Though blogging may be a great mental exercise, so much so that it is recommended for seniors to help them keep their mind sharp, it is not exactly the most intense of physical activities.
Since most of us blog while sitting down, which puts almost no strain on our body, a 145 lb person will burn about 99 calories per hour typing. That makes it only 40 calories per hour more than sleeping, which burns 59.
This sedentary lifestyle, especially when combined with a bad diet and lack of other exercise is not without its consequences. Though there are no statistics available for obesity and bloggers specifically, certainly the nation-wide statistics in the U.S. do not paint a pretty picture.
How, in a nation where over a quarter of all people are obese, is a blogger, one of the most sedentary of all jobs, supposed to maintain a healthy lifestyle? There are no easy answers but it is definitely a pitfall of blogging that needs to be looked at.
This is a pitfall that I recently fell into in a very serious way. In 2005, I weighed about 155 lbs. Over the next few years, a series of events including Hurricane Katrina hitting my city of New Orleans, a car accident and a switch to a more sedentary lifestyle as I moved to blogging part time and then full time, caused that weight to balloon well north of 215.
Having always been the “skinny kid” growing up, this was a major shift in weight for me and ramifications were fairly serious. My back, aggravated by the car accident, was so bad that if I had to walk around for long periods of time I either needed to carry a walking stick or lay down for long periods. My knees were weak and I was winded easily by almost any physical activity. Martial arts, something I had enjoyed greatly before the storm, was impossible.
My body felt like it was falling apart, even before I had turned thirty. I had assumed, however, that it was my lot in life and blamed most of it, incorrectly, on my accident.
If it hadn’t been for my wife, it’s quite possible I would have continued down the path I was on, leading to more problems down the road. However, through her encouragement, I was able to make some simple changes that ended up making all the difference in the world.
How to Avoid It
Fortunately, I was able to turn things around and fairly quickly. In November of last year my wife mentioned that she wanted to start leading a healthier lifestyle and she wanted my support. I agreed to go along with it and the two of us began using MyFitnessPal and generally trying to eat healthier.
By March of this year, within about six months, we had managed to lose about 60 lbs apiece. I am back down to 160, a weight I’ve been able to maintain and am currently focusing more on strength training.
The changes, for the most part, were fairly small. We started eating better, using MyFitnessPal as a guide while we counted calories and quickly learned our former diets were far too heavy to sustain. Once we adapted to eating better, which only took a week or two, it seemed natural and we almost didn’t need the site to help us along. We also began to do more physical activity, starting with more walks with the dog and stepping up to more difficult cardio.
Though we did join a gym, it was only after we both had lost the weight and was more about improving what we had already done, not fixing what we had done wrong. For the most part, the shifts were subtle and not that painful.
With that in mind, here are my personal thoughts on how to keep a sedentary work life from costing you your health:
- Track Your Food: Whether you count calories, carbs, fat or something else, watch what you eat and track it. Find a plan you can stick to forever and work with it.
- Get More Activity: Find a physical activity you enjoy doing and try to do it every day. When I was doing martial arts, I was in great shape despite a bad diet. Find a physically engaging hobby and stick to it.
- Get the Family Involved: Leading a healthier lifestyle is much easier if everyone in the household is involved. That makes it easier to plan means and activities.
- Focus on Eating Better, Not Less: If you’re hungry, you’re dieting wrong. You should be able to eat the right amount of calories, carbs, etc. without starving yourself. You aren’t depriving yourself food, just eating less of what’s bad for you.
- Watch Portions: Portion control is huge. A “serving” of Cheerios has the same amount of calories as a serving of Chocolate Cheerios. The catch is regular Cheerios are a cup per serving and the chocolate ones are 3/4 a cup. Pay attention to serving sizes and issue portions carefully.
In the end, this isn’t that difficult of a pitfall to avoid, but it does require being aware of it and taking action against it. It may not be a pitfall exclusive to blogging, being applicable to all sedentary jobs, but it is one that bloggers need to watch out for.
So, if you spend more than a few hours a day pecking at a computer, it’s something you need to watch out for as it is a pitfall anyone can fall into, even the “skinny kid” from high school.
My personal story has a happy ending, at least for the moment. My back troubles are all but gone and knees are drastically improved. I was able to attend OpenCamp Dallas, all three days, without back trouble despite being on my feet 12 hours or more a day. We’ve since stopped using MyFitnessPal and have been able to maintain our weights without any help.
But the experience has taught me a lesson. While the digital age has been great for the distribution of information and for communication, it has not been very easy on our bodies. As bloggers, at the very forefront of this movement, in every respect, we have to be especially careful to not let ourselves get swallowed up by a sedentary lifestyle and to try and remain active and healthy, despite doing jobs human bodies were not intended to be doing for long periods.
It’s not an easy task, but with a few adjustments, one can often be much happier and healthier. The changes are usually minor, but the rewards, especially over time, are great.