Welcome to the next post in my Boost Health Awareness mini-series, part of the Looking-Glass Translations productivity programme!

Get up, get coffee, get to work, get clients, get productive, get… fit?

As some of you know, I spent four months earlier this year teaching English part-time in Austria. The experience was really fantastic, both personally and professionally, but perhaps the greatest advantages to taking on two jobs at once were 1) vastly improved time management and 2) the epiphany that I wasn’t exercising enough – and that’s what I’m going to discuss today.

Let’s be honest now.

How many of us have the time to exercise? Technically the answer is all of us, but it seldom feels that way. In fact, business owners are some of the first to neglect their physical health, especially in the early years.


We all have a tendency to associate success with non-stop hard work – and this is very dangerous.

True, perseverance is a key trait for successful business owners; however, being a relentless jobsworth isn’t sustainable over the long term. Burnout is real, and whether or not we like to admit it as knowledge workers, our bodies are just as important to our livelihoods as our minds [TWEET IT!]. For freelancers, in particular, with no commute to speak of and what is potentially quite a poor diet, the risks of sitting for extended periods are high, including:

  • A slower metabolism and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Lower energy levels, muscular atrophy and shortness of breath
  • High cholesterol and weight gain
  • A 64% increase in the risk of heart disease
  • A 30% increase in the risk of certain cancers


The more you delve into the subject, the more terrifying the health hazards of sitting seem to become.

From a simple sore back to heart disease and osteoporosis, our extremely sedentary lifestyles are a ticking time bomb for our old age, even if we’re relatively young and fit now.

What’s more, poor health can have a severe impact on our productivity; it’s hard to get work done with a chronically sore neck and shoulders, and it’s even harder to get things done when you’re suffering from heart disease or some other degenerative condition.

Fortunately, you don’t have to become a fitness freak overnight; studies show that even just standing up and moving around for ten minutes every hour can offset many of the more horrifying effects of sitting.


Let’s explore three of your options below.


1. Desk exercises are a great way to get active!

And many of them won’t prevent you from working at the same time. From toe lifts and leg extensions to spine stretches and chair twists, ‘deskercises’ will enable you to keep working while you get moving. The internet is full of fab resources on this kind of exercise, so I won’t go into them in detail here. Check out the following links for some deskercise inspiration (here, here and here – and here too)!

Tip: If you want a bigger challenge, why not start experimenting with bodyweight exercises – exercises which take very little time to do, and only require your own bodyweight to work. No props necessary!

>> I interviewed Sara Colombo on these and other great freelancer fitness tips in the next post in this series! More below.


2. Of course, ‘get fit’ is a much better long-term goal.

And I truly believe that if I can do it, you can too; I hated my PE classes at school with a passion. It was a family joke that it was the only subject where I’d be told to ‘please try harder’, and cross-country running still gives me nightmares today… and yet here I am, trying to become a healthy and productive freelancer! Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Use your less rigid schedule to pop to your local gym or pool (mine is open 24/7!)
  • If you don’t feel you can commit to the gym, try a fitness DVD or computer game
  • A home gym is more costly, but will enable you to exercise on a whim
  • Team up with a friend or get a personal trainer to hold you to account
  • Join fitness classes – sometimes group activities can be more fun!


3. How about a more drastic solution? Ditch the desk.

Given how much I loved standing up all day while teaching in Austria (loved it), I’ve actually come round to a far more drastic solution: giving up my comfy office chair/desk set-up for good! Search Google for ‘kneeling’ or ‘standing desks’ and you’ll see that this is a growing trend among entrepreneurs who are concerned about the damage their jobs are doing to their health – there are even translation industry colleagues who have begun experimenting with them (here and here)!

While standing all day isn’t good for you for a number of reasons, studies have shown that it can have an incredibly positive impact on our lives when practised in moderation – and after spending 8-10 hours a day sat down, you’re sure to really enjoy the benefits.

Unfortunately, these special chairs are not cheap, but you can opt for a DIY option. As someone who has to work extra hard to maintain her core strength, my dream office set-up includes a balance ball desk chair. They’re quite pricey, but I’m going to make a point of getting one when I move into my next office. If anyone would like to donate one to me, feel free!

Edit: Translator Ulrike Walter-Lipow informed me on Twitter that she used an ordinary balance ball for around 15 years, and though it’s great for many things, it can hurt your upper back if you aren’t careful. Her advice is to alternate to enjoy the best of both worlds!


The exercise benefits to your business are clear.

And here are just a few of them:

  • Reduced stress thanks to all the happy endorphins released during exercise
  • Downtime and ‘me time’ rolled into one for busy business owners
  • Better focus and productivity due to reduced stress (= a happier freelancer!)
  • More restful sleep, since your body will finally be as tired as your mind
  • Greater confidence when meeting with clients because you know you look good


Want my advice? Get fit.

Making sure you don’t prioritise your business over your own health is the only way you’ll be able to keep doing what you love for as long as you can – both at home and at work.


Keen for more info?

Then check out these great links to see how best to get fit (I’ll add to the list as I find more):


How fit do you think you are? And is your lifestyle as a business owner the reason? What do you do to stay in shape? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!


Finally, I have some exciting news! The Healthy Freelancer, herself, the wonderful Sara Colombo, popped onto the blog to drill down into why getting fit can only boost your business – and she also shared some of her own tips! You can find the interview here.


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