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Does Being a Writer Put Your Health at Risk? It’s Time to Take a Break.

Photo of woman staring at laptop
Sitting down at work all day could be hazardous to your health. (Photo: Michael Simons)

Your rear end may be trying to tell you something important about your ability to get more writing done—but you need to stop for a moment and listen.

Do you sit down to write, and then sit there—on your butt—until you’re done writing… a lot of words and several hours later?

A New York Times article suggested that as soon as you sit down in your writing chair, the electrical activity in your leg muscles drops to practically nothing.

That means:

  • Your calorie-burning rate immediately plummets to about only one calorie per minute.
  • As a result of sitting for hours while you write, your insulin effectiveness drops within a single day, and your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes raises.
  • The enzymes responsible for breaking down lipids and triglycerides plunge, which in turn causes the levels of “good” (HDL) cholesterol to fall.

The article contains a collection of bad-news headlines from several related studies about what happens to writers sitting in chairs behind desks for hours and hours.

Here’s one that’s especially sobering: The American Cancer Society tracked the health of 123,000 Americans for more than a decade, finding that:

  • The men in the study who spent six hours or more per day of their leisure time sitting had an overall death rate that was about 20 percent higher than the men who sat for three hours or less.
  • The death rate for women who sat for more than six hours a day was about 40 percent higher.
Photo of woman at sunset, with outstretched arms.
Take frequent breaks and do a few stretches. (Photo: mavoimage)

Let Your Legs Do the Walking

Wow, should we all just stop writing before it kills us? As a writer, how many hours a day do you sit?

Yet as alarming as this may seem, there is one way you can easily combat the ill effects of a “chair-based lifestyle”: Simply get up and walk away from your desk every now and then.

Here’s more hopeful news for desk-bound writers. Another recent study suggests that the act of walking increases memory performance. An Inc. Magazine article titled “Your Desk Is Making You Stupid” summed up the research results of the German study this way:

“Rather than assume that walking while thinking splits your mental and physical resources, leaving less to devote to each, the scientists actually found ‘an increase in arousal or activation associated with physical activity… which then can be invested into the cognition,’ according to the paper reporting the research. Walking increases your resources of energy, which you can then invest in thinking.”

So get up and take a break!

Break the contact between your rear end and the chair. There is scientific evidence that shows we often have creative breakthroughs when our mind has taken a break from the project on which we’ve been focusing.

If you can’t take a break, stop for a minute and stretch your toes. It’ll switch back on those electrical impulses in your legs.

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Dave Baker

View posts by Dave Baker
Hi, I’m Dave Baker, founder and copy chief of Super Copy Editors. I have more than 25 years of professional proofreading and copy editing experience, including work for The Nation magazine, The New York Times, and The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, where I shared two staff Pulitzer Prizes. At Super Copy Editors, we’re passionate about helping agencies, marketing teams, and education companies refine and polish their text to give them confidence and ensure success. Learn more here.

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