One famous piece of writing advice is beautiful in its simplicity: “Apply ass to chair and write.” That’s how the work gets done, even when it isn’t all that fun.
It’s time, though, to turn a leery eye on the one piece of equipment that might be negatively impacting your health more than you realize: the chair. We’ve become an exceedingly sedentary culture. Many of the activities that might’ve gotten us up and about even five or ten years ago (shopping, meeting clients and friends, etc.) are now increasingly online. Many people work remotely on their computers, and writers are especially reliant on them. Even if you write longhand in a notebook, it’s likely you’re doing so while sitting down somewhere.
A few years back, I clued in to how much I really sat around during the day. Before I started freelancing full-time, every job I’d had since college involved sitting at a desk for eight hours a day. Then I’d come home…and sit at a desk either gaming or writing for most of the evening. Nowadays, pretty much 99% of my work is done on my computer, either at a desk or in a coffee shop. That’s a lot of sitting. But is being sedentary really so troublesome?
A lack of physical activity has been linked to increased risk of:
- Heart disease
- Depression and anxiety
In itself, prolonged sitting has been linked to:
- Slowed metabolism
- Back pain
- Neck strain
- General fatigue
- Poor blood circulation
- Weight gain
Nasty stuff all around. What are the alternatives? Nowadays, there are an increasing number of options to just plunking down in a chair.
- Standing Desks – Just by standing rather than sitting, you’re working out your leg muscles, engaging your back and shoulders, and getting your blood flowing more. The key here is positioning your computer at the proper distance and height to avoid eye strain and keeps things ergonomic for your hands.
- Treadmill/Workout Desks – Take it a step further by tossing in mild physical activity while working. Check out this post on how I built a treadmill desk on the cheap. A slow, steady walk throughout the day is easy enough to maintain and can help you increase mental focus and raise energy levels. Other variations including attachments that convert your bike into a desk or pedal and elliptical desks.
- Timed Breaks – If you can’t or don’t want to alter your desk layout, this could be the next best thing. Set an egg timer, phone alarm, or use an online app to track every half hour or hour. Then take a five or ten minute break to stand up, walk around, and get the blood flowing. Doing this regularly throughout the day can help ward off some of the negative effects of prolonged sitting.
- In-Office Workouts – Again, ramp it up a bit by using periodic breaks during the day to put in short exercises, boosting your metabolism and burning extra calories. It may not feel like much in smaller increments, but they do add up. This can be anything from active stretching to small weights to jumping jacks and more. We’ll be delving into various office-oriented workouts you can experiment with in an upcoming post.
Other options range from balance balls to kneeling chairs and beyond. Really, anything that gets you off your ass and keeps you from being bent over, squinting at a screen all day is going to help.
How long are you sitting throughout each day? Have you tried out any standing or active alternatives to the traditional desk and chair setup? Have you noticed any difference or experienced any difficulty making this sort of workstation transition?
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