Staying Development Fit
Programming can be an unhealthy occupation. It’s easy to spend the whole day stuck in your chair, staring at the screen. The more exciting or involving the work, the longer you sit, the more you stare, the worse your posture.
Physical problems can affect your brain, giving it extra things to worry about. Bad health can affect your thinking, memory and decision making processes.
So, look after your body! Here are some useful tips I’ve picked up recently whilst looking for things to help.
First is an application that has been around a while. I originally started using it at university, 7 years ago. It’s evolved since then, but the original idea is the same. The program is called Workrave and it monitors how much you’re using your computer, prompting you to take regular breaks. You control how often and how long, and for the longer ‘rest breaks’ it provides suggested exercises to prevent RSI and eye strain. You may think this is a waste of time, and just a chance for some downtime. However, I’m always surprised how productive I am during the rest breaks: it gives my brain a chance to think, to forward plan.
Once you’ve got that installed, have a read of Zed Shaw’s blog post on Common Programmer Health Problems. Zed has catalogued the dangers facing the sedatary programmer, along with suggestions for combating the problems.
Have a good look at the equipment you’re using. Somone (and I can’t remember who) once said that if you touch,hold,look at or otherwise interact with something for more than an hour a day, spend the money to make it the best you can. We may not all be able to achieve this, but if you’re still using the stock Dell mouse the company provided you and it’s frustrating you every day because it’s not accurate enough, then maybe it’s time to spend some money on yourself. Of course, companies that value their programmers provide them with fabulous adjustable desks and decent chairs, but I’m afraid not all employers are that enlightened. [why don’t we stand up for ourselves over things like this?] You can still make some small changes to your working environment though to make things a bit more comfortable.
Lastly, have a think about how you can give some time back to your body. You might not have time to spend an hour a day running, or weight-lifting, or whatever. But even small things can help. Get some fresh air everyday, and go for a brisk walk (even if it’s just for 20 mins). If you’re forced to choose between doing cardio-vascular work and muscle work, I would suggest muscle work. By increasing your muscles (including your core and balance muscles) you’ll be more able to support your body correctly whilst sitting, you’ll increase your bone density and also your metabolism. You can find a great guide to some simple workouts on StrongLifts 5×5 Strength Training Program.
What other tips do you use to keep yourself “development fit”?