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9/4/2014
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6 Ways To Lose The Tech 20

Succumbed to the freshman 15's sequel? It's time to drop the Red Bull and Doritos and get a move on.
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(Image: SRxA's Word on Health)
(Image: SRxA's Word on Health)

Can working in IT make you fat? If the majority of your workday is spent in a chair, then it's entirely possible.

In fact, according to an article in Men's Health, "Sentenced to the Chair," a worker who stands all day (think store clerks) burns about 1,500 calories while on the job, while a person sitting behind a desk expends about 1,000 calories.

After only eight months of starting sedentary work, a person will gain an average of 16 pounds, according to the Men's Health article, citing research from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

And that's the average office worker in the average cube farm.

If you're lucky enough to work at one of Silicon Valley's celebrated corporate campuses, you're tempted by 24x7 access to all the food you can eat, for free or at significantly reduced prices. For example, the chefs employed by Google cook nearly 2 million pounds of meat per year, according to Thrillist, which highlights the "13 Companies With the Best Food Perks." At the Facebook campus, you score three free meals a day, five days a week, and your dining options on the main campus include two cafes, a BBQ shack, a burger bar, a pizzeria, a taqueria, a sweet shop... oh, and the obligatory salad cafe.

If that weren't enough, stress is known to cause weight gain. Anyone working in IT or tech claiming to not be stressed out is likely either lying or crazy.

Meanwhile, a growing body of research is showing that the negative effects of sitting all day at work can't simply be ameliorated by an evening gym workout. If you're spending eight hours or more sitting at a desk, your body is going through all manner of physiological changes that not only increase the chances of weight gain, but could actually take years off your life.

So what's a desk-bound IT professional to do? Here are six tips to help you beat the Tech 20. Once you've scrolled through the slides, drop by the comments section, and tell us which methods you think will work best for you. While you're at it, give us your own tips and tricks for keeping the forces of gravity at bay.

Susan Nunziata works closely with the site's content team and contributors to guide topics, direct strategies, and pursue new ideas, all in the interest of sharing practicable insights with our community. Nunziata was most recently Director of Editorial for ... View Full Bio

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KennethS926
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KennethS926,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/4/2014 | 9:31:37 AM
Moving tip
Stepping away from your desk can be hard to remember if you're arms deep in debugging, or working on a report for the CEO. I set up a timer on my desktop using an online timer to go off every 20 minutes. That way I can give my eyeballs a break from the screen and also get up and walk around the office for a few minutes to stretch my muscles and my mind. 
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
9/4/2014 | 10:38:21 AM
Standing Desks
I don't have one -- and really, really don't want one -- but several friends swear by their standing desks. In most cases, they have both a regular desk (with chair) and a standing desk. Usually, they began by alternating between the two, and now spend most of their workday at the standing desk. One friend and former colleague, who lost a lot of weight, much prefers the standing desk and, I believe, no longer uses his traditional desk at all.

 
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
9/4/2014 | 10:48:56 AM
Re: Moving tip
Kenneth, 

Super fantastic tip. :) That keeps you not only moving your muscles and eyeballs in a short healthy break but also keeps you efficient for longer time during your workday as your mind gets relaxed, then it gets less tired. 

Before, I used to bring the teapot to my desk. Then, I started to leave it in the kitchen to force myself to stand up and go to refill my cup. 

At some point, too, I started collecting apps similar to the one you have. All apps to take little breaks, which many times you don't do, otherwise. 

There are some five-minute exercise apps that I also use as mini-breaks. I have downloaded them from the AppStore and they are great. :D I have a 15-minute yoga routine for a longer break, and a meditation app for a 5 or 10 minute meditation break. All in all, I can get a 40 minute exercise routine at the end without moving far from my desk and taking only short breaks. :) 

There are some exercises designed for people who work in an office. They can be done without moving from your desk. 

-Susan

 
Rich Krajewski
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Rich Krajewski,
User Rank: Ninja
9/4/2014 | 11:12:22 AM
Getting back to the real world
Getting back to the real world, let's remember that IT is almost always a sedentary trade. The risk to health is one of the costs that employers routinely avoid having to pay by firing workers before they age and exhibit the consequences of needing to sit for almost eight hours--or more--at work. All that about getting a standing desk is what you do when you are a consultant. Employers for the most part aren't going to do that, not if the current system allows them to bypass any responsibility for the heavy cost to workers. It's like working in coal mines and getting black lung. Mine workers who protested bad conditions got hung for it (I spend a lot of time in the area of the country where that happened, so I'm familiar with the story). IT workers effectively get hung--out to dry--when it comes to health issues.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
9/4/2014 | 12:34:14 PM
Re: Getting back to the real world
I appreciate the tone of your comment, and its notion that corporations are sidestepping responsibility in this regard. I'd add that this sort of problem isn't unique to IT jobs, though I concur that they are, by virtue of being so sedentary and sometimes subject to such long hours, a prime example.
Rich Krajewski
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Rich Krajewski,
User Rank: Ninja
9/4/2014 | 12:51:26 PM
Re: Getting back to the real world
To my mind, this article is related to the issue of misleading promotions of a tech labor shortage. The intrinsically job-related health issues, and the likelihood that a worker will be let go just when those issues come home to roost, are almost never mentioned when the IT field is promoted to young people as a road to riches, it seems to me.
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
9/4/2014 | 1:37:27 PM
Re: Moving tip
@KennethS926: That's an excellent tip, thanks for sharing it. In researching this article, I found that experts recommend that for every 45 minuts you spend sitting, it's wise to spend 15 minutes standing within the same hour. As you say, when engrossed in a project that's pretty tough to do. and setting my phone alamr is too easy to ignore. I'm going to get myself a nice loud buzzing timer and try your trick out. Stay tuned!
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
9/4/2014 | 1:45:03 PM
30 Minutes of Cardio per day
That's the bottom line. Join a gym, get on a cario machine, and sweat lightly for 30 minutes a few times a week. Jogging also works, and swimming is better still. Don't try to do more at first, because then it becomes an ordeal and you'll find an excuse to avoid it. That's it. Plain and simple. After a few months, at your next physical, your yearly blood tests will improve so much that your doc will think that your results got mixed up with someone else's.

I once worked at a location that had a gym downstairs. I did my cardio, took a shower, had a quick bagel and coffee and tore throught the rest of the day.

Think you don't have time? During WWII, the main Soviet general, Zhukov, didn't have time to sleep, so he a had a daily regimen of jogging 1 Kilometer. I don't care who you are - your boss isn't tougher than Stalin and your problem isn't worse than Hitler.

 
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
9/4/2014 | 1:46:27 PM
Re: Standing Desks
@Alison: I have experimented with this idea when working in my home office. I'll often  move from my traditional desk to a kitchen counter which is just about the right height for me to stand and work at. I've found, as Chris Murphy noted in his review, that working while standing is fine if I'm doing things like answering emails or other tasks that require short bursts of focus. I have yet to be able to do anything that requires concentration, like writing an article or analyzing data. Not sure what the connection is between sitting and thinking, other than a possible joke about the true location of my brain...
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
9/4/2014 | 1:49:49 PM
Re: Moving tip
@SusanF: LIke you, I relocated my coffee to the kitchen so I'm required to stand each time I need a fresh cup. I also make sure to get up and sit down without using my arms, which sounds silly but does really make a difference. i'm also a big fan of the stretches and other brief excercise routines one can do, even in an office. They help get oxygen and blood moving and end up helping me better concentrate. If that's not enough motivation, my research for this article turned up a scary factoid: If one spends too much time sitting, the gluteus maximus muscles can actually forget how to engage! yes, muscles have memory and apparently some muscles can develop alzheimer's! EEEK.
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