How to be a Programmer and Stay Healthy

Man suffering from back pain

Written by: Pablo Tocho, Web Developer for DigiSavvy

Back in 2012, I started looking for my first job as a programmer. I have beautiful memories from those years, taking the train very early in the morning to go to job interviews.

I always have with me a bag filled with excitement respecting my first job as a web developer. I imagined myself being a part of awesome projects, meeting new people, and learning new technologies.

Also, to be honest, the bag also had some “negatives” things, like insecurity and a little bit of anxiety. Today, when I look back, I would have liked that the bag had the topic “health” on it.

Reset your actual beliefs

Most web developers have the misconception that our job doesn’t require physical effort. But this belief starts to vanish after the first body pain symptoms appear. It would have been very helpful if someone gave me some advice about this a few years back when I started looking for my first job as a developer.

When the first back pains started, I didn’t give them any importance, because they were sporadic and slight. I thought, “could be anything, it’s not a big deal.” Sometime later, the pains started to be more frequent, and also I felt them in my neck and hips.

I was wondering, why do I have these pains if I didn’t make any physical effort? My headache is because I spent too much time in front of the monitor? Is it going to be worse in the future? I went to the doctor and he recommended me to take some rest, buy an ergonomic chair and take some eye drops lubricant. But it wasn’t enough for me, I needed more answers.

Health and web development are very related

This isn’t just a title, it’s a belief that you need to internalize and start to believe. You must take away the belief that says “web development doesn’t require any physical effort.”

So, after visiting the doctor I started looking for answers. I read a lot about body posture and ergonomics, and also learned some of the anatomy of the body. I listened to different opinions about this topic from my colleagues and read many experiences from people that had the same problem.

I will share with you what I found and learned.

Body posture is the key

When we are sitting on a chair for several hours we “lose” two of the most important body supports that our body has, the legs. When we are sitting on a chair all our body weight is sustained mostly by our back and hips.

Thing is that our body and hips are not made to support a lot of weight for a long period of time, and the constant wear of them could generate hassle or even pain.

I always take small breaks every hour or so to stretch my legs, back and neck. Sometimes I go out and take a walk. But as a general rule, I never spent more than an hour and a half sitting on the chair. You could try to work in a standing position. In fact, standing desks are very popular and helped a lot of people with body pains.

Take care of your eyes

Spending all day in front of the monitor could produce eye dryness and headaches. This is very common and is going to happen, be sure about that.  Eye drops lubricant help a lot with the dryness, but you need to go a step further if you want to solve the problem by their roots. Think about it, your eyes are saying, “hey I’m getting out of tears, I can’t moisturize your eyes”. In simple terms, your eyes need some rest. So, take away the monitor for a few minutes and rest your sight. I also highly recommend using an “eye care” monitor. This kind of monitor has extra eye protection and reduces the blue light of the screen.

Also if you use glasses, you could get new ones with a blue light filter.

Physical activity

We spent a lot of time sitting on a chair, so sedentarism is part of our lives and it’s always going to be there. This type of lifestyle combined with a bad posture is an explosive cocktail. Think long term, the body is our “container” and if you have it in shape, your efficiency, focus and health will improve. You will be able to work better and harder.

Choose the physical activity you want, go out, and do it at least 3 times a week. Also, if you are very sedentary, start slowly. You don’t need to run a marathon, you just need to move your body a little bit.

I recommend you to do some activity to relax your muscles and tensions. In my case, I practice yoga.

Sleeping, that beautiful moment

Our work requires a sharp and healthy mind to solve problems and create applications. I realized that when I sleep my 8 hours, my efficiency and focus increases a lot.

I know that you are sleeping less hours because you want to finish that project on time. But in the long term, you’ll accumulate fatigue and tiredness in your body.

Healthy diet

I love eating fat and sugar like almost all people. We constantly fight against the temptation of eating junk food but remember that we are what we eat.

The fact that our work doesn’t require any physical effort doesn’t mean that we are allowed to eat junk all day. In fact, it’s the opposite because of our sedentary lifestyle.

You don’t need to be an alimentation guru, you just need to start making little changes and incorporate some healthy food into your diet. There is tons of information online about this topic that can guide you.

Your body and mind will be thankful, and also your work efficiency will improve a lot.

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