You don't know what you have until you lose it. We all know what it means, but we often forget that it also applies to our health. In no way is this article intended to lecture you or make you feel guilty about your lifestyle. With this article, I simply want to share a few tips that can help you stay healthy as a programmer.
While programming isn't considered a dangerous occupation with a lot of hazards, a surprising number of developers suffer from health issues. Sitting at a desk won't kill you, but studies have shown that it isn't as healthy as you might think. Luckily, it's surprisingly easy to make some changes with very little effort.
Even though this is probably the most obvious tip from the list, getting exercise on a regular basis is something that many developers tend to forget—or ignore. There's no need to become the next Ironman, but doing some form of exercise has a number of benefits that will keep you healthy, fit, and focused.
If you go to work by bike or by foot, then you're already ahead of the curve. Exercising regularly has a wide range of benefits that will pay dividends in the long run. It keeps your body fit, improves your health, and it also makes you mentally more resilient. The latter is especially important if your job is stressful or mentally taxing.
Repetitive strain injury (RSI) is a common problem among programmers. Exercise can help prevent RSI or reduce the symptoms. There are many techniques you can use to prevent RSI and exercise is definitely the easiest and the cheapest.
This tip is especially important if you're still in your teens or twenties. At this age, programmers tend to forget that they are mortal. I'm in my thirties now so I know what it feels like to think that nothing can stop you in your quest to conquer the world. While pulling an all-nighter is something that won't kill you, it will screw up your health if you're not careful. The older you become, the longer it takes to recuperate from sleepless nights. Burning the midnight oil may be necessary on occasions, but respect your health by not making it into a habit.
Sleep is something that your body needs to recover from the previous day and stay fit. The body uses this time of inactivity reboot your brains and repair any damage you incurred during the day. Studies have shown that getting enough sleep significantly boosts your focus during the day, improves your immune system, and even enhances your memory.
Research has also shown that you cannot catch up on sleep. If you only get four hours of sleep on Monday, then it's not going to be very helpful to sleep ten hours on Tuesday. Not getting enough sleep has no advantages. It may be necessary at times, but keep in mind that it will have consequences if you're not careful.
Bad posture is a common problem these days. Even if you're office is equipped with comfortable, ergonomic chairs and desks, it's important to be conscious of your posture. It may seem unimportant when you're in your twenties, but the number of young people suffering from chronic injuries caused by bad posture is alarming—and climbing.
Studies have shown that sitting at a desk for long periods of time isn't healthy for a variety of reasons. Some programmers solve this by using a standing desk. If you haven't heard of a standing desk, it's exactly what it says on the tin. Standing desks don't even need to be expensive.
If a standing desk is something you'd like to try out, then take into account that your body will need some time to adjust to your new setup. It's recommended to gradually increase the time you spend working at a standing desk. Did I mention that you also burn calories simply by standing up while you work?
Some people take it one step further and use a walking or treadmill desk. The main advantage over a standing desk is the number of calories you burn during the day. Note that the speed of the treadmill is very low, about two miles per hour. This is important for safety and to avoid injuries. The idea of a treadmill desk isn't running a marathon while you work. The goal is to keep your metabolic rate slightly above the basal metabolic rate.
Like many people, I love, love, love coffee. I know very few programmers that don't use—or misuse—caffeine as a form of fuel during the day. Some choose for coffee or tea while others swear by energy drinks. While there's nothing wrong with caffeine—it even has some health benefits—it can seriously mess with your metabolism and biorhythm if misused.
A common misconception is that caffeine is fuel for your body. Even though most energy drinks are high in calories, caffeine itself doesn't contain any calories. Caffeine is nothing more than a molecule that interacts directly with your central nervous system.
Over the years, researchers have discovered a number of interesting findings about caffeine and how they affect people's performance. For example, people that consume caffeine on a regular basis need it to function properly. This is something most people know, but underestimate. If you have been using caffeine for a few weeks or months, then you need a dose of caffeine simply to stay on par with someone who doesn't depend on caffeine.
If the coffee machine at work is broken, then you know you have a rough day ahead of you, depending on how much caffeine you're body is used to. Removing caffeine from your diet isn't easy for most people, especially if you work in an environment that is stressful. I've done it several times and I can assure you that the first few days can be very, very rough.
Caffeine is addictive and it's all too easy to relapse into drinking coffee when you need that bit of extra energy. But why would you want to cut out caffeine? The most important benefit is that you will sleep much, much better. Another major benefit is that you are no longer dependent on caffeine to function. Do you need extra energy? Go for a run. You'll be surprised by the amount of energy you get from something as simple as a five mile run.
Finding balance in your life isn't always easy. If you have a demanding job with a bunch of responsibilities, then it may be difficult to go offline for long periods of time. No matter what you do for a living, it's important to find a balance between work and life.
Everyone needs some time off to decompress and relax. Making a clear distinction between work and life can really help recharge your batteries. You'll be able to spend time with your family without being distracted by work. Put aside your phone and don't check email when spending time with friends and family. It truly helps recover from the day and prepare for the next.
It goes without saying that a healthy diet is the cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle. That doesn't mean that you can't have a snack or that you need to cut out everything from your diet that's unhealthy. It simply means being conscious of what you eat and when you eat it. That simple act can make a world of difference.
As I mentioned earlier, black coffee doesn't contain calories so it's not a good idea to only drink coffee during the day. Make sure to take the time to eat in the morning and take a short break during lunch.
Do you also enjoy a good night's sleep? Then it's important to not overeat in the evening and not eat too late. If your body is still processing your dinner when you go to bed, then it won't have much time to rest. A healthy lifestyle isn't rocket science.
The power and possibilities of modern smartphones and smartwatches are amazing. They allow us to be connected with friends and family wherever we go. It's nice to see that someone favorited your tweet or friended you on Facebook. Right?
I strongly believe that there are times that you need to disconnect, put your computer aside, turn off your phone, and disconnect from the internet. It's a wonderful feeling to leave your smart devices at home and go for a walk in the woods or in the park. Your mind will thank you for it.
Enjoy your surroundings and, more importantly, the feeling that nobody will call or text you. Some of us or so hooked to being connected with the world that they feel anxious if their smartphone isn't within arm's reach. If that's you, then this may be an early warning bell that it's time to step back, even if it's only for ten or fifteen minutes.
When I was young, the internet wasn't a thing yet, smartphones still had to be invented, and smartwatches were science fiction. We are inundated with information from the moment we wake up until we go to bed. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that we need to take a break from time to time. Combine this with exercise and a healthy diet, and you have the ingredients for a successful career as a programmer. What tips do you have for a healthy lifestyle?