As coders or programmers, we are subject to many hours of sitting at the desk, just like many office professionals. Luckily we can break up our day by visiting clients and running errands. This however also involves more sitting as we have to drive to the location and back. All this time in the office chair, which unless you have custom computer chairs or luxury office equipment, can take its toll on the back, neck and hamstrings or leg biceps. If you have the luxury to do this, and you don’t have a boss who is very authoritarian or demanding, I have put together a list of things that can help alleviate pain or increase overall well-being.
1. STANDING & STRETCHING
It has been recommended that every arm chair warrior stand up each hour and do some kind of movements in place. Some recommend stretching out the back and legs which can help with circulation and take the stress off the lower back for a bit. It also helps clear the head to just get the blood flowing and when you step away from the desk, it allows your mind to wander for a brief time. As one who types a lot, I can say that my shoulders become very tense after an hour of non-stop coding and clicking. Stepping away for water or a bathroom break can definitely help relieve some tension in the upper torso.
If you are in an office tower or have a few floors between your regular daily travels, perhaps try some stairs. These are faster than waiting for elevators, and give the legs a bit of a workout. I wouldn’t suggest doing 15 flights the first time, but over time maybe even that will be possible.
Another good idea is pacing back and forth while on your phone. Don’t just sit there in the chair if you can stand for the five, ten, or even thirty minutes. It is a great time for light stretching as well, especially if you have a decent speaker phone and can put it down. You can always write while standing if you take notes or have a ledge or filing cabinet you can put the ledger down on. Even putting your laptop on a higher platform and standing while working can help here and there over the course of the day. You are still working and being productive, so most employers should not have a problem with efficiency and a healthy work environment.
2. EATING HEALTHY & DRINKING WATER
If you find the hour after a meal is dragging you down, try four to five meals per day instead of 3 bigger ones. The lesser amount of food will be burned easier, keeping your weight down, which obviously has major health benefits, and it will keep you from getting sluggish, or a food coma as we commonly call it. Another advantage is being lighter or having lower body mass, makes it easier to stand and will encourage more movement because it is easier. Where being heavy makes us only want to sit still as we are using the least amount of energy and remaining stable with no effort. This will eventually lead to increased body mass index and therefore, less energy expenditure.
Drinking water is one of the best things a person can do, as long as you don’t drink so much you induce water intoxication. They recommend eight to twelve glasses of water per day, which should help with a healthy lifestyle. Coffee is a great substitute for some of the glasses but not all. Caffeine is a diuretic and can actually deplete you of water or making you dehydrated. So keep the coffee for the very worst times of the day when you are sluggish, like mid afternoon and need a pick-me-up! Also make sure to try to add some milk to the coffee. They say that even a little bit of milk has enough calcium to balance out any calcium lost from bones due to the caffeine consumption. And nobody wants arthritis or osteoporosis if it can be avoided.
3. AFTER-WORK EXERCISE
A final idea is getting some exercise at home during the evening. This is not always possible due to life commitments, so if you have a flexible work environment you could go during off periods. I knew some bus drivers who loved to go between their split shifts and it gave them great energy for the second half of the shift. A gym membership is a great way to workout if it is close to work, or if you have a treadmill or exercise bike at home, 30 minutes a few days a week could do wonders. It can be High Intensity Interval Training, or just good old steady-state cardio for fat loss and exercise. If boring old cardio is not your thing, perhaps join a martial arts studio. Tae Kwon Do, Judo, Karate, Jui Jitsu, Muay Thai are all great forms of exercise and conditioning. Other options are boot camps like Alpha Company Training in Waterloo. The list is endless if you enjoy it. Another option is during your lunch hour. If you did the 4 meals per day and can eat healthy on the run, that would free up your lunch for a brisk walk and maybe a few flights of stairs.
Fitness has limitless possibilities and combinations. Pick what you can and hopefully your body will see some health improvements. So from one desk jockey to another good luck and stay healthy and maybe we will be seeing you around!