by Vincent Mars
As writers, we may be writing blog posts, articles, stories, schoolwork, research papers, or sales reports constantly, but that doesn’t mean we have to stay glued to our desks all day. Writing may be a sedentary activity that ties us to a desk most of the time, but at the same time it can offer us plenty of opportunities to be active, and often, even give us the rare benefit of a flexible schedule into which we can easily integrate exercising. In between writing sessions, as well as before and after them, we should make an effort to stay active.
In my previous post I wrote about healthy foods for writers. Now I think is a good moment to draw attention to the importance of being an “active” writer. Studies suggest that sitting (at a desk) for more than 4 hours a day is unhealthy, and can even shorten our life. From weight gain to heart problems, the dangers of inactivity are well-documented and there’s no need to repeat them here.
The benefits of being active are equally well known. I would like to add, though, that for us writers, moving not only promotes general health, but also oxygenates our brain and increases our concentration, helping to improve the quality and even speed of our writing. If you ever sat down to write something after working out a bit, or after a good walk, you know what I mean – you just feel more prepared for the page, whether it’s blank, or in dire need of revising or editing.
While in an ideal world we would all go to the gym three times a week or do intense body weight exercises at home and run for at least 30 minutes every day, not many of us have the schedule, amenities, or body configuration necessary for sustaining such a training routine. But we shouldn’t cling to any excuses. Moving constantly between our desk, reading chair, kitchen, and bathroom isn’t good enough – we can do better.
Walking is a great start. Many famous writers were in fact great walkers – Charles Dickens and Henry David Thoreau come to mind. Walking, especially brisk walking for at least 30 minutes, can be an excellent boost before we start writing, as well as a great way to relax after a(n) (in)tense writing session. Walking can also become a creative ritual, one that stimulates our mind to come up with fresh ideas, or solutions to problems we are facing.
For my part, I walk around 30 minutes first thing in the morning, after I brush my teeth and before I start writing. While it would be more convenient to jump from my bed straight to my desk – I work from home – I find that those 30 minutes of early morning freshness are some of the best of my day. Regardless of your schedule, you should be able to free some time for walking, if not every day, then at least every other day. Or you could just walk to the bus or subway station instead of driving to work. You may also want to consider cycling and running.
Simple Exercises For the Heart and Legs
There are other easy yet effective exercises we writers can perform with few to no risks. The heart is a muscle, but we can only exercise it indirectly, by exercising our other muscles, most notably our leg muscles. Walking, running, and cycling are all effective ways to keep our heart positively busy, but there are other easy and even fun exercises that can get our heart pumping in between writing sessions:
- bouncing as many times as you can – do it right next to your desk, pretending you’re jumping over an invisible swinging rope
- jumping jacks
- knee bends
Up and Down the Steps
Every movement counts. If you have any steps nearby, i.e. if your room is on the second floor, don’t hesitate to use them – don’t keep a glass of water (or a snack) on your desk at all times, but rather go get it from the kitchen whenever you’re thirsty (or hungry). Not only will your leg muscles be pleased, but the water (or the snack) will also taste better with the effort.
Body Weight Exercises
You may also want to try to use your body weight to do push-ups or sit-ups, which you can easily do at home without any gear. How many of them you do and how often depends on several factors, as well as on your workout goals, so you may want to read more online about simple training routines at home.
In conclusion, we writers must have not only an active mind, but also an active body. We should walk, run, do cardiopulmonary exercises, and even body weight exercises. We should even go to the gym if there’s one near and our body can take it (and our body can take a lot more than we think). We should do this not only to stay healthy, but also to create the right conditions for our brain to function at its best. An active writer is a good writer.