Sitting is Killing Me!

By Posted in - On Writing on July 9th, 2011 17 Comments

Since I took up writing a few years ago I’ve spent more time sitting each day than I’ve ever done in my life. I’ve always been a skinny bean, but lately, yes, I’m packing about 20 lbs more than I’d like to.

Something needs to be done before I end up looking like this!


When I came to the States in 1996, I weighed 135 lbs at a height of 5’7″. I could eat anything I wanted to, and never had to exercise.

The difference between then and now?

Then, I lived in London, one of the great walking cities of the world, and I had two young children that kept me moving; now I live in Los Angeles, one of the great driving cities of the world, my children are at college, and I sit at my desk all day.

Walking my dog, Ivy, prevents me from seizing up all together but getting a really good workout with her takes me away from writing for longer than I’d like. So here’s the solution, courtesy of Arthur Slade, who showed me the light.

The facts that clinched it for me:

  • A recent medical journal study showed that people who sit for most of their day are 54% more likely to die of a heart attack.
  • As soon as you sit: Electrical activity in the leg muscles shuts off; calorie burning drops to 1 per minute; enzymes that help break down fat drop 90%; after two hours, good cholesterol drops 20%; after 24 hours, insulin effectiveness drops 24% and risk of diabetes rises.
  • check out these graphically organized stats from Medical Billing and Coding (or click the image below to see a larger version)

Via: Medical Billing And Coding

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes…

(17) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Mark Mitchell - Reply

    July 9, 2011 at 6:42 pm

    Great , startling post! Thanks, Lia!

  • FCam - Reply

    July 9, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    I agree totally, Lia- it nearly killed me-well not quite but. Some solutions: work standing up and step your feet; get a small step machine or go to the floor and put the laptop on like a little step stool and do stretches while you work and force yourself to break minimum 30 min twice a day–walk at least 15 min away from your house then back.
    Small weights, many reps or an elastic work out band.
    Writing can kill you in more than one way.

    • Lia Keyes - Reply

      July 10, 2011 at 9:10 am

      Good for you, FCam! Even without a treadmill there are things you can do. I set an hourglass on my desk and when the sand runs out I make sure I leave my desk for a bit and DO something.

  • claudine - Reply

    July 10, 2011 at 2:53 am

    I want one! Are you getting one of these treadmill desks, Lia? I wonder if I can type as fast at one as I can sitting down. Definitely worth exploring. Thanks!

    • LiaKeyes - Reply

      July 10, 2011 at 9:14 am

      Yes, I'm poor as a church mouse but I've put it on a credit card and I'm jolly well going to spend a year paying it off rather than spend a year saving for it and continuing my life-reducing habits. I found one for $820 at and my Ikea desk has height-adjusting legs already.

  • Christine London - Reply

    July 10, 2011 at 3:13 am

    Love the link to how to make your own walk station that is available after watching the GMS walk station piece. Seems pretty easy to convert your treadmill to a station.


    Christine London

    • LiaKeyes - Reply

      July 10, 2011 at 9:18 am

      Absolutely, Christine! That's how Arthur Slade did it. Even better if you attach your computer/monitor to a shelf on the wall (cheaply and easily done, right?), so the monitor doesn't shake when you're using the treadmill. You can get a wireless keyboard to rest on the top of the treadmill, or attach a pull-out keyboard drawer to the underside of the shelf where the monitor is (if you make it deep enough). I bought a treadmill that has no upper handles, just the floor part, so it can slide under a desk with adjustable legs. 🙂

  • Robert Sloan - Reply

    July 10, 2011 at 5:48 am

    This is really good advice for undisabled writers.

    Writing is a good job for a mobility impaired person because it requires sitting for long hours. I’m not fat though. Far from it. All physical activity takes five times the body energy for me because my left side is two sizes larger than my right side. Thus my right leg is 3cm shorter than the left. I lurch around a bit like Boris Karloff doing The Mummy and about that speed.

    I’m the one that might not win the zombie race but cleverly survive it by rubbing myself with rotting stuff and mumbling “Braaaains” – then carefully lurching to the side to let the whole crowd pass me. Which is pretty much what I do with crowds, minus the “Braains” comment.

    Each and every disabled person needs to talk to their own medical experts and subject their bodies to brutally painful trial and error to discover what activities are possible and which ones aren’t. Adaptation is not a matter of just getting your diagnosis and getting handed the wheelchair. I tried that. Operating a manual wheelchair threw my back faster than walking would’ve. I got about four feet down the hospital hallway in half an hour, then gave up and used it as a walker.

    Activity is one half of the equation. The other half is American food, much of which has empty calories. It is more important to get good nutrition than to get on “a diet.” Take vitamins. Vitamin cravings can make you hungry even when you’re stuffed because you wind up still needing that nutrient and your body’s expecting it from something that tastes like fruit. 100,000 years of evolution tell your body what you need is a banana for the potassium, then the Dairy Queen offers a banana split.

    One of the key points in my daughter’s weight plan for, well, the family since she also controls the children’s food and advises me, is to just shift priorities and call a treat a treat. Instead of grimly saying No More Candy or No More McDonalds Ever, reduce it to having the unhealthy foods less often and the healthier ones more often. Once a year total birthday blowout with anything you desire. Some treats only every month or two, they’re special and to be thoroughly enjoyed. Other treats once a week. Anything I really like that’s unhealthy, I weigh how bad it is vs. how much I like it and put it in a treat category.

    Then shift my budget to put healthy treats like the Planters NUT-ritious fruit-and-nut cans or bags of good granola from the health food store into the “everyday snacks” category. They used to be special because they were a bit more expensive than cheaper stuff like candy. Shifting that priority did wonders for my digestion and actually helps my body energy. I fight for every erg of body energy with fibromyalgia. This nutrition stuff has been at least as good as having another medication to bring down my symptoms.

    Now for activity, the other half. It doesn’t need to be calisthenics unless you enjoy them. I know working out is a hobby and some people find it fun. I hated it and thought it was boring. Other sedentary writers I’ve known agreed with me on that before I knew that I hated it because I was disabled and couldn’t actually get good at it.

    Method acting can help with getting more activity during writing. I’m not kidding. All of you abled writers, consider it.

    Every time you get to an action scene or a chase or something, get up and do it. Fence with the walls. Play the villain and beat up your bedding. Change roles. Play like a kid. If your character’s walking through an unknown city scared, go out in the yard and imagine it’s there, visualize everything she or he is going through. Act it out like you were five.

    Even arguments – act them out. Stand up and read the scene. Change characters back and forth. It’ll improve your dialogue and your circulation. Do all the body language, interpret them. Keep the volume down if others are in the house though, and be prepared to explain what you’re doing. They’ll eventually get it after you do it a few times.

    If you are capable of running and take up running, it may be more fun to run the book in your head and use a smart phone or voice recorder to capture the dialogue and running description while you run for your life from the antagonist instead of just jogging down the path being a normal person.

    If your character decides she’s a wimp and needs to work out, work out with her. Every day. You can describe the aches. We write characters who do extraordinary things. What I learned from being disabled is what it’s like to be on the real edge of exhaustion, what it’s like to fear for my life because there is no food, what it’s like to face physical risks in life. When I throw them into fiction, I hurl them at strong physically active characters who just have the bar set farther along than I’d ever reach.

    Fast at least once to learn what hunger feels like. Pick a good cause for the fast so that it also accomplishes something in the world.

    If you need a sport in order to keep fit – this is a really good idea because for most people it’s more fun than calisthenics – why not take up Kendo or European fencing or Society for Creative Anachronism fighting? You’ll actually get good at it, win prizes and tournaments, have fun doing it. When your characters duel, you’ll have a far more realistic battle and anyone who does these things will grin and enjoy it. Just give your character the skills of your sensei and she’s larger than life.

    My main point on both diet and exercise is to change habits instead of punishing yourself. Make the new habits more pleasant in the short term than the old ones were. Tastier health food treats compared to boring candy bars that were just cheap. Cool sports that add to the veracity of the book rather than getting into the toxic “die young and leave a pretty corpse” mentality.

    Do it and write it. Live large and have adventures. Enjoy them. If you’re doing it for the book, there’s an added motive right there anytime you’re forced to sit up and push the keyboard away.

    • LiaKeyes - Reply

      July 10, 2011 at 9:28 am

      Oh, Robert, what a wonderful comment! You ARE blogging, right? Because you have so much to say, so much wisdom to share, and such great (and fun!) ideas for how to implement a better way to live. And that's what we're all striving for, isn't it? We know our time on this earth is limited, both by time and physical/mental handicaps of one kind or another and one degree or another. But we can do so much to make the time we have the best it can be!

      Thank you for all the great suggestions here. I'm particularly fond of the method acting and vitamins supplements to prevent unhealthy cravings. When I had a garden the UPS man used to often find me 'trimming' bushes with my 16th century Eastern European saber. I definitely saw the whites of his eyes the first time, but as time went on he started asking questions, and eventually had a go himself. It takes some heft to wield a real sword. If you switch hands it's great upper body exercise, but you have to have room to swing. 🙂

      • Robert Sloan - Reply

        July 28, 2011 at 4:07 am

        Wow! Lia, thank you!

        You're right. My comments read like blog entries in their own right. I'll still comment like that, getting me to shut up is what takes a lot. But I got into the blogging habit on art reviews and started up the art lessons blog and for the past couple of months have been updating them regularly if slowly, trying for weekly and often getting it.

        Another one might make it even easier.

        Thank you for reminding me of something wonderful and important. I need to do that and I'm going to enjoy it thoroughly.

  • Robert Sloan - Reply

    July 10, 2011 at 5:50 am

    I wrote you a rather long comment that turned into a cheery, encouraging article about writerly activities and nutrition. I hope it's still there awaiting moderation rather than just vanished into the ether.

    Also hope you like it!

    • LiaKeyes - Reply

      July 10, 2011 at 9:31 am

      I adore it! Sorry it took a while to come through, Robert. I went to bed at 2 am and got up at 9.30 but took the dog out for a walk so I didn't make it to my computer until 10 am to approve the comments that stacked up overnight. Your comments always add so much value to my hasty posts!

      • Robert Sloan - Reply

        July 28, 2011 at 4:08 am

        Purr thank you! I often feel self conscious about long essay like comments and posts, that I'm going too far. Very glad you enjoy them!

        I'm also going to set up my writing blog! That is a wonderful idea!

  • Mina Witteman - Reply

    July 10, 2011 at 6:02 am

    Great post, Lia. It is one of the hazards of being a writer.
    I have invested in a desk that can be heightened or lowered depending on how I want to write: sitting, standing or on my saddle chair. I change regularly. And of course, living in Amsterdam, in one of those canal houses with endless stairs, I walk the stairs all the time. When I need to clear my head I go running. After summer vacation I'm going to try and see if I can attach some kind of laptop holder to my treadmill, like one of our Warrior friends suggested. 🙂

    • LiaKeyes - Reply

      July 10, 2011 at 9:35 am

      Mina! You live in a house on a canal in Amsterdam? That sounds so wonderful! I hope you'll share some photos with us! I've enabled photos in the comments section, just for you. 🙂

      I'd also love to see how your desk can be heightened or lowered. My Ikea one is rather basic and has to be cleared and turned upside down to make the adjustment each time. Is yours pneumatic?

      Living in your house sounds like living in a London terraced house. They're narrow and tall, with only two rooms on each floor and about four or five floors just for a four-bedroomed family house. LOTS of stairs, but so very good for you!

  • @SheviStories - Reply

    July 11, 2011 at 11:53 am

    I have the same problem, and I've gained…a little more than you have (plus, I'm shorter). I want to walk more, but it's hard to do when you're a writer-illustrator, live in a small apartment, and it's just too hot to go for a walk outside. I can schedule daily walks in the spring and fall, but this year they were so short. I can't afford to get a treadmill desk, and if I did, I wouldn't have anywhere to put it. It's tough.

    • Robert Sloan - Reply

      July 28, 2011 at 7:40 pm

      Shevi, it sounds like dancing between chapters or method writing might be a lot easier for you to do in that space. I run into space constraints too with how I live. If you read my comment earlier, the long one, some of those ideas might help.

      Personal taste when it comes to calisthenics, I find the idea of a treadmill desk scary – but I know what it does to my body if I walk too far or stay on my feet too long.

      When I get to San Francisco I'll be a lot less sedentary because I can go out at all, because there are places to go within range and the climate's better for me. Here in Arkansas, I try to get up for things as often as I can to avoid problems with my legs – but it's five minutes up, hour or two resting when I do.

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