Move yourself, sitting folks!

Feb 19, 2021

A Twitter post triggered a thread, so I thought I’d move it here too, because it’s relevant and I wanted to save it. Here’s the original tweet that got me thinking.

This is the short thread that followed, transcribed and extended for the blog:

Let’s start at the beginning. A sedentary lifestyle is one of the biggest killers out there. Sitting down for long periods of time is as bad as smoking for mortality. Don’t believe me? Look it up. Here’s a detailed study if you want all the data:

That’s actually a pretty fascinating study, taking into account a variety of variables. It makes interesting reading if you’re nerdy for this stuff like I am. But here’s the key point: “This study demonstrates an increasing risk of disease and mortality with increasing total sitting time and TV viewing time. It also revealed a threshold of 6–8 h/day of total sitting and 3–4 h/day of TV viewing, above which risk for several important health outcomes increased more rapidly.”

So maybe the smoking analogy is stretching it, but not by much. Sitting around a lot is BAD for you. As writers, we obviously sit around a lot. One other thing with regards to that [personal trainer hat on*]: It doesn’t matter if you’re fit and healthy and you exercise for an hour every day. If you then sit around for 6 to 8 hours at work, the unhealthy effects of sitting are just as bad! A lot of people think they can sit around all day as long as they exercise morning and/or night to combat the inactivity. It doesn’t work like that. You may well be fit and strong from your exercise, but the problems of extended sitting are still there, still just as bad.

I’m a martial arts instructor. I train hard almost every day. I’m in pretty good shape. None of that means I can then sit around for 8 hours a day penning mad horror. I mean, that IS what I do, but not without breaks. You have to break up those sitting hours. I use a timer app on my desktop, set for 30 mins. The alarm goes off after 30 minutes, and I get out of the chair and move around. I might make a cuppa, go hang out the laundry, do some push-ups, practice one or two kung fu forms. There are numerous things you can do to move your limbs a lot and get your blood pumping. After 5 or 10 minutes of moving around, I go back to work. I reset the timer and start it again. If I’m really in the zone I might skip one alarm and go for an hour straight, but NEVER more than one. I can take a break and get back to work without losing focus because I’ve trained myself to do that. This is a job, so work on your job skills. I know sometimes I’m hanging in a mental net that’s fragile as lace and if I disturb that, I’ll lose my flow. I can snooze the alarm in those instances and push through. But there are always places you can jack out briefly, then get back in. This is a craft that uses more than just your mind and your typing fingers and you need to train every aspect of the art. Keeping a healthy body is part of that.

You might also get a standing desk, or work with a laptop while you walk on a treadmill. Anything is good as long as you get up and move around once or twice every hour AT LEAST. Now we all know dogs are awesome, but here’s another reason why. In the middle of every day I take an hour or so break, quick lunch, then walk Rufus. Long, fast-paced walks. I might take a 90 minute break if necessary, sometimes combine it with chores like post office runs or grabbing groceries. What’s important is moving my body, even if I’m teaching that night.

Obviously, a long dog walk or any other exercise outside is easier in Australia in summer (or winter!) than say, Maine, USA in February. But there’s a lot you can do at home. Body weight exercises, up and down the stairs, even just briskly walking a few laps of a small room gets the body and blood moving and helps to mitigate the problems of extended sitting.

So that’s my advice to you all, writers especially. But it applies to anyone with a sedentary job. Sitting around is a killer. MOVE YOSELF!

(*I’m not a practicing PT any more, but I was for over a decade.)

From our walk today:

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