Web Designers and Developers: Are We Too Sedentary?

John Reeve | April 20th, 2011 | , ,

Sedentary web designers and developersA recent study by James Levine, a researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., has uncovered some fascinating facts about how severely inactivity affects us. As it turns out, going to the gym, and exercising in general, may not be enough to overcome sitting in front of a monitor all day. From the New York Times article, Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?:

Sitting, it would seem, is an independent pathology. Being sedentary for nine hours a day at the office is bad for your health whether you go home and watch television afterward or hit the gym. It is bad whether you are morbidly obese or marathon-runner thin. “Excessive sitting,” Dr. Levine says, “is a lethal activity.”

So the question for us web designers and web developers is this… are we being weighted down by a sedentary career choice? And what can we do to overcome sitting in our chairs for too long? I know that I don’t get up from may chair enough. I will sit at a monitor for hours trying to eke a few last pixels out of a web design or trying to resolve some complex SQL query that is bogging down a web-based application. By the time I get up from my chair my eyes can’t focus on anything outside the visual range of the computer monitor.

Here at Pelago we’ve been challenging one another to get up from our chairs and gaze out the window every hour to exercise their eyeballs. After passing the New York Times article around the office, we’ve stepped it up even more get everyone up and moving around more.

We’ve put together a list of tips on how to get yourself and your co-workers up from your seats to counter a the sedentary side effects of a job in web design and development:

  • Do office laps
    Once an hour, or more, get up out of your chair and walk around the office. This get’s your legs moving, blood flowing, and is a nice break from work.
  • Leave your cup half full (or half empty)
    When you get up for a drink to take back to your desk, only fill the cup half way. This will double the number of times you would normally get up out of your chair to get a drink.
  • Drink more water, tea, coffee, etc
    The more you drink, the more you will have to get up and go to the bathroom. Hey, it works.
  • Go for a quick walk
    Get outside for some air. Walk across the street for an iced tea, or around the block to the book store. Walking is good.
  • Move about the office
    Just get up and move in general. Walk to the break room and read a magazine for a few minutes, or walk from desk to desk until you find someone to chat with.
  • Ride a bike
    Riding a bike to work is perhaps the easiest way to counter sitting in a chair all day. And while at work you can use that bike to run errands.

However you decide to combat the sitting-on-our-asses-for-too-many-hours-in-a-row syndrome, the important thing is that we get up and do something with more than just our hands. It’s bad enough we web designers and developers have to deal with carpal tunnel syndrome and ulnar nerve irritation. Now we get to add sedentary work habits to the list of work-related afflictions. The good news is it doesn’t take much to reduce the amount of time we spend sitting still:

The good news is that inactivity’s peril can be countered. Working late one night at 3 a.m., Dr. Levine coined a name for the concept of reaping major benefits through thousands of minor movements each day: NEAT, which stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. In the world of NEAT, even the littlest stuff matters. McCrady-Spitzer showed me a chart that tracked my calorie-burning rate with zigzagging lines, like those of a seismograph. “What’s that?” I asked, pointing to one of the spikes, which indicated that the rate had shot up. “That’s when you bent over to tie your shoes,” she said. “It took your body more energy than just sitting still.”

Now stop reading this blog post and go tie your shoes or something…

Photo Credit: me and the sysop

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John Reeve
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John Reeve

John is a co-founder, web designer and developer at Pelago. His blog posts are inspired by everyday encounters with designers, developers, creatives and small businesses in general. John is an avid reader and road cyclist.
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Jennifer Payne
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Jennifer Payne

Jennifer is the Director of Quality and Efficiency at Pelago. Her blog posts are based largely on her experience working with teams to improve harmony and productivity. Jennifer is a cat person.
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Michael Payne
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Michael Payne

Michael is a co-founder and product architect at Pelago. His contributions stem from experiences managing the development process behind web sites and web-based applications such as Intervals. Michael drives a 1990 Volkswagen Carat with a rebuilt 2.4 liter engine from GoWesty.
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