Are you sluggish from sitting?
Writers, how many hours a day do you sit in front of a computer? Me, too. That’s why a book review of The First 20 Minutes on NPR’s Fresh Air caught my attention. New York Times Phys Ed columnist Gretchen Reynolds shared some simple ways to combat the sedentary lifestyle—many of which I already practice. But it was the research detailing the hazards of sitting at a desk all day that made me stand up and take notice.
Gretchen said research showed that sitting for long periods of times without standing or moving at all tends to cause physiological changes within your muscles. You no longer break up fat in your bloodstream; instead fats start accumulating in your liver, heart, and brain. You get sleepy and gain weight—not the kinds of physiological changes I’m looking for, thank you very much.
The good news is that standing for two out of every 20 desk-bound minutes will help you avoid the consequences. Need some ideas? Stand up to take your phone calls; move your trash can across the room; utilize the washroom that is farthest from your desk. If you work from home you can use the two minutes to pick-up, put-away. Okay, I admit it—I don’t really do this, but it would be an option if I ever decided that cleanliness was next to godliness.
I’ve found that following this rule not only is good for me physically, but it’s a great way to increase creativity. Stand up to do a routine thing, change your focus, file the top two folders that have been sitting on the floor next to your desk, and as for the sentence that is refusing to flow—leave it alone for a few minutes. Your mind uses the break to sift and sort, and often the right word, name, or semantic solution comes to you before you make it back to your desk.
Besides, I’m a fidgeter. It’s a lot easier to do standing up.
My coworkers used to joke that I was stimulated by the sound of running water because of the frequency of “good ideas” I announced when returning from a bathroom break. My lawyers told me I needed to include a disclaimer about possible side effects, including: people add the initials A.D.D. behind your name instead of your degree; the office security camera records suspicious activity, and passers-by call 911 when you use the two minutes to stand by your desk doing to eye-focusing exercises.
Today I am writing in a local café that boasts a bottomless cup of coffee—my two-minute standing break is guaranteed.