The treadmill desk

Okay, everyone knows that sitting for long periods of time isn’t good for you. Your bottom tends to get bigger and back pain often occurs over time. But I never knew sitting could kill me!

Yes, according to an article in the Mayo Clinic newsletter, prolonged sitting can increase a person’s risk of health problems and premature death from cardiovascular disease.

One study revealed that adults who sat in front of the TV for more than four hours a day had an 80 percent increased risk of death from heart disease and stroke than those who watched less than two hours of TV a day.

And it’s not just TV. Any bouts of extended sitting; be they in front of a computer, at a desk or driving a vehicle increases the risk. Another shocker – apparently going to the gym after work doesn’t magically erase those harmful hours of being on your duff.

So what to do?

“The solution,” according to Dr. James Levine, “seems to be less sitting and more moving. Simply by standing, you burn three times as many calories as you do sitting. Muscle contractions, including the ones required for standing, seem to trigger important processes related to the breakdown of fats and sugars. When you sit down, muscle contractions cease and these processes stall.”

Now I have considered altering my work station so I could type sitting down or standing up. In fact, I know an artist who has an adjustable easel for just that purpose.

But then I discovered a cool video on the Mayo Clinic website.

In it, Dr. James Levine, a Mayo Clinic researcher, says that people are built to walk. He’s studying the benefits of treadmill desks, which allow people to walk while they work.

“What we’ve ended up with are vertical desks that can be personalized for the individual user,” he explains. “They can be used while walking on a treadmill, they can be used while standing still, they can be used while seated.”

Now this is an intriguing idea. I could work, reduce my risk of cardiovascular disease and maybe shed a few pounds all at the same time. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

Now I wonder just how much one of those a treadmill desks costs? And if I could actually type while walking?

Tips for writers

People often ask me for writing tips. They want to know how I can make myself sit in front of a computer day after day, keying in words, deleting them and starting all over again until I have a finished article or book.

The answer is that I like writing. And fortunately, I seem to be genetically disposed to be being disciplined and focused. And it doesn’t hurt that I’ve learned to take rejection as a sign – not of failure – but that I can improve my work to strengthen its appeal. 

The best piece of advice I can give anyone is: sit down and write. Talking and thinking about writing are fine up to a point but, sooner or later, you have to put words to paper or on a computer screen. 

But every writer – including me – struggles from time to time. It might be difficult to access that necessary bit of research, the words might not flow in a cohesive and engaging manner and distractions are often only a glance or mouse click away.

Here are a few things I’ve found beneficial to the writing process.

-Read a lot, write a lot and then read some more.
-Know your theme and stick to it (mostly).
-Use active voice.
-Pound out the first draft wtih little regard for puncuation and spelling. 
-Write as if you’re telling a story to your best friend.
-Create and keep a regular writing routine.
-Have a quiet place to work where you will not be disturbed.
-Learn to edit your writing. 
-Listen to your intuition to determine what works and what doesn’t.
-Enjoy the process – even the struggles.

Finding a quiet place to write is essential.

The above might motivate you to put your fingers to the keyboard or you might have some other ideas or tricks of the trade. If so, I’d love to hear about them.

Saying goodbye

“Oh my God,” he said as soon as he sat down.

I looked over with alarm. I’d hired a computer tech to fix what I thought were some minor problems. But this sounded serious. Perhaps even terminal.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“I’ve never seen such a degraded keyboard,” he replied.

He was right. The y, u, I, h, k, n and m letters were totally worn off. They must be used in a lot of words. Not having them didn’t bother me. I rarely look at the keyboard when I type. But friends and family teased me about it whenever they came to visit and used my computer.

One day I remembered I had a bottle of Sheer Heaven in the bathroom cabinet. Working carefully, I used the white nail polish to paint thick, but legible, letters on my keyboard. Everyone thought that was pretty funny.

When I got a cheque for Christmas marked “new keyboard,” I knew it was time to move on. But it was hard to let go of the old one. I estimated that during the six years I’d had it, I’d written two books and 400 articles. That adds up to 435,000 words or so. No wonder some letters were worn off.

Like many people who sit in front of a computer all day, I have chronic back problems. So, after some research, I bought an ergonomic keyboard.

It was all flowing curves and – if I only knew how to use them – had enough bells and whistles on it that I could probably fly to the moon.

But you know what? For some reason the ergonomic keyboard made my back pain worse. After three weeks of adjusting my chair and tilting the keyboard this way and that trying to make it work, I returned it.

That’s right; I’m using the keyboard with the nail polish letters again. It feels comfortable but seems annoyingly noisy compared to its modern cousin.

A new keyboard is still in the works. In fact, I’ve got my eye on a sleek little black number that promises to be easy on the back and ultra quiet. All I have to do is say goodbye to the old keyboard. Again.