Maybe you’ve heard about this trend to avoid sitting for long periods of time.
Here’s what Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic says, “Researchers have linked sitting for long periods of time to…a cluster of conditions that includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. The muscle activity needed for standing and other movement seems to trigger important processes related to the breakdown of fats and sugars within the body. When you sit, these processes stall — and your health risks increase. When you’re standing or actively moving, you kick the processes back into action.”
Ginny Graves in an October 2013 article in Vogue magazine writes, “After a scant 90 seconds of sitting, important cellular responses that sensitize cells to insulin begin to switch off, so you don’t produce glucose as easily: after 30 minutes in a chair your triglycerides start to climb.” She goes on to explain that some regular exercise can’t undo the damage of sitting for the whole rest of the day. As a writer and a person who loves to sit and read, I feel the urge to jump up immediately.
While the idea has been growing in the media for the past few years, it was Susan Orlean’s (author of “The Orchid Thief,” “Rin Tin Tin” and “Adaptation”) comments in the Vogue magazine article that got my attention. “I used to feel like a lump after writing for a few hours, but now I feel energized and alert,” she raves. Susan Orlean also wrote about her experiences writing while using a treadmill in the May issue of The New Yorker and then was interviewed about it on NPR. Callers to the program enthused about their lessened back pain, weight loss and disappearing mid-day slump.
So how does it work to write while standing or walking? Susan Orlean reports that while on the treadmill, you aren’t moving fast. You go at a very slow pace that doesn’t interfere with typing. The body falls into a rhythm and then you get used to it. She doesn’t find herself longing to sit down, and instead feels energized to keep going to other activities when she is done.
If there isn’t a treadmill and adjustable desk for you to use, there are some other ways to energize your writing. You can move your computer to a counter top and do some part of your computer time, like research, standing up. This works if you can find a counter top at the right height so you don’t slump or experience a carpel tunnel syndrome flare-up.
Or you can try a method that local writer Jennie Shortridge uses: Set a timer and move around after every 45 minutes. Take 10-15 minutes to walk and stretch. Much like getting your best ideas in the shower, allowing your brain to take a break might even result in a creative solution to something you are working on.
You can also set your computer to tell you the hour. That might be the cue to drop to the floor and do a set of crunches and bicycles. The more imaginative among us might run a few sets of stairs while pretending to be living in a romantic garret at the top of a very tall building in Paris. I think I’ll start with doing my internet surfing while standing. I’m not ready for the treadmill yet.