The Sedentary Silent Killer

Lesson 78 Chapter 6 Module 7

Today’s lesson is very much a “do as I say, not as I do”, because I’ll be the first to admit that the advice is very on my best days I do these things.

A few years ago, a study and then a TED talk came out, warning us all that “Sitting is the new smoking.”

Because our world these days is filled with journalists and leaders who don’t read boring scientific papers, there was a push for a while to stand while working, and that would “solve” all the problems.

If it worked for Hemingway, it has to be good for the rest of us, right?


Only one part of the study covered the effect that sitting has on our bodies (which we’ll talk about momentarily.) The rest of the study focused on the sedentary lifestyles that most of us live.

So sure, while standing at a desk gets you out of that hunched and right-angled position, you’re still standing in one place for hours on end.

It’s like those old pharmaceutical commercials, that even the most fit gym-going people could have high cholesterol or blood pressure. And never get checked, because they think they’re being healthy.

As you get more and more into regular writing work, you will start spending more and more time at your computer (or journal or loose-leaf papers) writing.

Many writers will talk about how you just need to put your butt in a chair to get writing done. And when you do that enough, you eventually get into the creative zone, and can spend hours when the words are flowing.

You don’t want to shun your muse if she’s showing up and blessing you with a burst of inspiration.

But those marathons should be occasional, and likely are.

More frequently, you’ll be sitting at your desk wanting to write, trying to write, checking Facebook to see if you’ve got notifications on your business page what is up on your friend’s feed, researching your topic on Wikipedia and spending an hour on the Laffy Taffy fan site, willing yourself to write, jotting down a few ideas, reading a few posts related to the topic, spending another hour on a website for email conversions when you are writing about puppies, creating a half-assed title for the puppy post, then giving up 3.5 hours later and walking away for a bit.

No shame here, that happens to the best of us.

The issue, of course, is that you just spent hours in that sitting and sedentary position, with not much to show for it.

So unless you are on a real streak (hey, when the muse is there, you don’t tell her to go away because of ergonomics), you need to make sure the rest of your time is not spent in this “horribly bad for you” state.

One way to do this is to use a timer program, like Pomodoro, or even your phone’s stopwatch.

Many systems will suggest doing 25 minutes of work, then taking a 5 minute break. And working in sprints based on this.

I like to set mine for 40 or 45 minutes of work, then take 10 minute breaks. After every 2, I’ll try to take a 30 minute break or so to walk away and do something else.

When I’m creating or researching and writing (or, trying to write), I found the 25 minutes of work wasn’t enough time for me to thoroughly work through something. But at about 40-45 minutes, I was often getting antsy.

Which is why the break is so important, and getting up and moving around is so important. Your brain isn’t going to stay engaged if your body is screaming “OH MY GOODNESS LET ME GOOOOOOOO!!!”

As Aristotle wrote, we are animals at our core.

We’ve already looked into the importance of breaks and movement on your rest days, but on this rest day maybe spend your downtime thinking on some ways to add this mini-break routine to your regular work and writing.

During the breaks, walk around your house or do some yoga and stretches or do some chores—whatever it takes to stop the monotony and give your body a turbocharge.

You might be surprised to find out how much more productive and creative it makes you.

And your body will thank you as well. Which is kind of important, cause it is one of the few things we only get one of in this crazy thing we call life.

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