A major health hazard writer's face is sitting for hours on end. The only movement that occurs while we're caught up in creating the story in our heads is our fingers as they type, type, type away. This is a big No No. Why? It can cause nasty carpal tunnel that can spread up your arms, into your shoulders and even your neck. Another big yucky side effect is that sitting shortens the muscles in your body, which equals less flexibility and being more susceptible to injuries if you slip or fall.
Stretching 2-to-3 times a day is crucial for a healthy writer's body. It only takes ten minutes to stretch the most important zones. Let's start from the top:
Neck, Shoulders and Upper Torso
Computer monitor placement can greatly effect your neck and shoulder areas. If it's too low, the neck and shoulders get scrunched and hunched. Too high results in a stretched sore front neck and crinkled cranky mid-shoulders.
Two fabulous shoulder stretches. For the top stretch, bring one arm across your body, then use the other arms to reach up and pull it a little more closely to your body. This gives a nice stretch to the back part of your shoulder muscles and upper arms. Hold for 15-20 seconds, then readjust as the muscle loosens. Repeat with the other arm. For the bottom pictured stretch, bring one arm up, parallel to your head, then bend your elbow with your hand reaching back towards your mid-shoulder. Use your other hand to hold your arm in place. As the muscle warms and loosens, you can slowly add a little more stretch. This stretch helps the muscles from under the shoulder all the way through to your lower waist.
Lower Back and Legs
How do you sit in your chair? Do you have good posture or do you slump? Do you move your legs periodically? Tap your feet to keep circulation moving? Personally, I'm a slumper. I recently purchased a chair that has an ergonomic back that juts out and pushes into my lower back. It reminds me to sit better and stop slumping. The following stretches also help our lower bodies.
Lower calf stretch. If you have time, finish your ten minute break by stretching out your lower calves. The picture illustrates an easy way to do calf stretches on a set of stairs. Balance on the step with the front half of your foot, then slowly drop your heel and hold the position for about 20 seconds. You can do both heels at the same time.
This short routine will give your body the much needed movement it needs after working at your desk for extended periods of time. If you do it consistently (at least twice each day), you'll soon notice more flexibility and also be more aware of your body's movement needs. Healthy muscles = a healthier you. In my next post, I'll address a few simple exercises to strengthen your muscles during another ten minute break session.