Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I write, therefore I sit

Sharon Wildwind

I sit a lot. Most days, I sit at my computer between 4 and 5 1/2 hours, writing, researching, and taking care of business. I also sit in my day job, whether it’s office work, driving, or in the clients’ homes. I sit to knit; I sit to sew; I sometimes sit to read, though since I often read the last thing before going to sleep, I also recline to read.

There is a new study out of Australia that says sitting is bad, period. [Here's a link to the abstract. The full article is available as pay-per-read.]

For over 6 years the researchers followed the daily television viewing habits of 8,800 adults as part of the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study. They weren’t looking for the effects of television, but for the effects of sitting.

Bottom line: every 1 hour per day spent sitting in front of a television pushed the cardiovascular death rate up.

So maybe people who were already in poor health or who were old spent more time in front of the TV because they didn’t feel well enough to do anything else? Nope, the study participants were healthy. Some of them were as young as 25 years old at the start of the study.

People eat, drink, and smoke while watching television. Maybe it was the high salt/high fat snack foods, the beer, and the cigarettes that accounted for the difference. Sorry, when those factors were adjusted for, as were age, sex, waist circumference and exercise, the numbers stayed the same.

Human beings evolved an upright posture in order to stand, to walk, to run, but not to sit for long periods.

So if I’m already working on all of that other good stuff: healthy diet, regular exercise, stress reduction, etc., what am I going to do about sitting. Can I write and run a business standing up?

I had an acquaintance who did run his business standing up. He had a bad back and couldn’t sit, so he had a desk made that allowed him to work in a standing position. I don’t think I’m quite ready for that.

I’m also not the kind of person who can dictate my next book as I jog down the sidewalk.

I had a brief thought of taping a laptop to a treadmill and running while I typed, but no, I don’t think so.

The only thing I’ve come up with so far is the simple recommendation that’s been around at least since I took typing. We won’t go into how many decades ago that was. Even back then the typing instructor made us get up and walk around the classroom after 50 minutes of typing. I don’t know if 50 minutes sitting and 10 minutes standing will do any good, but at least that’s where I think I can start.

So put on your thinking caps. How do we reduce sitting and still write? All suggestions welcome, none are too outlandish to consider. Lets invent a way out of the sitting trap.
For the quote of the week, this week, I am quoting myself:
Writing is a marathon. Warm up, write, cool down. Eat right. Drinks water. Exercise for stamina, balance, and staying power. Stand up and be counted!
~Sharon Wildwind, mystery writer
P.S. Back at the beginning of December I posted a blog about all the art work I'd done in November. Included was a very sad- looking photo of an attempt to create an alternative out-box out of paper mache. I persevered and succeeded, though not with paper-mache. I used art board, ink, and acrylic paints instead. Here it is. It's an homage to all of us who always seem to be right up against a deadline. Oh, yes, and I did it standing at my art table. I'm giving myself bonus points for that.


Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Your outbox is stunning, Sharon. You mentioned "regular" exercise. Did the study have anything to say about daily exercise? I can't REMEMBER to get up and walk around when I'm at the computer. But I do take an hour off to run every day. I hope it helps. :)

Anonymous said...

Apparently there was no difference for people who exercised regularly, but still sat for prolonged periods.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I'm very much aware of this problem these days because while I was sitting more (writing and blogging) over the last year, I've gained quite a few extra pounds. I'm trying more stand-up work now by doing occasional half-hour sessions with my laptop on the kitchen counter. I also set the downstairs timer on the stove for one hour, then go upstairs to work. I have to go down the stairs to shut the loud timer off.

Sobaka said...

I'm not sure I can agree. Any documentary about pre-industrial peoples shows them spending a lot of time sitting around. They're not watching TV, but they're stirring a pot or sewing clothing or listening to stories. I think they should do a study of pre-industrial people, to compare the amount of sitting they do with those in the original study.

Jessie Crockett said...

I have set up a desk made from a piece of laminate flooring laid across the handrails of my treadmill and spend an hour every day walking and working. I lowered my speed a bit and increased my incline a lot compared to a keyboard-free workout but the calorie burn is at least as good. I check my email and blogs like this one. These are things I do anyway and I feel better about computer time if it is active time too. As for actual writing, I still do that seated at my desk. It may not work for everyone but I love it.