January 15th, 2013 | by Beth Barany
I recently met Faith when she commented on one of my Healthy Writers Club posts. I was fascinated when she mentioned how karate has helped her improve her writing and vice versa, so I asked her to write monthly posts about writing and movement for us! Enjoy her insights! And share you own in the comments!
The profession of writing is many things: creative, exhilarating, frustrating. But in physical terms, it is above all sedentary. That is one focus of this column: how does one maintain physical health while engaging in work that is not-at-all physically demanding?
Like most people trying to stay healthy, I make sure to get plenty of exercise. However, even working out for an hour a day, it turns out, does not negate all the time spent hunched in front of a computer in terms of health. According to a slew of recent studies, even if you’re exercising when you’re not sitting, the act of sitting itself is physically damaging. Even if you exercise regularly, if you sit for long periods, you’re more likely to get diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and die prematurely.
Yikes! I know it’s a noble sentiment to die for one’s art, but reading those studies (okay, I admit, the popular journalism summary of those studies) was enough to make me re-examine how I spend my working hours.
A lot of other “sitting” professionals (think programmers, etc.) also got a little antsy after reading these studies. But, being the creative bunch they are, they discovered and implemented a clever solution for themselves. Then I copied it.
Turns out there is a way to still get an efficient amount of writing done without sitting in a chair for solid hours, thereby possibly shortening my lifespan. Two words: standing workstation.
My standing desk
Above is the standing desk I set up to replace my traditional one. (Yes, I know it’s messy.) I ordered the kit on Amazon, and it took me less than an hour to put together. Because I’m shorter than average, I had to set the sliding keyboard section one notch lower than recommended in the directions, but it’s at a decent height and I haven’t had any problems with it. My biggest fear was that, because it’s not a sliding, adjustable station, it would be too tall for me. Luckily the top section is perfect for my height if I keep the level of my monitor near the lowest height setting.
You’ll notice that I also purchased a high stool to go along with the standing desk. So, yes, I do have the option to sit for short periods if I care to. This was also to prevent leg stiffness from standing for too long (though I also take frequent stretch breaks).
The standing desk kit I got was pretty basic, but there are many varieties available; I just didn’t want to pay the extra cash for a fully adjustable version, though those do offer more flexibility.
For the more DIY inclined, you don’t even need to purchase a new desk. You can modify your existing workstation to allow you to stand. This can be as simple as placing milk crates or shelves on your desk. One should be at the level of your keyboard; ideally your elbows should be parallel to the floor. The other should be at eye-level for your monitor.
Of course, for some people standing still isn’t enough; they add treadmills to their desks! That is a step beyond where I’m prepared to go, for the moment.
Do you ever work while standing? If you have a standing desk, what sort of arrangement do you use?
Faith Van Horne is the author of the young adult fantasy novel Slideways. She is currently putting together a collection of stories and working on another novel. In her free time, she practices karate, and even helps teach it a little. She blogs at Scribatious (faithvanhorne.blogspot.com).