This is the year that you shed a few pounds, quit that stressful job or take that long awaited vacation in some remote island where your body can heal for a few weeks. Or go for a walk. Those are good too. Or all of the above if you so wish. But if you're a programmer, this is probably going to be harder than it should be. Not because programming is particularly grueling or stressful. But because of how we've come to mold a programmer's work environment in this day and age. Many a time this involves small cramped spaces with little to no sunlight and a plethora of snacks overflowing from a makeshift kitchen. But it doesn't have to be.
In my time, I've eaten every snack food available, every energy drink on the market, and 2-3 lunches sometimes per day. It was normal. Everyone around me did the same, so why can't I, I told myself. Well, because it's not normal for one. But also because it affects every single aspect of your life, down to your sleep and the way that you walk. Everything that you do will have some effect later on in your life. If you slouch for 2 years in an office chair, you could end up with back pain later on in life, which can alter your mood, which can effect your day to day functions and relationships. Tip #1: Don't slouch.
Here are some tips that I've acquired during the past 10 years of programming in terms of health and well being. I've been on both sides of the equation multiple times. From 180lbs, to 125lbs, back to 150lbs, then settling in nicely at 130lbs. And weight management is just one part of the whole package that is well being. Read on to learn how to be a fit and healthy programmer in 2017.
Cut the sugar
Sugar tastes amazing. Or at least it makes your brain believe that it does. And so we eat it without realizing it all day long. Maybe it's a snack after lunch to keep us awake. Or maybe it's an early morning treat, such as a health bar, or a donut. Nowadays, both of these are pretty much the same thing. Sugar in it of itself is not the problem.
sugar is just some atoms put together
The problem is the quality of the sugar that we're eating and the quantity with which we eat it. Overtime, sugar has shows to produce addictive qualitites. But that's not for debate really. We all know this. We just sometimes need a billion dollar study to convince ourselves. But believe me, it is. My addiction to the sweet sweet nectar knew no bounds back in the day.
There are plenty of sugar substitutes out there these days, or fruit. Yes, fruit has sugar. But you probably won't end up eating 2 pounds of strawberries in one sitting. Unfortunately, it is a bit hard to avoid sugar these days as many food products contain it, but it isn't impossible for sure. It just requires one to be a bit more aware.
It took humans hundreds of thousands of years to be able to balance a hundred pounds of material in place on 2 beams, and now we're aiming to reverse it. Walking is an amazing gift that nature has bestowed upon us. If you so wished, you could walk straight for the next 3 hours and all kinds of amazing things would happen. You'd see things, you'd hear things and life would happen. Walking also stimulates your brain as it's constantly processing new information.
So take 25% of your lunch break and spend it just walking around your office building. You'll notice the results immediately. I've been doing with co-workers for years, and it always stimulates our minds. We think of ideas, we talk about life, and we enjoy our minutes.
Not to sound like your mother, but this year, make some melatonin. Just 100 years ago we weren't flooded by artificial light. And now we're bathed in it 24/7 preventing our brains from making that sweet sweet melatonin. And while I would love to regale you with the amazing hormone that is melatonin, I cannot do the Wikipedia justice. So read it, enjoy it, and begin to make it for yourself.
I highly recommend you download f.lux on your desktop as soon as you can. It follows the day/night cycle in your region and will remove the "blue-light" from your pc screens when the time arrives. And if you're a mobile user then download Twilight on your phones as it does the same. And nope, I do not get paid by anyone to mention these. But I do owe them my thanks for helping me get some good shut eye every day.
Stand up straight
Now I really sound like a mother. But this is something that I've struggled with for a long time. In high school I had uneven shoulders, mainly due to a 50lb backpack that I slumped over my right shoulder only. This problem followed me to college and through college. Soon after I got the programmer's hump that I kept telling myself was all in my head. Well it was. It was in my head, my neck, my shoulders, and my uneven hips. For those that can, I recommend a standing desk always. It keeps you alert and mobile the whole day and the more you do it the stronger your core will become. I've been standing for the past 6 months for most of my day and the only side-effect that I have, is that my back is now indeed straighter and my shoulder cracking and pain is almost completely gone.
If you're reading this, then congratulations, you are alive. Many people today will not be. But you are, and that's awesome. Send me a message if you're one of those said live people, just for fun and I will respond. For many people in our society, this is exclusively saved for the weekend. But it doesn't have to be. Every second of your life you could be having fun. Stuck in traffic? Play an audiobook and by the time you're going 70mph, you'll want to slow down to see how the story ends. Nothing on TV at home? Find a good book and a new place to read it. Whatever it is that you choose to do, make it a great day for you.
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Walter Guevara is a Computer Scientist, software engineer, startup founder and currently mentors for a coding bootcamp. He has been creating software for the past 15 years.