Writing is often such a sedentary occupation. And it’s not just writing, but any job that requires you to sit staring at your screen for X number of hours a day, staring at a bright screen and tapping little square keys with letters and numerals on them. People, our bodies were not made for this. But they will make us pay in the end unless we get our soft little backsides off the chair, stop munching cookies like zombies on a brain binge and move around a little. If you need some more motivation, here are ten good reasons to start a good exercise habit.
- The greater risk of developing chronic, and often life-threatening, illnesses. Now none of us want to kick the bucket before we finish our great novel, but studies have shown that a sedentary lifestyle puts people at far greater risk of developing serious health issues. For example, those who sit or lie for extended periods of time are 112% more likely to develop diabetes type 2 and 147% more likely to develop heart disease (with a 90% increase in death caused by a cardiovascular event).
- Sitting for long periods at a stretch is thought to cause a slow down in metabolism, which means that you burn calories slower (not good news if you are also a serious cookie abuser), your blood sugar gets messed up, as does your blood pressure. These things can cause all sorts of problems, like the ones in point one above, and to make matters worse, they creep up on us slowly like some ninja until they finally get noticed through some kind of horridness.
- Activity gets the blood coursing, the heart pumping, and produces lots of important chemicals such as endorphins. The upshot of this is that you feel energised, purposeful and upbeat. If you don’t let activity into your life then, of course, you get the opposite: apathy, tiredness, a lack of purpose in life and also sometimes depression.
- Being sedentary means that, with the exception of your typing fingers and cookie-eating arm, you don’t move much. This sends a message to your muscles that they are not needed, and so you can begin to lose muscle tone. As muscles are important in the burning of calories, this could also contribute, albeit in a minor way, to putting on weight.
- Standing and moving around helps the bones to maintain their density. Decreased bone mass leads to the risk of developing osteoporosis which in turn could mean bones that easily break. Although diet, lifestyle and genetics have been shown to have a hand as well, it is known that doing weight-bearing exercises both build and maintain strong bones.
- According to the National Cancer Institute, inactivity can increase the risk of colon and breast cancer. Sitting own all day means that the passage of food through our digestive system is much slower than if we were up and about. This increased time in the gut leads to the colon being exposed to possible carcinogens for longer. As for breast cancer, essential hormone levels become lowered through not enough physical movement, leading to the greater chance of tumours developing.
- Because a sedentary lifestyle often goes hand in hand with a bad diet (those cookies again!), there is also a greater risk of developing gallstones. These are little lumps of hardened bile which form in the gallbladder and then cause all sorts of havoc like pain, fever and nausea.
- High blood pressure (hypertension). I touched on this earlier, but it is so important I thought I’d give it a point of its own. Sitting around has been linked to the development of high blood pressure. High blood pressure puts a strain on the heart and the blood vessels, leading to either coronary events such as heart attacks, or strokes.
- Another serious risk of inactivity is high cholesterol levels. There are two types of cholesterol: HDL, often known as ‘good’ cholesterol, and LDL, often known as ‘bad’ cholesterol. High amounts of LDL increases the risk of heart disease and strokes, especially when a bad diet and other lifestyle factors are taken into account. However, the good news is that even moderate exercise will lower the LDL and increase HDL.
- Depression and anxiety have been linked to inactivity. As mentioned above, exercise releases feel-good chemicals in the brain, but that isn’t the only reason that being active can keep us happier. Writers are often solitary souls, working away and not seeing or talking to another person (I’m not sure Facebook counts) for hours, and sometimes days. Such self-imposed isolation can often lead to feelings of loneliness and despair. Also, writing can often be a frustrating and difficult calling, and writers often feel that they have spent a day without much to show for it. This lack of a visible result can lead to feelings of hopelessness and being a failure. Getting out and about not only allows us to engage socially, but it gives us a break to refresh our ideas. There is also now solid evidence that going for a walk in nature gives our moods a boost.
So, enough now of the frights! Take time to think of where you are on the inactivity/activity scale, and where you want to be. For heavens sake, don’t just jump into running a marathon or doing heavy bench lifts! If you are obese, have existing health conditions, are very unfit, or over 50, it is best to seek medical advice before doing any form of exercise. After all, you don’t want to make yourself worse. In the next post, I will go through some great, enjoyable ways to get more active without going to the expense of joining a gym. Remember, you can be a writer and a healthy person at the same time!