Writing is a pretty sedentary activity, which is problematic because apparently this leads to IMMINENT DEATH (much like everything else in the world – let’s face it, everybody dies. Still, I will endeavour to address this sensibly..).

When your writing is going well it is so immersive that you can hunch over a notebook / typewriter / laptop for hours without noticing – until you stand up and realise your shoulders are made of pain.

Meanwhile when it’s going badly, you feel compelled to stay beside your notebook / typewriter / laptop until you’ve managed to do something – taking a break from total failure to do anything constructive seems a lot like skiving, even if you have been in the same position for five hours.

But where is the lumbar support? (pic via wagar.org.uk)
But where is the lumbar support? (pic via wagar.org.uk)

As if to exacerbate the problem, a lot of writers work from home at least part of the time.  This means you can roll out of bed and over to your desk / sofa / beanbag to begin the day’s work without even putting on any pants, much less stretching out your shoulders or back – living the dream, some might think.  But as I have already pointed out, there is a growing school of thought that says this volume of prolonged stillness is not good for you.

The word on the street (that’s Occupational Therapist Street, if you want to look it up on google maps) is that in a ‘sitting job’ like office work or writing, you’re supposed to take a break from what you’re doing once every half hour.  This doesn’t have to be a proper break, but you apparently should at least stand up for a few seconds to stretch and rearrange your slumped posture.  If you don’t, the connective tissue that holds your muscles together will probably rebel by giving you serious health problems in later life that’ll make it pretty hard for you to keep writing or doing office work, and if you can’t work or write you will DIE (possibly due to lack of money to pay your bills, or possibly just in a creative sense – neither is great).

I’ve also heard it said that as well as avoiding staying perfectly still, writers – and indeed humans of all kinds – ought to go a step further by taking regular exercise.  Failure to do so results in curvature of the spine, gout, and being a misery guts because your bloodstream is totally endorphin free.  The price we pay for creativity is the lifestyle of a medieval royal – that’s science.

Ben Willbond as Henry VIII in Horrible Histories
Ben Willbond as Henry VIII in Horrible Histories

I’ll level with you, exercise is not really my forte.  Sitting very still, inhaling cheese sandwiches and making up stories is much more my thang.  I did attempt to take up running a few years ago, and really enjoyed it up to a point…  But unfortunately that point was my knees began making a strange crunching noise and predicting cold weather – presumably the early stages of gout.

My mother occasionally reminds me that back in the mists of time I also quite liked swimming, but imminent return to the pool is unlikely for myriad reasons – including my appearance (gouty), and the fact you don’t seem to be able to get those awesome woollen Victorian swimming costumes anywhere these days.  The main two things putting me off, though, are blindness (I can’t see more than about an arm’s length in front of me without glasses, which renders the journey from changing room to poolside a hideous nightmare and makes swimming in a straight line without banging into people pretty impossible) and finances (income from my part time job is not that high, whilst my income as a freelance writer ranges from non-existent to uncertain.  £32 a month on a swimming pool membership is not a luxury I can justify).

So, what exercise is low impact on the joints (to avoid knee-crunch) but high impact on the health, whilst remaining free – or at least very cheap?  I did a bit of an internet search, and ultimately there is only one choice.  It’s sexy, it’s sophisticated, it’s… actually really hard to tell whether you’re doing it right if you go on your own.   That’s right, I’ve decided to follow in the footsteps of middle aged ladies across the globe and Harold from Neighbours by having a bash at power walking.  Endorphins, improved posture and more energy for finishing stories here I come.

What exercise do you do to ensure you don’t become a hunchback in the name of your novel?

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