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.