The Health Hazards of Too Much Sitting

A few days ago I saw an e-brochure on the health problems created by too much sitting each day, and immediately thought about all the people I know who are now full-time writers or programmers. Writing and programming are jobs that often involve 8-10 hours a day of sitting in a chair in front of a computer, especially if the work is done in a home office.

I do a lot of sitting myself these days.

One thing I’ve noticed is that after spending a year sitting for 6-8 hours/day rather than 1-2 hours/day, I experience more physical discomfort now while sitting that makes it hard to concentrate on writing. My hip joints ache a lot more than they used to.

I’m not a health professional, so what I’m about to say is speculation on what I’ve seen. Almost without exception, all of those I know who do long hours of sitting are having to deal with a variety of health problems that have flared up after a few years–weight gain, diabetes from the weight gain, high cholesterol from the weight gain, hip or back or joint pain, leg cramps, depression, etc. The only writers and programmers I know who are not having blatant health problems from 40+ hours/week of sitting are the ones who are biking or running for an hour on a daily basis AND are taking frequent breaks to stretch and move around.

Fiction writers who have a full-time job as a technical writer during the day–and then come home at night to write–end up with a double-whammy of too much sitting. After sitting all day, it’s hard to have to sit some more in order to write a story. A number of fiction writers I know much prefer to work as a waiter or waitress, or some other job that involves movement, than to take on technical writing to help pay the bills when money is short. I’m beginning to see why that could be appealing since I had never considered the physical impact of sitting too much.

Some writers use a voice dictation device to record the words for a story while they go for a walk or use a treadmill. This could be a useful way to get both needed exercise and writing done if one has a day job that demands that one sit all day. It does require the ability to tell the story verbally instead of typing or writing it down.

Another approach to get away from sitting all the time that I’ve heard about is having a treadmill desk installed to use. I was pointed to a piece on treadmill desks that was done on Good Morning America a few years ago. The treadmill speed is set very low so that the user doesn’t get breathless or sweaty. But the mileage walked does add up as the hours pass.

Word of mouth has it that typing is relatively easy to do with a treadmill desk, but that writing by hand is much more difficult. So either a keyboard or a voice dictation device is going to be needed for getting writing done.

I am seriously looking into getting a treadmill desk to use, at least to do desk work that requires less concentration like email and research. If I do so, I’ll post what I learn about them as far as how easy or difficult it is to do writing work.

Definitely there are health hazards beyond just carpal tunnel syndrome to watch out for when doing long hours of sitting at a desk. Be careful out there.

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