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5 Tips for Staying Healthy in the Computer Age

Bobby Travis

Bobby Travis

This is a post by Bobby Travis, who wrote with me at 40Tech from 2009 through 2012. Bobby has since moved on to bigger and better things, but I've left all of his great contributions up on the site. - Evan
Bobby Travis
Collage of several of w:Gray's muscle pictures...

Well, it’s official, we live in the age of computers. Surprised? Ok, so you’re probably not — but that only serves to illustrate my point. These are the days where people are often attached to their machinery for hours and hours and sometimes days at a time; and because you geeky folks out there reading this post are so very well informed, you are probably equally aware of the rise in health issues that are related to said machinery. That’s right, I’m talking everything from arthritis, to heart attacks, to severe anxiety linking back, in many ways, to that thing attached to that soul-sucking monitor on your desk (or lap) — especially if you work from home. Which I do.

So that, in conjunction with my current bout with a very annoying cold that I was only too glad to confirm was not Swine Flu, inspired a small amount of research on maintaining a healthy outlook as one of today’s trending geek-boys. Read on and enjoy!

Image via Wikipedia

1.) Manage Your Time

Overdoing it brings about everything from stress and anxiety, to scoliosis and eye-strain to dehydration, improper blood flow, and lack of oxygen to the body. And more. Do your best to keep your time sitting in front of the box to 2 hours or less. Set an alarm. Listen to it. It is wayyyy too easy to become lost to time when in front of a computer and involved in a project.

2.) Get a Bit of Exercise

A lot of the health problems from extended computer use can be mitigated by simply getting up regularly and moving around — especially in a somewhat focused and energetic manner. Some call this practice “exercise”. The word has lost all meaning to many a tech-geek. Do some stretches, some light weights, hit the treadmill, do jumping jacks — dance around out something. Just do what you need to get your blood flowing, unlock your muscles, increase your air intake, and burn some calories. Go for a walk. If you work from home, get a dog — you need to walk those guys regularly… they like it when you do.

Also important to note: this exercise stuff is especially helpful with managing stress.

3.) Pack Some (Healthy) Food

There are two schools of thought here. Some say pack some food and make sure you take a break to eat it. Others say, as long as the food is healthy and you use those breaks for exercise, you should snack all day to boost your metabolism and energy. I tend to side more with the latter, but may be a bad example as I was born with a fairly high metabolism. Either way, the main point is that you EAT. Like I said earlier, it is way too easy to get caught up in what you are doing. Resist the temptation to do “one more thing” and go eat something.

4.) Water Water Everywhere, Make Sure You Stop to Drink

Stay hydrated. It is easier to forget than you might think. If you are feeling a bit out of sorts as you obsessively bang away at the keys or lovingly stroke the mouse, then you probably need a drink of water. Dehydration plays havoc with your body. Go get a drink of water. Go. Right now. The blog post will still be here when you come back. And stay away from bottled water, if you can. Bottled water isn’t necessarily regulated, so you don’t know what’s really in it — and tap water can’t be left in a plastic bottle in direct sunlight. You get enough carcinogens on a daily basis, cut them out where you can.

5.) The Neck Bone’s Connected to The Foot Bone

Seriously. Ever get a muscle spasm in your eyelid because you moved your arm in a certain way? I have. This is the weirdness you encounter after too many hours working on a laptop while slouching on the couch. Every part of your body’s musculature and structure is connected and screwing about too much with one area can have unforeseen effects on others. Investigate ergonomics and restructure your work area as best you can for comfort and posture. Back problems suck. Carpal tunnel sucks. Any kind of tendonitis sucks — and did you know if you tilt your head forward a few degrees to look at your screen you are adding upwards of 30lbs to your head that need to be supported by your neck muscles? Now you know why your neck gets sore… Headaches and even eye problems can also result. Good posture that is varied often is the best way keep your body from settling into where it shouldn’t.

A bit of discipline and a good dose of each of the above tips should help you to work longer, work smarter and be a healthier person overall. I really have no choice but to take these steps, myself — my brother is a personal trainer. Just the thought of my little brother (who is twice my size) chomping at the bit to extend to me his own personal brand of vengeance for childhood tortures should be enough to keep me focused on my health for years to come. *proceeds with mantra* I will take my own advice, I will take my own advice, I will use what I have learned…


What do you do to keep yourself healthy in the computer age?

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