Writing: Just Don’t Sit There! By Faith Van Horne

Slideways by Faith Van HorneI 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!

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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.

Standing desk

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?

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Author Faith Van HorneFaith 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).

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10 Responses

  1. Amanda says:

    I think the standing desk is a really good idea. Thanks for bringing it to my notice. I’ve been thinking today about how to get writing done while still being active. I’ve also been thinking about how to get a lot of writing done when the weather’s so nice and I want to stay outside instead of sitting in front of my computer. Do you have any ideas on that? BTW I also shared your post on my LinkedIn profile. And I’ll be subscribing to your RSS feed as well.

  2. Beth Barany says:

    Amanda, I’m sure Faith will chime in with her advice on how to stay active and get writing down. I personally try to take a lot of breaks and get up and move around. Since I do a lot of my work at cafes, I take breaks by moving from cafe to cafe. When I work from home, I get up and change working areas, taking my laptop with me. When I worked in an office, I’d take short breaks and walk around the block when the weather was nice. Hope that helps! And thanks for subscribing!

  3. Hey Amanda, thanks for commenting. Yeah, it can be tough to commit to writing when the sun’s shining. I like Beth’s advice of moving from cafe to cafe. I work both at home and at coffee shops and the library. I’m lucky enough to have several writing spots walking distance of my house. So some days I’ll work part of the day at home, then take a walk to a cafe. I also find that the walk from the house to the cafe gets the creative juices flowing, but that’s a topic for another post! Good luck.

  4. At work they switched all our workstations to standing ones. I work in a digital printing department so it means i have to stand for 12 hours a day (minus breaks). The first few weeks my legs were killing me but then I got used to it! It kind of feels good to not be hunched over a computer all day!

  5. Amy Kinnaird says:

    Faith, I love your new stool! And now I see why people use a standing desk. I am an exerciser, but still spend too many hours at my desk. Maybe I will consider adding a standing desk somewhere in the house. My son-in-law sits on an exercise ball at his desk. Does that help?

  6. Diane, I’m glad you enjoy it! As I said in the post, I did get the stool when I made the switch. I like to have the option to take a little rest when I need it. Plus, I’m restless by nature, so I like shifting back and forth.

  7. Scott says:

    What a great idea! I love it! I have tried some chairs with some pretty funky designs, including one that looked like it was made from a pilates ball. They are supposed to help with posture, but they don’t do much for being sedentary. I write about running and I know I certainly don’t get enough movement many days. I might have to try something like this.

  8. Amy, I’m not sure about the effectiveness of sitting on an exercise ball. I know some people do it because they have to actively adjust and incorporate their core. I’d love to see a long-term study that compared the effects of standing, sitting, and sitting on an exercise ball.

    Scott, sounds like you have a little experience sitting on a ball. 🙂 Any thoughts for Amy? Good luck if you try a standing desk. I’d love to see how your experience works out.

  9. Cheri says:

    Good topic. I have a stability ball that I use for a chair for watching tv and such, but I haven’t yet set up a good height desk that would let me use it comfortably with my laptop. (Sometimes I do just put it on my lap, but when I’m slightly moving all the time, that’s not very practical.) I also have a fitdesk that I keep in my living room. Again, I can watch tv there and stay a bit more active, but I can also use my laptop, or read my textbooks when studying. Anything to keep a bit more activity through the day is a win.

  10. Cheri, I just looked up Fitdesk; hadn’t heard the term before. That looks really cool! As for balancing a laptop on your lap while sitting on a ball: I think I’d be too distracted just keeping the computer from sliding onto the floor. 🙂

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