Another blog? Another effing blog? I hate writing “effing” ---I prefer the real word but for my first post I'm trying not to offend anyone. Of course, the fact that I’m writing a blog that involves discussion on exercise offends my husband, an avid runner. "You barely work out," he told me when I mentioned what was to be the subject of this blog. It's true. I'm not an athlete. I don't run. I don't do treadmills. I don't Soulcycle. But I'll talk more about what I do to exercise in my next post.
I’m a writer. I write on various tv shows. And I hate working out. Really. Sometimes I can disappear into the workout and sort of have fun but mostly I dread workout days. I actually think when I’m going to sleep “Tomorrow is a work out day. DAMN. IT. TO. HELL.” But I figure I can’t be alone in this. So, what I want to do here is post stuff that helps writers start or continue working out. Why? It’s your body. And your brain. We need both to write and both need physical exertion, even when we don’t want to give it to them. But let's start slowly...
As writers, we sit a lot. So, no matter what kind of writing you do, your ass is probably in a chair. Most tv shows have writers' rooms. These are big conference like rooms with a dozen chairs around a table, sometimes a monitor, many whiteboards and many more pens, pencils, and snacks. So many snacks. And we sit around discussing stories and eating the snacks. Then when we’re on script we go to our offices or we go home and we sit and write. There’s lots of sitting. People who write--novelists, journalists, bloggers, feature writers, sit. And most of us know that sitting all day isn’t good for us.
The following was published on ergonomics.ucla.edu:
“… prolonged sitting has been associated with a high incidence of back complaints (Mandal, 1981), increased spinal muscular activity and intradiscal pressure (Grandjean and Hunting, 1977; Lindh, 1989). Other problems reported include discomfort in the lower extremities (Westgaard and Winkel, 1996) and increased muscle loading of the neck and shoulder muscles when sitting with the forearms unsupported as compared to standing with the forearms unsupported (Aaras et al., 1997; Lannersten and Harms-Ringdahl, 1990).”
What about those sit-stand desks you ask? Read on.
Dr. Jos Verbeek, a health researcher at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health did studies and he along with his co-authors came to conflicting conclusions about whether sit-stand desks reduce sitting time. Even the best research available wasn't great, the researchers write in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. The studies were either too small to be significant, the scientists say, or were poorly designed. For example, most were not randomized controlled trials, and the longest study followed participants for only six months. In fact, there isn't really any evidence that standing is better than sitting, Verbeek adds. The extra calories you burn from standing over sitting for a day are barely enough to cover a couple of banana chips. "The idea you should be standing four hours a day? There's no real evidence for that," he says. "I would say that there's evidence that standing can be bad for your health."
This was not great news for me. As you can see in the picture above, I have a computer stand that I use at home (and another for my office) and I love it! I rarely use my chair and I feel more productive. But apparently research doesn’t support standing for long periods of time either. Heavy sigh.
Again, from ergonomics.ucla.edu
"…neither static standing nor sitting is recommended. Each position has its advantages and disadvantages. Research indicates that constrained sitting or constrained standing are risk factors and that alternating work postures may be preferable. Alternation between two postures allows for increased rest intervals of specific body parts, and reduced potential for risk factors commonly associated with MSD development."
This was published in the Boston Globe in 2014:
"What’s best for your muscle and joints and your mind’s productivity? Sit for no more than 20 minutes at a time, and stand in one position for no more than 8 minutes. You should also take a two-minute moving break at least twice an hour to stretch or walk around."
Excuse me? What the hell are we supposed to do?? Pop up and down like a jack in the box?? One solution is, of course, the treadmill desk. I don't know any writers who use one so I can't speak to it's effectiveness. But one of those might solve the problem. For me though, it feels like simultaeous walking and writing would be tough and...distracting somehow. Oh, and P.S.--working out five days a week doesn't counteract sitting or standing for long periods. Dr. James A. Levine works at the Mayo Clinic studying the health effects of sitting and says "Even if you're a gymgoer and think you're safe on account of your excellent effort, you are not. No one gets away from this stuff. Excess sitting this study seems to suggest, is a death sentence."
I know. It’s kind of confusing and also ALARMING but here’s what’s true—we writers are sedentary folks for the most part and if we don’t work out, in addition to getting up and moving around periodically, we’re being unhealthy. And being unhealthy leads to all sorts of problems which keep us from writing. And even though writing can make us crazy, it's what we do. I know what you're thinking-- who can remember to move around every twenty minutes? It's really impractical. I agree. The takeaway here is whether you sit or stand or both-- try and take breaks frequently. So get moving, writers. It's good for your brain; good for your body. And your words will thank you!