I am a software engineer who has been working and studying in IT for the past 20 years. This blog post is the result of my observations and analysis regarding my day-to day activities at work, my practice of amateur sports (soccer, basketball, hockey, and more), and my health.
IT professionals and most engineers sit for long periods of time to analyze, design, and troubleshoot complex technical issues. When they are engaged in a thought process for the purpose of solving a specific issue, they cannot afford to get distracted and lose their train of thought. These professionals are very likely to remain seated for most of the day, and some of them will drink several cups of coffee or tea or eat chips while working. This routine, when performed day after day, takes a great toll on the body as well as the mind, affecting the efficiency, health and appearance of these professionals.
While I was studying Software Engineering, I didn’t pay much attention to my health. At times, I was coding for hours without sleeping or taking any breaks to walk or relax.
The only thing that countered my bad working habits was my youth and my love of playing sports. I was playing in amateur soccer leagues and in drop-in soccer games at least twice a week. Playing these physical and competitive games kept me active, fit and efficient at work. However, not everyone enjoys playing sports and if you don’t exercise, you gain weight, get stressed and suffer the risk of suffering chronic pain or getting high blood pressure at a very young age.
At the beginning of my career in IT, I was single and it was basically the same routine as when I was a student. I was working long hours while sitting down, drinking too many sweet and energy drinks, eating whatever I could get and taking extra work or shifts to make my bosses proud of me and also gain a lot of experience and respect at work. Luckily for me, I still loved sports very much and I was playing in leagues and refereeing soccer about 4 times per week to stay active. Despite being active, I noticed that I started gaining weight, and I started having back and neck pain because of my long sit downs at work . I also started to be less efficient, getting tired quickly and not sleeping very well.
After a couple of years working full time in IT and Engineering, my work responsibilities increased, I got married and started a family and I began operating a small business. There was simply no time to exercise! I was feeling tired, run down, and overweight because of those long hours of sitting. I realized that I had to do something if I wanted to remain healthy and efficient at work. I decided to take the following steps at work and my performance in all areas increased dramatically.
Here are the steps I recommend you take:
- Avoid sitting down for more than 1 hour without getting up for a walk.
- Take multiple short walks outdoor during work hours.
- Avoid drinking sweet drinks or too much coffee during work hours.
- Avoid eating chips or almost anything while working.
- Instead of spending long hours reading manuals and documents on your computer, print them out, then take a walk and read them somewhere quiet while standing.
- Stretch often while working (extend your legs, arms, rotate your neck).
- Take short breaks of 2 to 5 minutes every 2 hours to read something different from your main topic. It can be news, sports, entertainment, or anything else you like.
- Change your position frequently and don’t hesitate to stand up at your desk from time to time while working.
- Make sure that your chair is always comfortable. Don’t hesitate to upgrade or get a better chair if necessary.
Here are the steps that I took to stay active and healthy:
- I am committed, no matter what, to playing at least 2 competitive games of soccer or basketball a week, either in an amateur team league or at drop-in sports leagues.
- I volunteer to organize soccer and basketball games every week.
- I walk regularly at lunch time, and try to get as much sunshine as possible.
- I visit a chiropractor once a month to adjust my back and neck.
- I visit a certified massage therapist once a week to work on my neck, back, hamstrings, and feet.
- I visit a pedicure clinic once a month for a good pedicure and foot massage.
- I eat a healthy diet of mostly vegetables. I eat salmon 4 times a week.
- I drastically reduced the carbs in my diet. Every morning, I take one cup of coffee with no sugar or milk and a small cake. Then, I am covered until dinner time. In the evening, I have a large meal of vegetables and fish, usually salmon.
- I drink plenty of water.
- I don’t drink alcohol or smoke.
After adopting these habits, my efficiency came back. I was able to work as hard as when I was a student . I even lost weight!
Now, I can go toe-to-toe with young players and students in their twenties on the soccer field. I easily work more than 60 hours per week and still have enough time to play with my kids and enjoy a fulfilling life with my family.
I highly recommend these life-changing habits to all IT professionals and engineers so they can remain healthy and effective as they get older and busier.