Friday, June 26, 2015

Butt In Chair (BIC) Might NOT be the Best Advice for Writers

by Lori Hatcher @lorihatcher2

If I asked you to describe a writer, you might use adjectives such as introspective, sensitive, creative, and introverted. Would you also choose the words hunchbacked, overweight, diabetic, and more likely to die a premature death?

Recent articles in The Huffington Post and The Washington Post have raised awareness about how dangerous a sedentary lifestyle is. When I think sedentary, I usually think of little old ladies sitting on their couches watching soap operas all day long or pimple-faced teens playing hours of video games, but, sadly, hard-working writers can also fall into the category of sedentary if we’re not careful.

Side-effects from a Sedentary Lifestyle
In the article from the Washington Post, Bonnie Berkowitz and Patterson Clark graphically describe the potential health hazards from sitting for 8 hours or more a day: 
  • organ damage such as heart disease, over-productive pancreas, and colon cancer 
  • muscle degeneration such as mushy abs, tight hips, and limp gluts 
  • leg disorders such as poor circulation and soft bones
  • upper body issues like a foggy brain, strained neck, and sore shoulders and back
Even more frightening is this statistic: “People who watched the most TV in an 8.5-year study had a 61 percent greater risk of dying than those who watched less than one hour per day.” Most of my writer friends aren’t sitting around watching TV, but we are sitting around typing on a keyboard. I don’t think our bodies know the difference.

The Huffington Post article has some great suggestions for how to counteract the negative effects of sitting. Because most of us can’t just stop sitting, the article suggests we alter our workspaces and build motion into our days.

What to Do?
A simple first step is to stand for part of our workday. Because prolonged standing also has health risks, experts suggest we shoot for a 50/50 sit/stand ratio. Because I have a laptop, I often carry my computer from my desk to my kitchen counter and work there. If you want to get fancy, you can purchase a commercially made standing or treadmill desk. Fancy or not, be sure to wear comfortable shoes and stand on a cushioned mat.

Other ways to incorporate movement into your day include stretching at your desk, sitting on an exercise ball (a great way to develop core strength and a strong back), and periodically walking a few laps around the house or office.

In light of this information, I’ve implemented a new protocol for my writing days. At least every 90 minutes I get up and move around. I throw a load of laundry in the washer, sweep or vacuum, or do a few stretches. Once during the day I do a series of lower back and shoulder strengthening exercises. Most mornings I begin with a 25-minute walk with my rescue dog, Winston.

At first glance, sitting at a computer all day doesn’t seem very physically demanding. Look closer, however, and we realize the inherent risks associated with our sedentary occupation. Don’t be a casualty. A few simple changes can keep you writing happily and in good health for a long, long time. And that’s a good thing.

Now it’s your turn. What steps do you take to counteract the negative effects of the writing lifestyle? Leave a comment below and join the conversation.


Lori Hatcher is the editor of Reach Out, Columbia magazine and the author of two devotional books. Her second, Hungry for God…Starving for Time, 5-Minute Devotions for Busy Women released in December. A blogger, writing instructor, and women’s ministry speaker, her goal is to help women connect with God in the craziness of life. You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God…Starving for Time. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter (@LoriHatcher2), or Pinterest (Hungry for God).


  1. Very informative article, I go to the gym 3x per week. I am adding a walk every day. My brain clears and my body feels energized. I get many ideas when I walk. Thank you Lori for taking the time to write this. It proved how much you care about is. Write On my friend.

  2. It's true, Cherrilynn. I get some of the best ideas when I'm moving. In fact, if I get stuck, I strap on my tennis shoes, and off I go. Usually by the time I return, I've got an idea to get me over the hump. There's a beautiful mind/body/spirit connection there.

  3. Standing desks are life-changing, I swear. I have one at home that's adjustable, so I can sit and stand as needed. They're expensive, but worth it in the long run!

    1. They sound terrific. I didn't know they were adjustable. Good to know!

  4. I love my standing desk. My other "helper" is a Boston terrier--he lives to take walks. He won't let me slouch for long. I think we could all take a lesson from my youngest daughter, who owns a desk but spent her homeschool years sitting *under it, bouncing on an exercise ball, or hanging upside down off the seat of the couch while she studied. Most creative person I know!

    1. Where would we be without our four-footed trainers? Whenever I'm tempted to skip my walk, Winston convinces me.

  5. I do water aerobics twice a week and Pilates twice also. And as soon as the weather breaks, I'm going to be walking more.

    1. Pat,
      Did you know that water activities also help prevent osteoporosis? A great choice!

  6. I just bought a FitBit One for this very reason. Too much sitting!

    1. Yup, Hubby gave me one for Christmas. No way to cheat a Fitbit!