Research has shown that two of the things that lead to obesity and eventually a whole barrage of health problems are a sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits. In addition, the mental health of a person whether he/she is old (http://www.yalemedicalgroup.org/stw/Page.asp?PageID=STW037188) or young (https://depts.washington.edu/chdd/guralnick/pdfs/JPPID_Gural-Peer_vol3.1.pdf) is greatly improved by interaction with their peers, a fact not lost on the prison systems of this world. Writing as a profession lends itself to two of the three contributors to poor physical and mental health: sedentary living and solitary confinement. That begs the question: is being a writer bad for your health?
From the limited number of writers conferences I’ve attended I’ve noticed that many of the participants were a little on the plump side. Moreover, when it was time for personal interaction many writers found themselves confined to their hotel rooms entangled in a ménage-a-trois with their IPads and laptops.
So seeing that writing may be a mental and physical health hazard, what can we as writers do about it?
For one, we can take a little time from writing to maintain a regular exercise routine. I jog. I didn’t always do so, and no, it does not make me petite, but it does keep me feeling good and my creative juices flowing. I know you’re thinking that jogging is solitary and spending time with your characters in your mind does nothing to foster peer interaction. Before I took up jogging I tried a variety of exercise classes: step aerobics, jazzercise, aqua-aerobics, you name it. But I am an uncoordinated left hander who leads with my left and is spatially challenged. The group goes left, I go right, they go up I go down. After a while of paying to look like an idiot, I discovered jogging.
The advantages of jogging:
1. It’s cheap: the only investment is a decent pair of jogging shoes.
2. No one’s judging you: you can jog alone or with others but you never look like an idiot
3. You can go at your own pace: you can choose the time you jog, the pace, or whether to mix walking and running
4. You can be free to explore all your thoughts without the clutter of everyday life, at least for a few moments
5. And it's good for your heart
I have had some of my most creative moments while on jogs. I’ve encountered inspiration for my characters, scenes, settings while observing things on my routes. I have combated writer’s block and hashed out difficult conversations in my manuscripts. However, jogging is not for everybody; so as a writer knowing that your occupation lends itself to a sedentary lifestyle, find what exercise routine works for you and do it, even if it is Zumba on the Wii (now that is fun).
Ok so exercising does not necessarily address those long hours of solitary writing, though it can. Find time for interaction with others outside of your family. I think that is the hardest part for me. Being wrapped up in my kids after school activities and juggling the demands on my time makes it difficult to carve out time for peer interaction. Fortunately for me, my job allows me some interaction, but not nearly enough.
Here are some suggestions that I need to take for myself:
1. Have fun with your friends
2. Join a club
3. Mix your exercise with socializing and take an exercise class (not for me).
I’ve dealt with two of the three lifestyle impediments to a writer’s health that is really a hazard of the job. The choice of healthy eating, well that’s for another person, who given the choice of carrot cake or carrot sticks would choose carrot sticks, to blog about.