8 tips to staying physically fit while spending hours at the keyboard
I’m not a medical doctor, and I don’t play one on TV. But I have compiled a list of what it takes to be a healthy writer. Some I’ve learned through research, others through experience and a couple by common sense.
The main thing is that as writers we need to not only care for our minds but also our bodies:
Rest Your Wrists: Many years ago I did a stint as a tech writer, going from typing sporadically throughout the day to keyboarding for forty hours a week. Soon my wrists grew tender, and I lost much of my grip. In lieu of carpal tunnel surgery, my doctor prescribed wrist exercises and avoiding typing on the weekends. That got me through it. Now, at the first hint of discomfort, I relax my wrists for a bit and resume the exercises. Some hardcore writers have added dictation into their mix to spare their wrists and reduce their need to type.
Comfort Your Back: My back used to bother me from time to time, so I invest in a quality chair, one fully adjustable and with lumbar support. It only takes a few minutes sitting in a bad chair to bring about discomfort. (I also use an inversion table for a few minutes every day, which I think is essential for me.)
Many people advocate a standing desk (and even a walking desk). But my back bothers me after just a few minutes of standing, so I can’t consider that. As a result, I have no problem spending a couple of hundred dollars on a quality chair.
Two related issues are monitor placement and desk height. Sometimes raising or lowering the level of either one helps a great deal.
Guard Your Eyes: Staring at a computer screen for eight to ten hours a day causes fatigue. Proper lighting is key. I’ve tried indirect lighting without success, so adequate direct lighting is essential. Also important is monitor placement to eliminate glare.
Take Frequent Breaks: I take a break about once an hour, while some advocate writing for no more than thirty-minute stretches. My break maybe a trip to the bathroom, a meal, or a walk to the library. Or it could be as simple as a walk around my chair or some quick stretches. The point is to not log long writing sessions without breaks.
Relax Your Shoulders: Years ago I hurt my shoulder as I pushed myself to paint our house during a weeklong vacation. The damage became permanent and some level of pain is always present. Using a mouse exacerbates this situation, so I am presently learning to mouse with my left hand (the muscle memory has been a bear to overcome).
Also during intense writing sessions both of my shoulders can tighten up. I do exercises to relax.
Stay Hydrated: As with anything drink plenty of water. I don’t do coffee or tea and soft drinks are out. Water is my go-to beverage.
Sleep Well: Being well-rested is vital. It’s also an ongoing struggle for me, but not for a lack of trying. As an alternative, I sometimes take a power nap to help keep my mind focused and add energy for the rest of the day.
Exercise Daily: I have a moderate exercise routine that I do each day. It serves as one of my morning breaks.
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Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.