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Are You Sitting Down For This? (Why I’m Taking A Stand For Writers Everywhere)

Chances are if you are reading this post, you are sitting down. And if you are like most Americans (we writers are some of the worst) you’ll probably spend at least 12 hours of your waking day sitting on your […]
| Jan 8, 2013 | No comments |

Chances are if you are reading this post, you are sitting down. And if you are like most Americans (we writers are some of the worst) you’ll probably spend at least 12 hours of your waking day sitting on your rump. Assuming you get 8 hours of sleep every night, that leaves only 4 hours of daylight that you are upright each day. In fact, the average person will spend nearly 70% of their lifetime sitting. (Depressing thought, right?)

Why is this a big deal?

If you haven’t yet heard, this past year there has been an explosion of new data from countless health studies and articles that claim sitting for long periods of time is apparently one of the most harmful things we can do to our bodies. Go ahead, Google a few of them and you’ll quickly find that every single hour you sit (after the age of 25) reduces your life expectancy by 21.8 minutes. That may not seem like a lot at first until you do the math. 12 hours a day sitting (at work, at the dinner table, in the car, on the couch, at church, etc) adds up to a whopping 4.36 hours of life expectancy wasted each day. Consider that a single cigarette will carve 11 min off your life expectancy and you can see why sitting is a silent killer that few of us think about. Is sitting the new smoking?

Even more surprising is that the results hold true for those of us who exercise regularly as well. People who sit at work all day and then manage to sneak in the recommended 30 minutes of exercise everyday hardly make a dent in the amount of hours they spend sitting.

I’m not going to go into all the medical reasons why this happens. There are plenty of articles out there have already done this well. I’m not typically one to read too much into the latest health trends, and I certainly wasn’t in any mood to change my work habits based on a stupid article or two, or three…or twelve. But this information did get me thinking: Are writers doomed to live shorter, less healthy lives than the McDonalds floor-moppers? If not, what’s the alternative?

One solution could be a standing desk. That’s right, it seems the hip thing for desk jockeys to do these days is to purchase a standing desk and work diligently while standing. It’s okay – you can chuckle. I know I did when I first read about it too, but apparently it’s not as new as you think. It seems some of the most influential men of their times preferred to work standing up – men like Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill and Thomas Jefferson (or so the articles claim). I was intrigued by the concept, but it wasn’t until a friend of mine decided to take the challenge and purchased a standing desk of his own that I got to hear first hand how it was working.

After his initial discomfort from adjusting his lifestyle from one of sitting daily to standing upright regularly he discovered something interesting. He was more alert and focused at work and felt more productive. One by one,  his co-workers began switching over to the standing desks as well, having seen first hand the difference it made in their colleague’s work personality.

StandingDesk

My new standing desk!

Convinced that I shouldn’t dismiss it until I tried it, I recently decided to give it a try for myself.

Here’s what I found:

I did a quick internet search for standing desk companies and discovered…ACK…those things cost $800 or more. I was shocked. It was enough to put me out of the running for sure. I’m a writer for Pete’s sake, not a millionaire. But a few searches later I discovered an adequate solution to get me on my feet for less than $22 thanks to IKEA and a little ingenuity.  $22 was definitely in the budget range I was looking for. You can read more about the $22 IKEA standing desk solution here if you’re interested in trying it out for yourself.

As for me, I’m writing at my standing desk as we speak and while I can say it has taken a bit of getting used to, I’m actually kinda digging it. Only time will tell, but I’m learning that it hasn’t been as big of a change as I first thought it would be.

Standing desks may seem silly to us now, but I bet the idea of sitting for 12 hours a day would likely seem as silly (if not downright sinful) to people a few hundred years ago. So, I’m taking a stand for writers everywhere. I’ll post periodic updates on twitter to let you know how it’s working out for me. In the end, if standing adds a few more years of productive writing to my life I’ll be glad I stood. Who knows, one of those books may even crack the best-seller list.

 

 

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Christian Jaeschke
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Christian Jaeschke

Standing in one place for great lengths of time, isn’t much better than sitting. It places on undue stress on your legs. Really, any combination of sitting or standing, while reading would be fine, provided you get regular exercise and take a walk outside every now and then.

Keanan Brand
Member

For years, I’ve alternated standing and sitting while working at the computer. I often compose in longhand, and stand to do that, too. It keeps me alert, and gives my back and legs a rest from too much sitting. (How ironic is that?) A good walk helps keep the brain creative; standing helps me focus.
I don’t have a nifty desk–yet!–but have used the kitchen bar, the top of a small bookshelf, and a variety of items stacked up high enough to accommodate a keyboard or a laptop. The best standing spot has been the kitchen bar: sturdy, plenty of space for mouse and documents, and easy access to coffee and snacks. 🙂

Tessa Stockton
Guest

Not a bad idea, but I think moderation is key with just about anything – to have a healthy, well-balanced life. Having said that, I often like to eat standing. ; )

Esther
Guest

There are also “walking” desks. I cobbled up a version of that in my home for a while: it was a treadmill with computer keyboard mounted at a proper height for me to use while walking and typing.
It can be done. I find I cannot do it if what I have to do requires a medium to high level of concentration (writing story material would definitely tax my concentration!), but for just surfing the web, researching, reading email, or even watching video, it is quite easy to set the treadmill to a very slow speed and walk while engaging these activities.
So…if you need to do something besides just stand, consider adding a treadmill, or perhaps a stepper.

Kessie Carroll
Member

Oooh, new comment form!
 
Too much standing will give you varicose veins eventually, so there does need to be a balance. I also know that when I’m pregnant, being on my feet too much will eventually exhaust me to the point of collapse, but I doubt these standing desks were invented with pregnant women in mind. 🙂
 
I recently read an interesting blog about how walking balances both sides of the brain–something about the right-left-right movements.
http://untanglingtales.com/2012/12/weight-therapy-10-activity/
 
I’ve tried to do that more recently. I do feel better when I’ve moved around as much as I’ve sat. I do too much sitting.

Weston
Guest
Weston

Thanks Chris! Great inspirtation to follow through on an idea I have tossed around for several years.  I too was put off by the prices of stand up desks and have seen a few online contraptions like you’re using, but for $22 or less how could I go wrong.  I tried for a short time, only several hours, stacking stuff up on my desk so I could use the computer, found my plan to unstable to really hold my desktop computer.
Starting the year with significant back pain and a re-injury I am motivated to get out of my seat and stand!
Thanks for the inspiration!

Kerry Nietz
Member

Dude, I work out enough (both anaerobic and aerobic) that all I’m able to do when I’m writing is sit. In fact, I’m fortunate that I’m not napping while I’m writing… 🙂

R. J. Anderson
Member

I set up a treadmill desk over two years ago and used it while writing my last couple of novels. I’m not in the league of say, Arthur Slade (who treadmill-writes for an average of four hours a day) but I try to get in at least 30-45 minutes of treadmilling and another hour or so of standing-to-write during the day. Today I did 35 minutes of the “Rolling Hills” program on my treadmill at 1.6 km/h while writing, and another 10 minutes on the flat.
I agree with those who’ve said it improves concentration. I can’t say it improves my energy because I do get tired and have to sit down after 35-45 minutes, even if I’m on a roll… but then I suppose that just betrays how generally out of shape I am.