How to keep your ass healthy as a developer

I once read an article about some recent research on preventing negative effects of sitting. I don’t have the link now but there are a lot of articles on this topic, and you can Google them if you are interested. So, what was it all about?

I’m sure, you know that prolonged sitting has negative effects on your health. Sitting is a new smoking, as they say nowadays. Different studies have shown that sitting for extended periods of time increases risks of a number of health issues, among which are heart disease, diabetes and cancer, to say nothing of some ‘lighter’ stuff like hemorrhoids and prostatitis.

As a developer, and previously a civil engineer working at the office, I sit a lot. So, the health risks associated with sitting have always concerned me. That’s why the article I mentioned above interested me in the first place.

What that article suggested, based on some recent study, is that to prevent most of the negative effects of sitting all you have to do is to walk for 2 minutes every hour. It didn’t explain why it was so, but for me it made a lot of sense. And here is why.

It is easy to imagine that when you sit, some of your internal organs are compressed and blood doesn’t flow normally in some parts of your body. That might cause no harm if you sit for just a short period of time. But if you sit for prolonged periods of time it is once again easy to imagine that some negative processes start to occur in the compressed part of your body. Like some cells dying off. Or whatever. I’m sure it’s more complicated than that.

But what if you don’t wait till something bad starts to happen in your body and start walking after one hour of sitting? Then you blood starts to flow normally, your internal organs relax. And maybe 2 minutes of walking are really just enough to prevent some of the negative processes in your body from happening. Then you can sit for another hour and repeat.

On the other hand, if you tried to offset the negative effects of sitting by just doing some exercises after work hours, it wouldn’t help. Because by that time you would have already done the damage to your body from uninterrupted hours of sitting.

How I implemented this in my life

I just have the alarms in my iPhone set for every hour of my work day. When the alarm goes off, I would stand up, immediately set a timer for 2 minutes, and start walking around the office. At first I was a little self-conscious. What would my colleagues think of me wandering here and there 8 times per day instead of sitting and working like everyone else? But I figured that my health is more important to me than what anybody’s opinion of me might be, so I kept doing my little ritual. The funny thing is nobody cared. I never had to explain myself. Well, actually, I did explain what I was doing to one of my colleagues, but I really didn’t have to, because he didn’t ask me.   

And now that I work from home I do just the same thing. I use alarms and timers and walk for 2 minutes every hour. I suggest you try it if you are interested in staying healthy.

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