Monday, January 23, 2012

Writers Get Up! and Celebrate the New Year

And I mean it, get up! The editors of AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) sent a dire warning to their 47 million readers in their January 2012 issue. “Sitting is the New Smoking” proclaimed a front page headline. The article, “Sitting: Hazardous to Your Health” by Elizabeth Pope was startling. The implication of her facts and figures to those of us who spend so many hours sitting while we write is ominous – and here all I’ve been worrying about was my weight – who knew?

(info-graphics from MedicalBillingandCoding.Org)
Women who reported sitting more than six hours a day outside of work had a 34 percent higher risk of death than those who sat fewer than three hours daily. This was true even for women who exercised regularly. - AARP Article

It appears that our bodies, designed for a long day of hunting and gathering, begin to break down while sitting for prolonged periods of time. In addition to the lack of exercise for those of us who spend too many hours sitting while striving to write the next bestseller, our body reveals its unhappiness with diabolic internal manifestations. Prolonged sitting appears to have powerful metabolic consequences, disrupting processes that break down fats and sugars in the blood.

Several months ago, I purchased a Fitbit, a small (and expensive – but it was my birthday present to myself :) tracker which displays my real-time activity stats so I know how active I am each day. It shows me how many steps I take, my level of activity, how many stairs (or hills) I climb each day, how many calories I’ve burned and even how much time I spend sleeping. The stats are automatically transferred to my computer whenever I sit close to it while wearing the FitBit.

On days I spent a lot of time sitting at my desk and writing, I discovered the artery-clogging fact that I was only chalking up 1500 to 2000 steps per day. With under-5000 steps per day being considered sedentary, I realized I was just one level away from a couch potato. Being a full-time writer, I sometimes sit at my desk for hours - writing, researching, and yes, even playing Mahjongg now and then. When the ink is flowing, I only stop to eat and I only quit when my eyes go blurry. Hmmm…maybe not the best of plans, it seems.

The Fitbit inspired me to do more. It increased my motivation to hit 8000 or even the recommended 10,000 steps per day, which is the standard for being considered active. What I didn’t realize until I read this article is that, while being active is vital, we must also break up the length of time we sit at regular intervals.

We try to compensate by going to the gym for 30 minutes and we think that's's not. The body's not made that way. We need to start thinking in terms of how we can restructure our life to reintroduce small movements throughout every day. - Joan Vernikos, former NASA scientist and author of "Sitting Kills"

So dear fellow writers, I want you to stay healthy. As always, the New Year is a good time to make that commitment. So, get up! Move around every half hour or so, or maybe find a way to stand while you work, which is what many in the workplace are advocating these days. If, like me, you lose track of time when writing, you might set an alarm to go off every half hour. I situated one just far enough away from me that I have to get up to turn it off. I was irritated at first, but realized just yesterday that I am no longer picturing myself tossing it off the back deck and letting the turkeys peck it to death every time it goes off. I just get up and move around for a few minutes. I hope you’ll join me.

Best wishes for a healthy and happy New Year to you all! And do the write thing – every half hour or so, get up and move around a little.

Read the full AARP article.

For some scary info-graphics check out this news about sitting from the folks at

I’m not here to endorse anything, but you can check out a Fitbit online. It’s just one of many trackers available these days.


Jan Cline said...

I have definitely noticed a difference in my physical condition since I started writing full time. This is a good kick in the behind to remind me to keep moving! thanks for sharing!

Jennifer Lamont Leo said...

Good topic, Mary Jane!

I've started sitting on a stability ball at my desk for part of the day, instead of an office chair. I'm sure it looks silly, but nobody sees me except the cats. It takes some effort to stay upright, but not so much effort that I can't concentrate, and it prevents sitting frozen in place.

Sometimes I place my laptop on top of a bookcase to create a "faux" standing desk. I'll alternate standing and sitting--for example, sit at my regular computer to write, but stand at my laptop to check e-mail or surf the Web. In addition to creating movement, standing also discourages overly long web-surfing breaks.

It's also fun to get up every so often and dance around the office to one song.

Kathy Cooney Dobbs said...

Good admonition (cautionary advice) to writers, Mary Jane! Don't sit too long at your desk, pc, or sofa but get up and move around, get the blood flowing. Right now I'm picturing Jenny dancing around her office :)

Mary Jane Honegger said...

I'm picturing her balancing on a ball while working at the computer! Way to go Jenny!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I’m Jamie – Director of Outreach at Thank you so much for the tops. They were really helpful. For writers, we have a ton of paid work at the moment. For content buyers, we have flat-rate purchase options for blog posts, tweets, and other types of content! We hope you give our service a shot – You can reach me directly with any questions at