How To Keep Healthy If You Are A Software Programmer
Being a programmer can be a thrilling yet demanding experience, making everything else —including your health — take a back seat. Smart programmers are aware of this and take steps to keep healthy amidst the many lines of code running through their heads.
If you are a software programmer, make some time to check up on your health. And if you are not sure of what to do, I have some ideas to inspire you.
From eye strain to wrist pain and loss of motivation, software programmers have many challenges to battle. This is attributed to the long working hours required to come up with working codes, test them, and transform them into useful material.
Some programmers don't take this pressure well, and eventually become victims of stress. Many programmers also become so obsessed with work that life ceases to exist until they accomplish the task at hand.
Perhaps you haven’t encountered any of these challenges. Count yourself lucky. But, don't get too comfortable―it's only a matter of time before these mental and physical challenges come knocking on your door.
To keep them at bay for good, I present to you some of the simple hacks and strategies that will help you maintain good health as a programmer.
1. A Simple Walk Will Do You a World of Good
Programmers and long sitting hours go hand in hand. Programming takes a lot of time; hence you are nailed to your seat until you get results. It might seem like a great idea to keep working through your fatigue, but this will lead to loss of focus, boredom, and impaired judgement. Instead of staying glued to your computer all day, take a short break and go for a walk.
Aside from helping you stretch your legs and relax your nerves, taking a walk also impacts the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that creates new memories and is associated with emotions. This will generally improve your mood and work productivity. You should aim to take a 40 minute walk at least three times a week to reap the benefits.
2. Steer Clear of Junk Food
As a programmer, it is easy to be so absorbed in your work that you live off junk food. Junk food has little to no nutritional value and eating too much has been linked to increased risk of obesity and chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Moreover, many studies have demonstrated the brain-gut connection, showing how a healthy gut leads to a healthy brain. This means that eating healthy, nutritious food will not only improve your general health, but also keep your brain functioning at high gear―vital to any programmer.
So how do you break the habit of binging on junk food and switch to eating more healthy food? It is simpler than you think, and you don't have to use your working hours to prepare food.
Start by replacing unhealthy snacks like chips and pizza with healthy snack alternatives. This includes salad packs, fruits, vegetables, nuts, breakfast smoothies, and veggie sandwiches to mention a few.
Also, make a habit of planning ahead and take advantage of your freezer. Make food in batches on weekends or in your free time and store it in your fridge or freezer. This way, you can simply take out a complete meal pack, warm it up, and have it ready to eat in under 10 minutes.
3. Use the 20/20/20 Rule
You can barely take your eyes off your computer, right? That’s understandable considering that coding demands screen time. However, staring at your computer screen for too long has been shown to cause various eye complications called Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).
To improve your health without having to get up from your desk, you may want to use the 20/20/20 rule. The rule states that every 20 minutes of coding, you should take your eyes off the screen and look at something that is 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This will help prevent eye strain, a consequence of constantly staring at your computer screen.
4. Practice Mindful Blinking
If you have dry eyes, it’s not just because you didn’t drink enough water, or you haven’t rested your eyes in a while. While those are valid reasons for many programmers’ dry eyes, they aren’t the only causes.
Staring at computers and tablets for too long often results in not blinking, which is a cause of dry eyes. Blinking naturally puts oil onto your eyeballs, thus moisturizing your eyes. The solution to blinking-related dry eyes is simply blinking more often.
Remind yourself to blink every now and then. Take advantage of slow internet, loading pages, and downloading breaks and blink. Your moisturized, healthy eyes will thank you.
5. Seek Out Ergonomic Office Products
It is time you invested in an ergonomic office chair that will help you correctly position your back while coding. Ergonomic chairs can improve back pain by promoting a sitting posture that allows proper alignment of the shoulders, hips, and spine. This reduces abnormal strain on the body and prevents harmful positions such as slouching and forward head.
Ergonomic office chairs have many properties that help programmers to be at their best. For example, the adjustability allows you to set the height of the chair and the depth of the seat. The swivel feature allows you to turn around as much as you want, while the headrest helps prevent neck pain. Find more reasons why ergonomic furniture works here.
6. Cut the Caffeine
We’ve all heard promises of what caffeine does for the body: It makes you stay awake so you can get things done. That’s pretty magical if you ask me.
But, one thing you might not be aware of is that you will be sacrificing your health with each cup of coffee you drink. Studies have shown that caffeine binds the receptors in your brain, triggering chains of fatigue and migraines.
Therefore, consider replacing your coffee with healthier alternatives such as water, peppermint tea, and natural energy-boosting smoothies. These can hydrate and fuel your body with nutrients, tackling fatigue. If you are addicted to coffee, you can use chai tea or herbal coffee to wean yourself off caffeine. These have less caffeine than coffee, yet more nutritional benefits.
7. Aim for Better Sleep
If your busy schedule makes that difficult, consider drafting a timetable so you can delegate enough time to sleep. Once you schedule your sleep, your body will set a natural alarm clock and you will be able to go to sleep and wake up at approximately the same time each day.
Meanwhile, there are practices that will help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep throughout the night. These include setting up an ambient sleeping environment by making sure your room is dark and avoiding using your phone or other light-emitting devices before bed. Also, experiment with calming sleep sounds to help you drift to sleep faster. When in bed, do not focus on sleeping, but rather aim for a relaxed mind. Clear your mind of work, worry, brainstorming, or any other thoughts that may keep you awake.
Getting enough sleep does not only make you less tired, it also helps you to feel refreshed, which ups your productivity. Sleeping for the recommended 7 to 8 hours a day has also been linked to better memory, faster learning, and better attention to detail, among other benefits. This means that a person who gets enough sleep is operating at a higher level than the one taking short naps every so often.
8. Slow Down Your Eating
I get it, you are a busy programmer with no time to waste eating. So, you gobble up your food in five minutes and it’s back to work. If you have been doing this, it is time you stop.
While eating quickly saves time, it results in many adverse effects on your health. For one, there is no way you are chewing your food properly if you clear a plate in five minutes or less. This gives your digestive system a harder time breaking down the food particles, resulting in digestion issues.
Eating quickly also catches your stomach by surprise, so you end up eating too fast for your body to recognize that you are full. Before you know it, your tummy is tight and uncomfortable from overfeeding and you have taken in extra calories, which could lead to unwanted weight gain.
Lastly, eating too fast can lead to significant glucose fluctuations, resulting in insulin resistance. You are introducing a large chunk of food into your body in a short amount of time. This does not allow your body to slowly release insulin as it would when eating slowly. instead, large amounts of glucose are released into your body, demanding more insulin. This could open a pandora’s box of diseases, including obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Moreover, slow eating allows you to savor every bite and enjoy your food. In a way, this is relaxing and even like meditating.
A Toast to Healthy Coding
Sure, writing good code is important to any programmer, but it doesn't have to cost you your health. I mean, what’s the point of money if you spend it all on medical bills?
The tips above allow programmers to stay healthy despite their busy schedules. The good thing about these tips is that they are easy to follow, only requiring a positive open mind, planning, and practicing until they become a habit.
Simply eat healthy meals, remember to exercise, find healthier alternatives to caffeine, blink more, and sleep better. Do this and you will not only notice an improvement in your health, but also your focus and overall productivity.