Step 3 to the Healthy Writer Life: Move More Often
Over the past 8 years, I’ve worked diligently to find ways to meld my work as a full-time writer with my love of the outdoors, my need for exercise, and the assurance that I would not gain 20, 30, 40 pounds from sitting all day.
I knew I had to balance the hours of screen time, the pain of sitting all day (actual physical pain from rheumatoid arthritis), and life’s niggling frustrations, with feeling the joy in what I do – after all, I do love writing.
I know this for certain – when I move often, I feel less stressed, less stiffness, less bloated, and generally happier.
So, what’s the secret to “staying in the writing zone without interruption” and getting off your rear end to move more? When you take breaks and move with intent, the secret is that you become a better writer. Think of stepping away from the computer not as an interruption but as a motivator. Moving more breeds creativity.
Use Technology to Motivate You to Move More
One of my favorite inspirations to move often is the Charity Miles app. It tracks my steps all day and those steps equate to dollars raised for my chosen charity. It costs nothing, it doesn’t interrupt my writing-zone moments, it’s a fun way to see how many steps I take every day, and I love knowing my steps help someone in need.
I try to wear something with pockets so that my phone walks around the house with me (I don’t wear a smartwatch) as I get up to switch out the laundry, get more water, make a cup of tea, head to the restroom, feed the birds, get the mail, etc. It is amazing how many steps I take while taking care of my basic needs.
A typical day for me around the house is about 2,700 steps. With a walk, I usually get roughly 6,500 steps. Since I have RA, the recommended 10,000 steps per day are just too many (I think this is totally unrealistic for most people), so I shoot for 3,500 to 5,000 and get really excited on days when I make it to 7,000.
If you get the app, just be sure to click on it at bedtime to log every single step for the day so your charity gets your full support.
Keep Compact, Affordable Exercise Equipment in Sight
Besides just moving about the house, I have a plethora of small exercise equipment on hand so there are no excuses when I need to get moving.
I have a mini-trampoline and bounce for at least 2 minutes, daily. I started at 30 seconds/time and worked my way up. Jumping flushes the lymphatic system and gets the heart pumping.
Trampolines come with handles for balance and without, and the nice thing is the intensity can be at your own comfort level and pace. If you try one, you’ll probably giggle the first time you do it!
I have quite the inventory of bands, balls, and mini-weights and do a few fun reps at different times of day, 5 minutes at a time. I keep these things where I can see them (some in the master bedroom, some in my office). No excuses. Five minutes is attainable.
I also have a recumbent bike that saves me on days when the weather doesn’t cooperate for my walk.
Examples of quick ways to add movement:
- Stretching is critical. Joints and soft tissue need lubrication and lengthening to keep you from having structural issues. Hips are especially important when sitting a lot (hips hold a lot of emotional baggage too). Stretch often – neck, shoulders, wrists, back, sides, hamstrings, and ankles, and add hip movements throughout the day.
- Abs keep your core strong. Do sit-ups on a giant gym ball or sit on it and use it for balancing exercises, like raising one leg at a time, arms out, for the count of 30.
- Another option is to get on the floor, get a good stretch by pulling your knees toward your chest, then do 10–25 slow, controlled sit-ups and pelvic tilts.
- Another thing I do is hold a soccer ball between my knees for two sets of 10–25 controlled squats (knees don’t go past toes on the down movement). This was a post-surgery PT move that I’ve never stopped doing as it strengthens my knees and helps to keep proper form. Sometimes, if my knees are hurting a little, I’ll squat onto a stool or chair instead of free form.
- I use bands for resistance when working my upper body (slow and controlled to avoid injury). Bicep curls, upright rows, regular rows, triceps extensions, etc.
- Put on one of your favorite songs and dance. It’s amazing what dancing will do for your mind and body, even just one song.
- A few minutes of forward-fold stretches and bridges (on the floor, hips in the air) with deep, belly breathing reenergizes me.
- After any focused exercise, I stretch the area before I sit back down to minimize stiffness.
If you choose to try any of these fun activities, always consult your healthcare practitioner first, start slow, and do what you can. If you can only do five of something, that’s okay. A lot of people don’t do anything at all because they can only do a few and feel it doesn’t help anything. Nothing is farther from the truth! If you can only do five sit-squats for a while, that’s great! You’ll be amazed when you can all of a sudden do seven, then 10. You will feel stronger and more confident.
Getting Outside is the Ultimate Way to Move More & Strengthen Body, Mind & Spirit
Getting outside for a walk is my happy place. It’s where my soul finds freedom and heals. I stop worrying and feel everything in my body sing!
Walking outside is, without a doubt, one of the best things you can do for your body, mind, and spirit. Ten minutes, 20, 30, whatever you can muster. Slow walk, nature walk, power walk, doggie walk, walk to get a healthy snack … just get up, get out, and do it. City, country, suburbs, wherever, whenever you start doing this, even for a few minutes at a time, you will feel different.
According to science-backed research, walking in nature offers the following, tangible benefits:
- Improves memory
- Helps lift depression
- Fights anxiety
- Makes vitamin D (even on a cloudy day)
- Lowers stress, cortisol levels, hypertension
- Reduces inflammation (I can attest to this myself)
- Energizes your brain
- Improves concentration (shown to help ADD/ADHD)
- Boosts creativity
- Potentially lowers risk of early death
With all of these benefits from a free activity that most of us can do anywhere, why don’t more of us make time to do it? Even if you live in a city, there are usually parks with nature and green areas that will provide the same benefits. The weather may play a role, but honestly, unless it’s pouring rain or super cold, it is too important to NOT do it.
As a writer, anything that can boost creativity is a huge bonus. I walk daily, and when I do, I focus on nature and the things around me and try not to think about work. If work just won’t let go, I can miss the whole experience. It takes practice to clear your mind.
That being said, I often have an ah-ha! moment with a blog I might be working on or an idea that hasn’t come together even though I’m not actively thinking about it. It’s kind of like when you think of something at 3 AM that you tried to remember earlier in the day.
I KNOW fresh air cleans my cobwebs and makes me a better writer!
The Moral of the Story – Move Your Body to Live the Healthy Writer Life
Moving more is a conscious decision. If I’ve been sitting for more than an hour, I get up and move. I make myself stop and take a break, knowing when I sit back down, I will have a fresh take on what I’m writing, and often improve what I was working on.
If your knee-jerk reaction is “I don’t have time for a walk or to stop when I’m on a roll,” look at how many hours are spent on your devices and borrow from those hours to give your body what it craves – movement and fresh air.
As someone who has had multiple surgeries (28ish) and painful feet, I know there are lots of excuses to not move or get outside and walk, but none of those excuses stop me. I find a way. I consider it a challenge. I want to live the healthy writer life and know, that in the end, I’ve done my best to honor this body and this life. Are you ready to get moving? I know you can do it!
The text, graphics, images, and other material contained on the Healthy Writer Life website is for informational and educational purposes only, not a substitute for professional medical advice or consultations with healthcare professionals. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your distinct healthcare needs and/or medical condition. Never ignore professional medical advice because of something you have read on the Healthy Writer Life website. Regular exercise and dietary needs vary for each individual; you are responsible for your own health and safety at all times.