Sunday, February 03, 2013

Writing is Killing Us

“Go into cubeland in a tightly controlled corporate environment and you immediately sense that there is a malaise about being tied behind a computer screen seated all day. The soul of the nation is sapped, and now it’s time for the soul of the nation to rise.” - Dr. James Levine, Mayo Clinic

Writing is killing us. Well, writing itself isn't killing us, but sitting at our desks all day hunched in front of our computers moving nothing but our fingers might be. According to one New York Times article, "Excessive sitting . . . is a lethal activity." USA Today reported, ". . . people in sedentary occupations are at the highest risk of early death." And How-To Geek put together a scary, statistic-filled infographic on the risks of so much sitting.

What's a writer to do? Most of you have read (especially if you scroll to the bottom of my monthly newsletter and scan the "Paranoid Ex-Lawyer's Release") about my somewhat successful attempt to turn from couch potato into athlete. Unfortunately, the New York Times article cited above explains, "Exercise is not a perfect antidote for sitting." The article continues, "Being sedentary for nine hours a day at the office is bad for your health whether you go home and watch television afterward or hit the gym. It is bad whether you are morbidly obese or marathon-runner thin." Sigh. And here I thought running a marathon was the answer.

The New York Times article suggests the treadmill desk . To use this device, a worker walks very slowly on a low-noise treadmill while working at the desk specially designed to fit on the machine. I don't have one, yet, but it's on my wish list. There's also the standing desk which has been used by the likes of Hemingway, Thomas Jefferson, and Charles Dickens. Everything old is new again! Given the space requirements and the price, I'm more likely to purchase a standing desk.

For now, though, I've simply instituted the "posture reset" policy. Every half hour, I get up, circle my arms over my head, touch my toes, and walk a big circle through the house or coffeeshop. I set the timer on my phone to beep (or vibrate if I'm in a public place) every 30 minutes alerting me it's time to move. Will this ensure longevity? I don't know, but it's got to be better than sitting completely still for long periods.

How do you minimize the amount you sit? I'd love to hear your experiences.


Carol said...

This is something I've been thinking about lately...even though I try to move my body (aka exercise) at least an hour a day, I still feel that sitting so much is having a negative effect. I know that truckers who sit for long stretches tend to get prostate problems. I don't have room for a treadmill desk so maybe I'll try the standing desk. If Hemingway can do it, so can I. You've inspired me!

Nita said...

I'm so glad this post was helpful. I'd love to hear what you decide and how it's working for you!! Good luck!

Jennifer Combs said...

That is a bit on the scary side as I am working toward an office environment after 30 plus years of actively standing, moving, lifting, climbing, and hanging. I have never had one single job where I sat at a desk. I did however sit on a forklift for almost five years and gained 80 lbs. It was difficult to take that off after I quit that job and went back to construction.

Now as a student I am sitting in front of my computer a lot every day. I have not done well at incorporating exercise into my routine but realize I am going to have to do so, BP is high and I just don't feel as good as when I am really active.

Thanks for the reminder! OH yeah I almost forgot. Do You know any cabinet makers who could make you a standing desk?!


Tania said...

I've been thinking about this too, so this is a good, timely post!
It ties in with another issue for me. I find I work better in bursts of say an hour, then take a break for 10 mins or so. (I recall seeing research that says we work more efficiently in short bursts too.) I know I'm more productive and have better concentration. It avoids that 'stare at the screen but don't actually achieve anything' coma that descends after a couple of hours. In the break I might do yoga stretches, but even if I just tidy my office or sweep the kitchen, at least I'm moving.

I doubt I'll buy a treadmill/standing desk. (Tried standing. Don't like it.) But on phone calls, if I'm not interviewing a source and taking notes, I always stand up and walk around with my phone headset. Also I have two desks, two computers, and several chairs, and I swap those around to give my body a break. I'm still sedentary but at least my body isn't frozen in the same position all the time.