Do you have any idea what is pictured in the image above? Let's just say it’s meat; human meat… and no, it’s not pixelated because it has any sexual content at all, although it could potentially be catalogued in the same way. Keep reading and you’ll know what it is.
I’m a Ruby on Rails developer and as you can imagine, I admire some of the important people in the tech/development industry. Martin Fowler, Steve Jobs, Linus Tovalds, David Heinemeier Hansson, … I’d bet that if you are a developer (whatever your specialty is), you know some of the these guys.
This is the kind of people we follow, and we do it because they are clever and intelligent. What we admire about them are their brains, their intellectual point of view. Probably some of them also have other great skills, but that’s not their main asset.
As tech people, we sometimes isolate our efforts and our hopes in our brains. Even in the eyes of society, we have already won that respect of being clever. Nobody will debate that fact.
As anyone would say, our weaknesses are not in our heads… so they probably lie in other areas. I don’t want to lose this opportunity to talk specially about one of our main weaknesses.
~334 hours sitting down in December 2014
According to some high level calculations I’ve done, I spent 334 hours of my time sitting down in December 2014. That’s about 11 hours per day. I calculated this figure using my time-tracking tool and adding to that the hours spent doing other activities, such as browsing the internet, seeing movies, eating, etc.
So as you can imagine, this is definitely one of our main weaknesses. The sedentary lifestyle.
Home stretching exercises, stand-up desktops, pomodoros with a little walk in between… all are patches to a bigger problem with no real fix.
Sedentary lifestyle: the price we pay
Definitely, we pay a price for living like that. There is quality readable material about the subject which you can find with a simple Google search. It wouldn't make much sense to paste that here; so, instead, I’ve directly contacted a professional to get a fresh opinion on the topic. Robert Klitzman, a doctor of Sports Medicine and Arthroscopy at Indiana University Health Physicians, has this to say:
I don’t believe that there is any question that a sedentary lifestyle can set you up for multiple health issues. First and foremost, you are set up for overall health issues such as diabetes and coronary artery disease. You can have musculoskeletal problems as well, such as osteoporosis and muscle atrophy, just to name a few.
— Robert Klitzman · @yoursportsmd
The cure: do sport
Easy to say, harder to achieve. Even sport lovers — as I consider myself — will have problems doing sport in that they don’t follow a consistent training routine. Believe me, regardless of how much time you spend hiking on Sunday, you shouldn't consider yourself a sportsperson unless you keep the habit up on Monday, Tuesday and so forth. This is a lesson it usually takes some time to learn… and in fact, it’s applicable to everything.
“Consistency” is an easy word to say, but achieving it is a real challenge, and every person achieves it in a different way. My personal fitness consistency, for instance, is definitely a work in progress. Here are three high level tips for achieving consistency in sport, or in any field, for that matter:
- You have to enjoy and have fun with the activity.
- You have to be socially rewarded in some form.
- You have to feel that you can progress in it.
Try to apply that to sport and you’ll have the recipe for becoming a bit more consistent. Try to find the activities which fit your personality. If you like nature, choose something which doesn't allow you to see asphalt at all and which you can really get your teeth into, surrounded by a wild environment. If you are very social, just practice sport in a group.
Sports which fit my personality are ones like surfing, hiking, biking. Yours can be other such as running, basketball, swimming. The activity itself is of minor importance, in fact; but making sure you are as satisfied as possible with the three points above is very important. Without this satisfaction, it wouldn’t make sense to continue with the activity.
Take into consideration your schedule, as well. If you want to be consistent, your agenda shouldn’t be too affected by your new activity; here is where remote and flexible workers have an advantage. Anyway, anyone who is able to find some time for practicing that new activity could potentially alleviate some of the problems caused by the sedentary lifestyle.
Whatever you choose, remember that your body is not used to sport right now. Try to not overload your body with too much activity. That’s key advice: be very careful with your body. Right now, it’s not prepared for sport, it’s like an old and rusty Cadillac; only with some care and hard work will it be able to shine again. If you forget that, you’ll injure yourself.
Dr Robert Klitzman also gives some recommendations for people with a sedentary lifestyle who want to start playing sports:
If you are coming from a sedentary lifestyle and want to try to get in shape, I advise you to start slow. If you have been sedentary for a long time, you are set up for overuse injuries if you jump right into an intense programme.
I would recommend starting with something lower-impact, such as an exercise bike, elliptical machine, walking or swimming. As your fitness level goes up, I would recommend doing low-weight, high-repetition strength training. After progressing, getting into athletic activities such as sports really helps. It engages you with other people which helps promote the healthy lifestyle and usually helps people to stay with their program.
— Robert Klitzman · @yoursportsmd
As you can see, in this article there are no training routines, weight formulas, diet suggestions or stats of any kind. That would involve entering into too much detail, and it’s not the goal of this text. Instead, it is to inspire you to be conscious of the dangers of the sedentary lifestyle, and hopefully motivate you to take real action to fight it.
Now comes the moment to reveal what is in the pixelated image pictured at the top of the page. I won't un-pixelate it just in case a sensitive, squeamish soul is reading this right now, but the image shows a surgery of the spine (protrusion, hernia, etc). It's a surgery we could all potentially need at some point in the future, if we continue with our sedentary lifestyles. In my case, if I’m lucky enough, I won't become that person and I will recover from my injured back in a non-invasive way. You don’t want to be that person either… so get the fuck up!