It’s fairly well known these days that if you regularly sit long hours at a desk – as many copywriters and freelance article writers do – it’s really not so great for your long-term health. Quite apart from the studies that prove this to be the case, many of us seem to be aware of this instinctively. Or perhaps it’s more to do with the stiffness we feel when we stand up than writers’ instinct!
A study on NSW workers showed that sitting for more than four hours a day appears to increase the risk of chronic disease such as cancer and heart disease. And as you might imagine, the greater the number of hours sitting down the higher the risk. Also, if you think that dieting or hitting the treadmill or the weights at the gym will solve it – you need to think again. The problem appears to not be lack of exercise per se, but low levels of continual movement – our bodies need to move on a relatively constant basis to increase our chances of good health. The study was a collaboration between researchers at the University of Western Sydney and Kansas State University.
Of course it’s not just the inactivity that can be a problem. Poorly designed workstations and bad lighting can also affect your health – causing back pain, neck twisting and forward-flexion, wrist pain and repetitive strain injury, eye strain and other problems.
If you’re a busy freelance writer, it’s likely you spend a good portion of your day sitting at a computer. That can give rise to other issues too – repetitive strain injuries in the hands and arms, eye strain, and problems that develop due to poor posture. It’s important that you monitor your health and take steps to reduce your risk of chronic illness or injury.
So what is a writer to do?
When you earn a living sitting down, it might seem impossible to add a lot of activity to your day. But there are many things you can do to reduce your risk:
- Some studies reveal that it’s more beneficial to get up and move around on a regular basis than to sit down all day and then do vigorous exercise after hours. Simple things like standing up every hour and doing some stretches, or taking a trip to the kitchen for a drink of water are good moves. If you have steps or a staircase nearby, a walk up and down them a few times a day is helpful.
- To prevent bodily strain, your chair should be at a height to ensure your elbows are approximately 90 degrees to the desk. You should also be able to rest your feet comfortably flat on the floor or a footrest, and you should be able to maintain an upright posture. It’s also important that your chair is fully adjustable and has excellent back support.
- Some people find a trackball mouse is better than a regular computer mouse for preventing wrist and arm pain.
- Make sure your lighting is adequate to prevent eye strain and be sure to look away from the computer regularly. If your eyes are hurting or you are suffering headaches, have your eyes tested by an optometrist.
- You could always work standing up! The ‘Walkstation’ – a treadmill with a desk and computer attached – is proving to be a bit of a hit in some offices.
- Consider investing in a device that monitors your movement – such as a pedometer or a Nike+ Fuelband to measure your activity and help remind you to get more active.
- Get some indoor plants or flowers. Some studies show that plants or flowers in the office can help improve well-being and even concentration, memory and creativity, and reduce blood-pressure in the process.
If you’re a content or blog writer with more work than you can reasonably manage, it might be time to hire an assistant, or outsource some of your excess work to another writing service.