The writing life can be an unhealthy one—but it doesn’t have to be.
Writers often spend all day hunched over a computer, forgoing fresh air and healthy meals. That’s a recipe for disaster. However, by establishing a routine and focusing on healthy habits, you can excel as a writer and maintain your most precious asset—your health.
Here are six ways writers can stay fit, productive and balanced:
1. Minimize the time you spend sitting.
Sitting is the new smoking, right? Staying glued to your chair might not be quite as bad as smoking four packs a day, but it does increase your risk of high cholesterol, poor blood circulation, colon cancer and obesity.
Consider investing in an ergonomic chair or an exercise ball. Writing at a standing desk would put you in good company as well. Ernest Hemingway, Lewis Carroll and Vladimir Nabokov all wrote while standing.
Set a timer. Commit to taking regular walking breaks. However you can, whenever you can, get up and out of the chair. Too much sitting can hasten your demise.
2. Get exercise.
If you’re cooped up in an office or working from home all day, it’s important to get outside and move around. Exercise combats the adverse effects of sitting, and it boosts brain power and productivity. Working up a sweat offers a multitude of mental health benefits, too.
Whether it’s walking, pushups, CrossFit, lunges, basketball or yoga, daily exercise is essential for staying fit and productive. Your half-written article will still be there when you return.
3. Take regular breaks.
Staring at a screen for hours on end causes eye strain, which can lead to headaches and fatigue. Try to take a break every hour. At the very least, get up, stretch and look away from the computer for a few minutes.
Try the Pomodoro technique, which forces you to take frequent breaks throughout the day.
4. Mind your diet.
All those Hot Pockets, chips and candy bars take a toll.
If you’re on a tight deadline, it’s easy to rely on frozen dinners and junk food to get you through. Combat this by buying healthy snacks that aren’t going to leave you feeling lethargic and bloated. Choose less processed snacks like fruit bars, raw nuts and veggie chips.
Whenever possible, plan to eat proper meals to prevent overeating later in the day. A nutritious, filling breakfast boosts productivity and sharpens your senses as you begin writing.
Also, make sure to stay hydrated throughout the day. It’s easier said than done, but try to drink more water than coffee.
5. Get plenty of rest.
Writers often keep weird hours. Franz Kafka might have used insomnia to fuel creativity, but he died at age 40. So, make sure you get enough sleep.
Sleep deprivation can have disastrous health consequences. It weakens your immune system, increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and lowers your sex drive.
It’s not a small matter. Take sleep seriously, and create a routine that sets you up for success.
6. Emerge from your lair.
Working as a writer can be quite a lonely profession. However, part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is making a conscious effort to spend time with friends and family. Social engagement is associated with a stronger immune system, better mental health and a reduced risk of dementia.
Taking social breaks from work can help increase productivity and stimulate creativity as well. A stroll around the block or a conversation with a colleague is often the best, quickest way to bust writer’s block or jar new ideas loose.
If you don’t have much time, call a friend or grab a quick coffee with someone nearby. It might end up being the most important thing you do for your writing all day.
Rachel Jackson is a senior content manager at Bizset.com. She is a mother of two beautiful boys, and she likes writing about traveling, education and business at AssignYourWriter in the U.K.