Book Review: The Healthy Programmer

Sitting in a chair for 40 or more hours a week might seem like the makings of a good life if it's combined with an impressive salary, but if you value your health and/or your career, you might rethink your priorities. This invaluable book could add years to your life and keep you feeling good well into retirement. Let me repeat that. This invaluable book ...

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It is exceedingly well footnoted and includes a 16 page bibliography that demonstrates how much scientific research is represented in its nearly 200 pages.

Problems that sedentary workers are plagued with today include health issues such as these:

  • back pain
  • carpal tunnel
  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • headaches
  • heart problems
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • upper limb syndromes
  • vitamin D deficiencies
  • low mood and energy disorders

When you take advantage of the science represented in this book, you will not be surprised that people who don't move much, who stare at computer screens for more than eight hours a day, who spend little time in the sunshine, who eat pizza and chips at their desks for lunch, and who likely never think about whether their work stations are ergonomic are beset with all these problems.

What surprises me is not the commonality of health issues that plague both programmers and their systems and networking colleagues, but how small changes in our daily routines can address, reverse or avoid them.

Examples:

  • frequent movement -- 5 minutes of every half an hour getting up and moving around or doing foot pumps under your desk can improve your physical condition
  • drinking water instead of soft drinks can reduce headaches and improve your immune system
  • keeping track of what you eat helps you eat less
  • walking stimulates creative thinking and problem solving

In fact, it's quite surprising to note the amount of worthwhile exercise that can be done at your desk -- exercise that matters and moves you toward fitness. Adding movement to your daily routine and paying more attention to your nutrition will, in the long run, pay back more
than learning another computer language or protocol ever could because you're like to be more productive at work and more energetic overall if you do.

Just from walking alone, you can expect aerobic improvements, an increase in your muscle strength, and a lowering of your blood pressure. Brisk walking helps even more, especially if you can work up to 10K steps per day; and the book offers tips on how to do this safely.
But even if you can't walk a mile a day or replace your desk with a stand-up desk or one with a treadmill, simple changes such as glancing away from your screen to prevent eye fatigue can improve how you feel.

The Healthy Programmer provides both insights and advice on how to change your daily routine and your diet, how to prevent problems such as eye strain and wrist injury, and how exercise improves your ability to solve problems and strengthens your memory.

The book includes these chapters and sections:

1.  Making Changes
    Unit Testing Your Health
    The Mind-Body Connection
    An Iterative Approach to Health
    The Science Behind Habits
    Reprogramming Your Habits
    Retrospective
2.
Photo Credit: 

flickr / healthiermi

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