Thursday, February 2, 2012

This-n-That Thursday: Exercises for the Busy Writer

Writers spend a lot of time sitting … at a desk … writing. If we have a “day job” that also requires sitting—we put in even more chair hours that can affect our waistlines, hips, and bottoms. And don't forget the strain we put on our eyes, necks, backs, and shoulders.

Doing simple exercises at our desk can help alleviate some strain and make us feel more alert, flexible, and better about our appearance.

Try these out! ~ Dawn 


Every hour do a minute of jumping jacks or running in place.

While seated, pump both arms over your head for 30 seconds, then rapidly tap your feet on the floor, football-drill style, for 30 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times.

Do walk lunges around the room.

 Strength Building

One-legged squats: Do these while waiting for a web page to load. You can hold onto a table, wall, or chair for support.

Chest and shoulders: Place both hands on your chair arms and slowly lift your bottom off the chair. Lower yourself back down but stop short of the seat, hold for a few seconds. Do 15 times.

Back and biceps: Place your hands on the desk and hang on. Slowly push your chair back until your head is between your arms and you're looking at the floor. Then slowly pull yourself back in. Do 15 of these.

Triceps: This will help the backs of your arms. Place your butt on the edge of the desk; place your palms on the edge of the desk on either side of you. Keep your feet together, bend at the elbows, and slide forward off of the desk. Dip down a few inches, and then push back up. Dip to where your elbows are bent at 90 degrees. Do this 20 times. For a variation, put your feet on the chair.

Arms: Try desk pushups. (First, make sure your desk is solid enough to support your weight.) Stand and put your hands on the desk. Walk backward, and then do push-ups against the desk. Repeat 15 times.


Kegels: These are great for women. Tighten and hold—then loosen the pelvic floor muscles.

Butt clenches: Tighten your buttocks, hold, hold, hold, and then relax. Repeat 15 times. For ab squeezes—just tighten your tummy muscles instead.

Inner Thigh: Place towel, firm water bottle, or a book between the knees as you sit up tall with the abs in.  Squeeze the bottle or cup, release halfway and squeeze again, completing 16 reps of slow pulses.

Hip Flexion: Sit tall with the abs in and lift the left foot off the floor a few inches, knee bent. Hold for 2 seconds, lower and repeat for 16 reps.  Repeat on the other side.

Leg Extension: Sit tall with the abs in and extend the left leg until it's level with hip, squeezing the quadriceps. Hold for 2 seconds, lower and repeat for 16 reps.  Repeat on the other side.


Upper body: Sit tall in your chair, stretch both arms over your head, and reach for the sky. After 10 seconds, extend the right hand higher, then the left.

Neck: To stretch your neck, slowly flex your head forward/backward, side to side and look right and left. Never roll your head around your neck. This could cause damage to the joints of the neck.

Shoulders: Roll your shoulders forward around 10 times, then backward. 

Arms and Shoulders: Brace your hands on the edge your desk, each about a shoulder width away from your body. Twist your hands in so they point toward your body and lean forward, hunching your shoulders. Then, push your shoulders and elbows closer to the desk.

Carpal Tunnel Reliever: Repeat this simple move every day. Stand at your desk, and, arms straight, place your palms on the desk with your fingers pointed toward you. Lower your body slowly, until you feel the stretch (you won't have to go far). Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat as needed through the day. 

Wrists: Roll your wrists regularly, around every hour or so. Roll the wrists 10 times clockwise, then 10 times counterclockwise. This will help prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Ankles: Roll your ankles in a clockwise motion 3 times, then counterclockwise. This helps improve blood circulation.

Chest: Notice if you tend to hunch in front of the keyboard. To counter that, perform the following exercise: open your arms wide as if you are going to hug someone, rotate your wrists externally (thumbs going up and back) and pull your shoulders back. 

Calves: While sitting, lift up your legs on the balls of your feet and set them down. Repeat until your legs are comfortably tired. Repeat after about 10 minutes later, and continue doing this routine for about an hour or so. This will exercise your calves, and will help prevent blood clots from developing in your legs. Blood clots are very common among middle-aged computer users.

 Exercise Tools

Hand grippers, dumbbells, and elastic bands: They’re cheap, small, and lightweight—and can provide an excellent forearm workout. Use it when you’re reading something on the computer screen or on paper and you don’t need to use your hands to type.

Stability ball:  (pictured at the top) Sit with your back straight and your abs firm. You burn calories stabilizing your core and body on the ball. You can bounce or do basic toning exercises during a break or while talking on the phone. (Some writers love using their stability ball. Because of the height of my desk, it hasn’t worked for me. Also … I read that you should use the actual ball form in moderation when typing, because it’s not the most supportive seating to prevent carpal tunnel and tendinitis.)

 Treadmill desk: News reports on TV and online articles have shared studies showing that people’s health and weight dramatically improved by standing or walking at a slow pace while working on their computers. Some schools are even running trial programs with students. I made my own treadmill desk by taking a table leaf and laying it over my treadmill. Using it was doable while surfing the Internet or answering e-mail—but it was too difficult for me to concentrate while actually writing or editing.

Okay! You have some tips on how to keep your body healthy, feeling better, and looking great! I’m definitely going to implement some of them. Which ones will you try?


  1. Needed this so much! I just thinking about joining the YMCA yesterday. Maybe I can get the knots out of my back with these.

    Thanks so much, Dawn!

  2. Thank you, Dawn... definitely going to add some of these to my "Angela Lansbury routine." But only after I make sure no one else is watching. And as soon as I look up the word... um... "quadriceps"...

  3. Angie, I'm so glad you found the tips helpful. I get muscle aches from sitting so much at the computer--so I need to implement some of these exercises into a routine too! :-D

    1. Me, too! I feel like the Tin Man after a long writing session. These ought to make me more like Scarecrow. :)

  4. Lily, your Angela Lansbury routine sounds interesting! I hope some of these exercises work out for you. :-D

  5. These are great, Dawn! I cut and pasted this and printed it out to put by my computer. This is something I SOOOOOO need to do. At age 75 I have to keep active and this will help on those long days at the computer meeting a deadline. At least 4 days a week I try to take a 30-35 minute break to ride my indoor bike, and these will add so much more to that. Thanks again.


We'd love to hear your thoughts! Please leave comments. We'll moderate and post them!