To keep the lawyers happy, I’ll say here that I’m not a doctor, dietitian, or any other licensed health advisor. This isn’t medical advice, just what I think are good things to do to have a healthy programming career.
Programmers are human. So, general health and fitness advice applies to us. But there are common problems and bad habits I’ve noticed that we programmers tend to have.
It’s a common joke that programmers run on caffeine and bad food. Personally, I’ve found I work better (and live better) when I try to eat well.
I’ve found what diet works best for me through experimentation. I use things like an Oura ring and a scale that tracks a lot of data, which it sends to my phone for reporting. These devices certainly aren’t 100% accurate, but I believe they give me good-enough data to work with.
For me, sleep is the most important thing to monitor. If I sleep well, I function well. And if I don’t live a reasonably healthy life, I don’t sleep well.
It may be a cliché, but I know many programmers who drink a lot of caffeine – usually coffee or energy drinks. I’m one of those people. Caffeine helps me focus. But, nowadays, I drink less than I used to.
I used to drink caffeinated drinks all day. But this hurt my sleep. Now, I limit myself to one or two cups of cold brew coffee that I drink in the morning. No caffeinated drinks for me after lunch.
If you drink lots of caffeinated drinks during the day, and have trouble sleeping, experiment with stopping earlier in the day.
Repetitive Strain Injuries
A few years ago, I started to get a pain in my right forearm. Fortunately, I haven’t had back pain, like some of my programming friends.
Personally, I’m not good at remember to exercise or stretch. But, I’ve found success with getting good ergonomic equipment.
I eliminated all my forearm pain by switching to a $15 vertical mouse. Ergonomic keyboards and chairs may be a little expensive. But, I’d rather spend $200-300 now, than be in pain for a long time, and possibly need to stop working or have serious medical issues.
Think of ergonomic equipment as “tools of our trade”. Mechanics buy wrenches, artists buy brushes, programmers buy keyboards and mice.
Recently, I started having problems with my eyes. Between staring at a screen for hours (not blinking much) and a home office ceiling fan blowing across my face, my eyes were getting dry, scratchy, and painful.
So, I started new habits to fight this problem:
- Every hour, I step away from the computer for a few minutes
- After lunch, I go outside and look at trees and birds (this is probably helpful for other things than just my eyes)
- I bought a heated eye mask, which is supposed to help prevent my tear ducts from getting dried up
If you have eye problems, you may want to check with your eye doctor. These are just things I did that worked for me.
NOTE: As I said at the start, I’m not a doctor. These are just things I’ve experienced and how I’ve dealt with them. If you have any medical problems or questions, talk to a medical professional.