If, like me, one of your favourite writing top tips is “Apply bottom to chair”, you may have been alarmed by recent scaremongering reports in the lesser press with headlines such as “Sitting Down is the New Cancer”. Less sensationally, many writers report back problems as a result of staying seated too long. When the writing process usually involves being seated at a desk for hours on end, and for many indie authors follows eight hours of a sedentary day job, it’s hard not to worry about its impact on our health.
Even though most of us know the theory of how to sit correctly at a desk, when we’re gripped by a plotline or engrossed in a long editing session, it’s all too easy to end up doing the opposite. Although I have a proper office chair, a footrest and a desk at the right height, I still often discover when I get up to make a cup of tea that I literally can’t stand up, as I’ve been sitting on my left foot and have excruciating pins and needles.
Seating Solutions for Authors
While waiting for one cramp attack to subside recently, I put out a plea on Facebook to find out how other ALLi members manage their sitting habits while writing, and here is a summary of their solutions:
- Get a standing desk, which puts your laptop at the right height for you to type while standing upright in front of it. A low-budget version is available from Ikea, but naturally more expensive and flexible options are also available, including those that rise up and down according to whether you want to stand or sit in front of it.
- Use a treadmill desk, which includes a
- Use a special kneeling chair, which keeps your back perfectly poised as you type.
- Use a footrest to keep your legs at the right angle under your desk, especially good for shorter people (I’m 5’7″ and I still find it helpful).
Sit on a Swiss ball – great for strengthening core muscles, once you’ve got the knack of not falling off!
- Just get up and move around once in a while, setting an alarm to remind you to do so at pre-set intervals, so that you don’t lose track of time while you’re writing.
- Invest in a FitBit – a kind of super-pedometer that you strap on your wrist not only tracks your daily steps (suggested target 10,000) but also monitors active minutes in the day (suggested target 30)
Having considered (and fallen off) my daughter’s Spacehopper as the nearest thing in the house to a Swiss Ball, and realising that in any case I couldn’t fit on between my desk and the wall, and being reluctant to invest in a standing desk when I already have two different writing desks (how spoiled am I?! – more about my two desks and how I use them here), I opted for the FitBit. At first I wasn’t keen, thinking it looked like an electronic tag for criminals, but when I realised that it came in colours other than black, I splashed out on a pleasing slate blue one.
My FitBit Experience
Health warning: it is addictive! Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
- my supposedly sedentary day was more active than I thought – I notch up 5K paces without even trying, simply by bustling about the house and village doing my normal chores
- 17k paces makes my legs ache for two days (highest achievement so far on a day trip to London)
- it’s an easy way to set an alarm to prompt me to get up and move around every 90 minutes without the annoying ticking of my previous method, the kitchen timer (it just vibrates gently on your wrist)
- its facility to monitor sleep quality and quantity is making me get to grips with my permanent sleep deficit due to habitually staying up to write in the stillness of late nights
If you’re interested in a FitBit, be aware that different models offer different facilities – mine is the Chrome. Some also monitor your heart rate, but I couldn’t cost-justify that.
What’s your favourite solution to the author’s sedentary lifestyle? I’d love to hear your experiences!
(Note: I am not in the pay of FitBit, though if they wanted to make any special offers to ALLi members, I’m sure we wouldn’t turn it down!)
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