Poison pens, ego-shattering commentary, creative assassination by a thousand edits, cut, cut, slash, slash. Oh, the horror! Well, actually, I’m here to talk about “death by sitting.” Yes, editors tend to sit a lot, and sitting has been declared the new sugar.
This is not news, when you think about it. We’ve long been warned about the dangers of sitting for hours at a stretch. Think long-distance air travel, for one.
Nearly all of us put in long hours at a desk, be it one piled high with paper or one bedecked with computer screens and input devices. Or both. I am not going to blather on with specific advice. I will speak generally to a few issues and then suggest you search online using terms such as desk ergonomics to find information on how to properly adjust your chair, your desk or your computer workstation.
Invest in a good office chair. The chair should at least rise and fall, have supportive arm rests that can be adjusted and have an adjustable back that provides good lumbar support. That’s not going to come cheap, but it’s a tax-deductible, long-term investment in your health and productivity. If you don’t mind used, you may score one for as little as $25. Be sure to try it out, along with all of its various controls, to ensure everything works and you’re comfortable.
Once you have your office chair, use online ergonomics resources to set it up properly. I worked for some time for a major international news service, and every new hire got a snazzy thousand-dollar office chair. More importantly, every new hire spent an hour or so with an ergonomics expert who helped set everything up properly. I’m sure the company cared for the welfare of its reporters and editors, but I’m also sure this was a prophylactic to head off potential future lawsuits about bad backs and necks.
Let’s not forget standing desks, which have become popular. Or sitting balls. If they work well for you, great. You can search online for information about setup and benefits. In my case, standing relatively motionless quickly becomes painful. I have scoliosis, and surgery in my youth left me with just a few functioning vertebrae — ones that are much happier with lumbar support than with long periods of stationary standing. But that’s me, and you’re you.
So your workstation is set up — now get up and go for a walk. Yes, just when I’d got you nice and comfy, I’m telling you that you have to move. After all, we’re animals. We’re made up of bones and tendons, and muscles that stiffen when they’re not used. In fact, muscles will eventually atrophy following long periods of little or no use.
Our bodies were designed to move, and they work better when we do. So every couple of hours, at least, get up and move around for five minutes. Got half an hour for lunch? Can you eat in 15 minutes and walk for 15 minutes? Don’t have half an hour? Look up desk exercises that you can do in your chair for a minute here, a minute there.
I work from home, so I’ll often forgo a shower first thing in the morning and instead go straight to my office for a couple of hours. Then I’ll have a quick lunch and go for a half-hour or 45-minute ramble in the forest and along the stream in the ravine behind my place. The fresh air and natural greenery refresh me, and the activity and a shower set me up for more work in the afternoon.
Don’t live or work next to a park? Find the greenest space within lunchtime walking distance and do that. More and more research is showing that experiencing some greenery and nature is physically and mentally refreshing in ways that going to a gym can’t replicate.
Some folks may be used to putting in long consecutive hours of work and may find interruptions for physical activity disruptive. You get in the groove, you’re on a roll … So roll that neck, roll those shoulders, roll those ankles — and do it before you’re in knots. Save the walk or other more strenuous activity for the end of the section, or the chapter.
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