Last year my husband Neil read that prolonged sitting reduces life expectancy. He doesn’t do much sitting in his job but he was worried about me and suggested I get up from my desk every 30 minutes to have a short walk. In the evenings he checked up on me. Had I walked? No? Why not? Was I aware that prolonged sitting could also lead to obesity, high blood pressure and poor mood? Perhaps Neil was excised by the thought of being left alone with our four children or maybe it was my cultivation of something I’ve heard referred to as ‘writer’s bottom’ (the slippage of one’s behind into a comfy sort of thigh-cushion). Either way, he was persistent in encouraging me to move more.
At the time, I was editing my first novel A Song for Issy Bradley, losing myself for hours at a time in deletions and rewrites. Getting up for a walk every 30 minutes seemed a like an unnecessary hassle. Neil started reading about treadmill desks and before I knew it, he’d booked an appointment for us to test one at GymWorld in Oldham.
The desk in the showroom was bigger than I’d expected. The treadmill base was straddled by a sturdy work top which was edged with a foam wrist rest to make typing easy. I walked while I typed on my laptop and found it surprisingly easy and fun. We ordered a treadmill desk which arrived a week later.
At first I was consumed by statistics. How fast could I walk? How far could I walk? The desk has Bluetooth so you can record how many steps you have taken and how many calories you have burned (I try not to look at the calorie counter so I’m not tempted to replace every calorie with a treat). After a few weeks my knees let me know I probably shouldn’t walk that fast or that far and I slowed down. The start speed is 0.4 mph and the maximum speed is 4 mph; I find 1.2 mph keeps me moving and allows me to type comfortably.
I finished editing A Song for Issy Bradley at my treadmill desk and now I’m beginning my second novel. Sometimes I need stillness to think and I opt to stand, but I always walk while I respond to emails or mess about on Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes I have a break from writing and run while I watch documentaries as I research my new novel (I think it’s just about possible to call 4 mph running if, like me, you have short legs).
Tip: It’s not a good idea to use a laptop because the screen should be at eye level in order to avoid slouching and/or straining the neck. My screen is balanced on a stack of copy paper and I use a USB keyboard and mouse.
N.B I burned 200 calories as I wrote this. That’s a mountain of celery or two thirds of a Snickers bar – it’d be a shame to leave that last third in the packet, all on its own (although it’s not recommended, it’s possible to eat and drink at a treadmill desk)…
A Song For Issy Bradley is available now.