Exercise has been an important practice for software engineers, coders, and CEOs to relieve stress and stay on top of their game.
Exercise has become a priority for startup founders and software engineers because of one simple truth – a fit body means a fit mind. And there are scientific facts to back this. Let’s finally put aside the annoying stereotype of the lonely programmer who sits in front of the computer all day, with piles of pizza boxes and is sleep deprived from working during the night.
Instead, consider this little-known fact: Alan Turing, the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence, was a long-distance runner who ran with the 1948 British Olympic team. Apple’s Tim Cook can often be found in the gym at 5 a.m., and the famous tech-geek Barack Obama runs three miles a day.
The stereotypical culture has long gone, changed by a culture of motivated professionals who understand that exercise can help you stay healthy, and make you more productive. Running, cycling, hiking, or just doing a couple of pushups and planks in the office, will increase the blood flowing to your brain to make you more awake and focused.
Actually, science says that exercise can make you smarter, and that is just enough motivation for every software engineer. Being more focused and insightful is a key to being the best professional you can be. Researchers at Harvard Medical School have discovered that molecules released with endorphins actually increase cognitive functions, and protect the brain from degeneration. It is hard to find a study that can say that running, walking, swimming, or cycling can harm you in any way. But you'll find studies that say that prolonged sitting can increase the risk of diabetes, chronic back pain, and heart disease.
We get it, exercise is hard
Can you think of any good reason why you ignore exercise? Being lazy is not an excuse anymore, nor is the lack of time. If most founders and CEOs of huge tech companies find time for exercise, so can you. It takes less time to do some quick stretching than it takes to list the benefits of exercise. You are healthier, more focused, you feel better, you look better, you can do more, and you feel more confident…
If you are a founder or a team leader, looking healthier can become an advantage when you can present yourself better in front of your team, investors, or future partners. Think of it as frontend and backend components. Your mind is the backend machine, but your body is the frontend design. Both need to be in shape to work perfectly.
One big misconception is that exercising is hard. No, it is not. It is enjoyable. What stops you from going out and doing a 20-minute run are your habits. Your body is not used to exercise, so a short run can be felt as a shock. Your mind is used to the daily routine; changing it feels like you’ve lost something. But as soon as you start exercising, your brain will get high enough on endorphins that will demand more and more. It is the only addiction that is healthy -- unlike the addiction to the sugar you’re hooked on, or the laziness that creeps in when we are in front of the TV.
If you think you lack drive to exercise, it is more likely that what you lack is a motivation to hack your daily routines and accept a better lifestyle. You are a software engineer, and you've done a lot of smart things to earn that title. So why not find a way to hack your habits and start exercising? You can do it! Or even better, don’t think too much about it. Just do it. (Sorry, Nike)
Quick advice for beginners is to start cycling to work. It is healthier than sitting in your car or on the bus, more fun than getting stuck in traffic, and will relieve you from the daily stress. Do we have to mention that it is an eco-friendly solution, too? You can do so much just by pedaling.
Try jogging after work, as well. Running and cycling are very accessible activities; you only need good shoes or a bike and you can do them just about everywhere. With cycling, you can ride farther, and as an additional benefit, maybe discover cool areas in your city that you haven't seen before.
Be smart and use fitness technology to your advantage
Luckily, we live in the age of technology. And what an age this is. You no longer need a personal coach shouting at you to do one more pushup, because now you have technology on your side. Looking at it from the point of view of a software developer, what can be better than using technology to hack our bodies and minds to perform better?
There are hundreds of apps that produce fascinating statistics about every single one of our activities. Even fitness beginners have apps that measure walking steps. But what matters here is that they generate data that can be used as a benchmark. Do an exercise, look at the data, and improve it next time. It is like working on a software product. You write a code, see how it works, improve it, then repeat until you get it to a perfect state.
Buy some cool wearable devices. Use smartwatches or fitness bracelets to follow all of your activities, measure steps, distance covered, pace, cadence, and calories, and then try to improve them. An additional benefit is that this tech is new. Every software engineer needs to pay attention to tech trends, and using and learning about new devices can only help.
To keep you motivated, it is best to be social. Share your fitness activities with your friends, compare your results, and ask for help if you need it. Remember that you shouldn't be distraught if your results don’t match those of your fitter friends. You don't have to be the best runner, but you want to be the best software developer. And to achieve that, you need to hack your brain by exercising and producing more endorphins.
Did you know that you can both exercise and work with your team outdoors?
Yes, it is true. Take your team outside for fresh air and a walk, and you'll be surprised how ideas become better and more on point. Walking will increase blood flow to the brain, relax you, and make you more focused and aware. All that amounts to being more productive.
You'll have to sacrifice 20-30 minutes of being in front of the screen, but that problem can be solved easily. For example, try Syncano to build reliable serverless apps in half the time, you can spend the rest of your day exercising.
But if you really like the walls in your office, and you hate the sun, we have solutions for that, too. We are determined to make you better with exercise, that’s why we have thought of every scenario. Even short, 7-minute workouts can improve your focus without changing your location.
If you are stuck inside, then use apps that will manage your time. There are reminder apps that tell you when you've spent too much time sitting and looking at the screen.
Try your best to take a break every 30 minutes or so, so you can just walk around the office and stretch for few minutes. That will help you relax and avoid chronic back pain. Back pain can literally destroy your life and career if it reaches a critical point. It can interrupt your sleep, which will affect your mood. You won't be able to sit or stand for longer periods, which in professional environments, like meetings, can make you look weak; and it can get you hooked on painkillers, which are never a good idea.
Don’t forget that your office is also a good space to do a few quick pushups or crunches. Work on your flexibility whenever you can, even some stretching while you are waiting for the coffee to brew is useful.
Recently, there has been an increased number of workplaces that are accommodating for fitter employees. A few offices are using adjustable desks for people to work while sitting or standing. Standing desks can help avoid the common lower back problems, although if you prefer to sit, then you should try to sit ergonomically.
You can still eat pizza, but start counting calories
The best advice we can give you for improving your diet is to consult a nutritionist. Explain your diet to the expert and follow their advice on how to improve it. You need between 2.000 and 3.000 calories a day, but you need to be smarter with your diet to include healthy meals and snacks, and avoid saturated fats and added sugars. Opt for fruits instead of candy.
Countless studies say that a healthy diet is more important than exercise for losing weight.
If you are a beginner, don't be a hero and throw away pizza and chocolate bars right away. Start by measuring the calories you put in, and then measure how much you need to run or cycle to burn that energy before it turns into unhealthy fat.
As soon as you start exercising more, you will experience change, and your body will start asking for healthier snacks. Talk to a nutritionist to help you make small but smart changes in your diet.
The important thing to note here is that soft drinks may look harmless, but they usually contain tons of sugar. And sugar is bad. Drink water instead -- and lots of it. Staying hydrated has many benefits, like giving you more energy during heavy exercise.
Let me Google that exercise for you
You should already know where to start with your exercise regime. There are numerous sites where you can learn about health and fitness, and there is this very good site, called Google, which can find more resources for you.
Jokes aside, Google is important because you can find “core” exercises. For software engineers, the "core" is your stomach, sides, and lower back muscles. We sit in front of the screen all day, and the muscles in these areas are under serious strain. Unfortunately, these muscles don't get much exercise doing normal daily activities, but they are crucial to supporting your back.
Doctors give the advice to sit upright as much as you can, but you’ll need "core" exercises that are fun and easy to do. Don't push yourself if you lack fitness or motivation, you don't want to stop before you've experienced the benefits. Start slow and determined to improve your body and mind.
Start exercising, and thank us later
There is absolutely no good reason to avoid exercise. But there are very good reasons why you should start running, cycling, or hiking right now! Go to the gym, or exercise outside -- it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’ll be healthier, feel better, and be smarter software engineers.
But in case you’ve discovered a reason why you should not exercise, or you have questions about the Syncano serverless apps, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are writing cool blog posts for software engineers, and we are sure you’ll like them. You can also follow us on Github. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter, as well.