How to maintain programmer's health

As a programmer you spend most of the time in front of a computer and it has a negative impact on your health as most of you might have already noticed. However, staying painless and functional is not rocket science and almost everyone can be super healthy by changing a few simple things in your daily routine.

Variation

Standing desks, expensive chairs and ergonomic gadgets are so cool and even Linus is walking on the tread mill all day, but those things are just nice to have and you don’t need them.

The key is in variety of your daily positions and if you stick in one, get into the zone and spend a couple of hours in it you shouldn’t be surprised your neck hurts the next day.

Stand up, sit down, jump, squat, shake your hands, stretch your legs, relax your eyes. Do it every 15 minutes and change your major position every hour if you can. Take a walk or at least climb some stairs every now and then, and I guarantee you will feel a massive improvement and it will help to reduce your stiffness and pain.

Personally, I have an electric standing desk, so I change position every hour or so. Also, I run an application that reminds me to take a short break every 15 minutes and long breaks every hour. For OS X there is an excellent application called Time Out and for Windows I used Big Stretch Reminder.

Exercise

One of the best things you can do for your health is to exercise, but there is one catch — you have to do it right. But firstly, don’t waste your time on useless things.

Don’t run

Even though running is considered healthy exercise, it isn’t. Running isn’t for everyone and there are two main things that you should have before you run. The first one is your general level of fitness — you have to be reasonably strong to run. And I have to tell you a hard truth: most of you are not in that shape. The second thing is the running technique as you have to have a solid foundation and understanding of how to do it.

I used to do athletics and when I see people running on the street, stepping up on their heels with their anchored backs, it hurts my eyes and it certainly hurts their back and knees. If you want to run, train for it, get in shape, and learn the proper technique. Start slowly and run short distances. Everything over 5 kilometers is too much. Or even better — don’t run.

Don’t cycle

So you sit all day in front of the computer and you decide to do something for your health by sitting on a bike. What an exquisite choice, sir. Do cycle if you enjoy cycling, but don’t expect anything else might come from it.

Don’t do crossfit

The type of high intense interval training and crossfit exercise is suitable for professional athletes with an amazing form and excellent technique with certain goals in mind. Generally, it’s not you and it isn’t me either, sorry.

We all have our crosses to bear and you’ll look like a fish trying to get back into the water, so don’t do crossfit.

No gains, lots of pain. And injuries. So not good for healthy programmer wannabe.

Walk

Instead of running and all those other activities, walk. It’s simple and safe and effective. I walk 5-10 kilometers almost every day and it’s given me a huge improvement for my health. Get yourself a nice pair of shoes with thin soles (even Chuck Taylor imitation will do the trick) and start walking.

If you get bored, listen to audio books or some amazing programming podcasts. Learning and getting healthy — such a win!

Get stronger and more agile

You are walking now? Good. Let’s get to the next level. Firstly, learn how to breathe properly with diaphragmatic breathing. It will take you a couple of days, maybe even weeks to automate this skill, but it’s so essential and it hugely relieves neck and upper back pain.

Because you have spent so much time in front of the computer, sitting and lying on the couch you have probably forgotten how to move. So, I recommend you reset all those movements and start from the beginning. It may look a bit funny, but there is a solid reasoning behind it and just give it a go — you don’t have to buy anything, checkout some videos on youtube and try to follow it along.

When your movements are smooth, when you walk softly like a tiger and when breath from your belly you are getting into a decent shape and most of the pain will be gone by that time. I would recommend adding simple exercise like push-ups, squats, pull-ups and bridges. Keep everything simple and don’t complicate it. Keep the sets small and focus on 100% technique. If you are interested, read The Naked Warrior by Pavel Tsatsouline as there is a lot of wisdom in it that can help you with progressions and you can maximize your gains.

Sleep

The last thing that I have to mention is a proper sleep. You know it, but you don’t do it. Get yourself a good all night’s sleep on a firm mattress. Don’t stare at the computer in the night and also try to avoid it (also your phone and tablet) for at least one hour before bed time. Go to bed by 10pm and get out of it at 6:30am and you’ll be one happy programmer.

Conclusion

Getting healthy is not as difficult as you might have thought. Just stick with the following:

  • change positions,
  • take breaks,
  • don’t do stupid things like crossfit,
  • walk more,
  • breathe properly,
  • train movement and strength and
  • get more sleep.

Do it for a few month and you’ll see the difference.


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