Exercise Your Mind and Body

The Coronavirus has given many writers a guilt-free excuse to sit at the computer and write, but I’m hearing some writers admit to wasting this opportunity. Instead of writing, they’re doing jigsaw puzzles (in March sales of jigsaw puzzles surged), binge watching TV, reading (for pleasure and escape, in many cases), taking up knitting/crocheting/quilting, gardening, and on and on.

Or is it a waste of time?

The mind and the body need opportunities to escape. A time out. While your hands, eyes, and conscious brain are engaged, your subconscious may be at work, dealing with the situation or working on a plot point. (More than once I’ve hit “writers’ block” and discovered letting my subconscious work on the problem ultimately gives me the answer I need to move forward with the story.)

If you are a writer (or an at-home worker) who does sit at the computer hour after house, make sure you exercise your body. The University of Virginia has 8 exercises you should do. (If you’ve taken any yoga classes, I’m sure you’ll recognize these.) I’ll summarize them here, but you should check out their site.


Breathe. Take in a deep abdominal breath through your nose. Hold it for a couple seconds, and then slowly let it out. Repeat several times. The Virginia University says exhale through your mouth, but if you’ve taken any yoga classes, we’re told to let the breath out through our nose. This is a great exercise to do while in the car, too. If you’re stuck in traffic, try it. I’ve also been told it’s a good way to fall asleep, but it never seems to work for me.

Head & Neck Relief –Turn your head slowly from one side to the other and look over each shoulder. Hold each turn for the count of three. Repeat 5 to 10 times. It’s the “slowly” part that’s important. You want to slowly stretch those muscles.

Shoulder Roll –Roll your shoulders forward 5 times using a wide circular motion. Then roll your shoulders backward. Repeat 5 to 10 times.

Upper Back Stretch –Fold arms in front of you. Raise to shoulder height, then push your elbows straight back. Hold a few seconds. You should feel a nice stretch in your shoulder blades. Repeat 5 to 10 times. You might also want to stand and clasp your hands low behind your back, pulling your shoulder blades together.

Lower Back Heaven –While sitting, slowly bend your upper body between your knees. Hold for a few seconds, then sit up and relax. (I’ve had a lot of back problems, and my last physical therapy instructor told me if I’d been working at the computer for a long time, to stand and bend as far backwards as was comfortable. He suggested backing up to a counter, putting my elbows on the counter, and bending back. As with the forward bend, hold for a few seconds. I’ve found this really helps counter my forward bend toward the computer monitor.)

Wrist Relief –Hold your arms straight out in front of your body. Raise and lower your hands- bending at the wrist, to stretch the muscles in your forearm. Repeat several times. (Again, this is a common yoga exercise and is important to do on a regular basis.)

Hand and Finger Help –Make a tight fist with your hands. Hold for a second. Then spread your fingers as far apart as you can. Hold for five seconds. Repeat. (I’ve never tried this before. It feels good.)

Leg Lifts –While sitting in a chair, grasp the shin of one leg and pull slowly toward your chest. Hold for five seconds. Then do the other leg. Repeat several times. (This is really good for your lower back.)

I hope some of these exercises help. Also, to exercise your mind, try something new. This past week I participated in four Zoom meetings. Up until then, for me the word Zoom simply meant to go fast. I’m still learning, but I like being able to meet face-to-face with others.

I also bit the bullet (so to speak) and purchased Microsoft Word 365. I’m really enjoying all it provides, but it’s also a learning experience.

What have you been doing that’s different during your lockdown?

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12 Responses to Exercise Your Mind and Body

  1. Maris,

    These are great exercises. Thanks for sharing.
    It’s great you are continuing with your writing.

    • Maris Soule says:

      I’m continuing, Jacqueline, but not at a very fast pace. You’d think being confined at home I’d be writing all the time, but interruptions still occur. Hope your writing continues to go well.

  2. Thank you, Maris, for another useful post. And thanks for the free book, Sounds Like Love.

  3. John Clarke says:

    Well Maris, I’m going to try out your exercises to see if they’ll help with my arthritis which has become a bit of a bother lately.
    And to exercise my brain I’ve just requested Echoes of Terror. That should do it!
    Hope we can meet up again one day. John

    • Maris Soule says:

      ECHOES OF TERROR should keep your brain busy for a while. (Thank you for requesting it.) I, too, have noticed my arthritis is bothering me more than usual. What’s up?

  4. Paula says:

    I’ve been at the computer a lot even without there being a lock down because I work from home. Sort of. I can always find excuses to do something else.
    But today, I had to go out to make a bank deposit. The banks were closed, but I have a bank that provides a drive-up ATM. I went to the bank and decided I would just keep going, drive east as far as the other side of Marshall and take the freeway home.
    Ironic that the gas prices plummeted quickly but we have to stay home and we’re not using gas. *smile* Anyway, I drove with the window open to get some fresh air. The roads and freeway were empty of traffic except the occasional vehicle or semi.
    THAT’S what I needed. Feeling like I was out in public and getting a breath of fresh air. I came home and felt totally refreshed.
    Thanks for reminding us that we need to keep our bodies responsive to stay creative.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Thanks for sharing, Paula, because you bring up a good point. Exercising the body and brain doesn’t have to be a big endeavor. A car ride with the window down gives fresh air and visual stimulation. We can get stagnant doing the same thing over and over. We all need a break now and then.

  5. I went back this morning and did the exercises again. I’m sending a reminder to myself. Just to let you know your advice is helpful.

  6. Thanks Maris, Writing sounds like a low risk profession, but even sitting at a computer too long has health risks.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Pat, I remember when I started writing I was warned about the possible weight gain. No one warned me about back problems, but both are problems I hear writers complain about. We need to keep moving.