same environment as an accountant. Explore your surroundings and embrace what the world has to offer you in comfort, inspiration, creativity, while still keeping a professional setting.
Ditching the desk is not enough though. Although lounging on your couch is considered a healthier, more natural position to write, we should also try to create a consistent regiment of moving our bodies around.
One myth is that even if you sit in a desk for 8 hours, an hour of going to the gym a day will keep you healthy. It’s just not true. Long periods of training your body to shut down and go into sleep mode cannot be counteracted by simply running or lifting weights for an hour. The damage has already been done.
Therefore, create a schedule for body movement. Stand up and walk around your house, apartment or office at least once every hour. Simply walking around, stretching and contracting your muscles is proven to reduce the many risks of sitting in a chair all day.
If you are working another job besides writing, and your company has not yet embraced a movement cycle like this, make it a priority to get up every hour or half an hour for a drink of water. Talk to your co-workers across the office and maybe even do some pushups or jumping jacks. Petition for your company to create a schedule where everyone has the option to do jumping jacks or pushups every hour. If your company hasn’t created a program yet, inform them that it is not only proven to increase the life expectancy and decrease health insurance costs, but it increases company moral and worker productivity. Honestly it astounds me when companies have not picked this up (have you been living under a rock?) But sometimes it just takes one person to speak up and make a difference for an entire organization.
As for us writers at home. Ditch the desk, perform some exercises every hour and do yourself a favor by keeping yourself healthy during your writing adventure.
See ya next time…