As writers, or really as professionals in most settings, we spend a lot of time sitting in an office behind a computer screen. We focus largely on mental work, and our physical bodies are often neglected. Unfortunately this leads to a huge variety of health problems. Obesity, heart disease, and even diabetes can be caused simply by sitting for long periods of time with no breaks. An article from Women’s Health also noted that regular exercise after sitting may not be enough – you actually need to take breaks from your sitting time if you want to take care of your health. Even a walk to the coffee machine or water cooler would be an improvement.
Many of us would make the excuse that we simply don’t have time in our busy day to get up and move around. We get into creative flow – or we look for creative flow – and we don’t want to interrupt that by distracting our minds with something else. We think that sitting still and focusing makes us better writers and better employees. However, studies have shown a strong link between a sedentary lifestyle and mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety.
As writers, or professionals of any sort, we can’t afford to be plagued by these physical and mental issues if we want to produce our best work.
The solution is simple – we need to move. Our bodies were built for movement, and in less developed times in history, we moved quite a lot. We had farms to tend, animals to look after, and miles to walk in order to get where we needed to be. In our modern age, we have many conveniences that make it possible to shop, catch up on the news, and talk to our family without ever leaving our chairs. However, these same conveniences are slowly killing us.
The flip side of all this bad news is some good news – exercise can dramatically increase mental performance. The New York Times recently reported on an Irish study showing that memory was enhanced by only 30 minutes of exercise. In addition, studies have shown that anxiety and depression symptoms are significantly relieved by exercise. All of these positive effects can help you focus more on your work, feel more optimistic about what you are accomplishing, and create your best content as a writer or other professional.
Here are some simple ways to work more movement into our lives:
- Take breaks. A lot of them. Most folks can take a quick five or ten minute break every hour without any impact to their work. In addition, a quick break will renew your mind and you will return to your work with a new perspective, less stress, and more creativity. You may even come up with a key idea on your break, when you mind is feeling less stress.
- Park far away and take the stairs. These oft-repeated tips really will help you feel more invigorated when you arrive at your desk. They are a good way to work in some exercise without having to go to a gym
- Walk or bike more places. It generally takes only a slight shift of mindset to realize that many places we usually drive to are actually close enough to walk or ride our bikes. How far away is the bank? Your friend’s house? Your workplace? While walking or riding may not help if you need to carry things, there are many trips that you could easily make in this way.
- Try yoga or stretching exercises. Some people have health concerns that keep them from being able to do strenuous exercise. However, yoga or stretching exercises are easy on the body while still getting blood flowing. In addition, meditation is easily combined with these practices to help bring an overall feeling of centering to your day.
As writers or other professionals, we need to produce our best work as often as possible. Our mental state, our creativity, and our long term health all depend on frequent movement throughout the day. The truth is, you don’t have time in your workday NOT to move! Maybe now would be a good time for that break.
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