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Health Problems Related to the Geek Lifestyle 495

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the mental-health-beyond-repair dept.
jonasj writes "A doctor and former programmer has written a good article on common geek health problems. From the article: 'If I were to go and try to run a few miles this weekend, I would not be able to easily do so. [...] However, if you take one of the these college basketball athletes, any of them would be able to run miles without even breathing heavy. However, if you made them sit down and try to learn Java for 12 hours a day, most of them would be asleep at their desk before lunch. The typical geek trains their brain to be heavily focused while multitasking day after day. Is it surprising that this same brain does not do well when forced to isolate down to one task?'"
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Health Problems Related to the Geek Lifestyle

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  • by liliafan (454080) * on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @02:44PM (#15069806) Homepage
    That was actually a very interesting article, I have suffered from insomia for many years, and have frequent problems with sleeping all the way through the night. I have suffered from back pain for years, although that is more likely related to an old injury from way back. I get headaches pretty frequently but I think that is also partly due me needed to get a new pescription for my glasses. So I can relate to all those things.

    I am not so sure about the poor attention sp.......oooo I wonder if I can assign that class to a pointer....oh ummmm I got to go...
  • So get up! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @02:45PM (#15069812)
    So get off your lazy ass and go run!

    Who said running requires 'focusing on one task'.
    Running often helps me solve programming problems.

    I run, lift weights, eat healthy food, and take supplements.
    I am also a game programmer, and a business owner. Focusing
    on one task is not an issue.
  • What a surprise... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @02:46PM (#15069834)
    ...we're stating the obvious again today.

    I walk to/from work everyday (45min) and usually can't even remember that I walked it. Always thinking about other stuff like the latest hw/sw interface or bugs from the day (todo or just encountered).

    So; no, not surprising. Next!

    - wacco
  • by RunFatBoy.net (960072) * on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @02:50PM (#15069887)
    With proper coaching that the coordination would eventually come.

    The geek environment seems to value intellectual achievement so highly, that when someone's physical ability shows promising traits, its almost as if we don't recognize that ability and move along.

    Jim http://www.runfatboy.net/ [runfatboy.net] -- Exercise for the rest of us.
  • Re:lol (Score:2, Interesting)

    by coyotecult (647958) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @02:53PM (#15069910) Homepage
    If you read the article, there's recommendations on how to avoid some of the common health problems geeks end up having. So that's probably useful to some here.
  • O' Rly? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sk8dork (842313) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @02:54PM (#15069920) Homepage
    The typical geek trains their brain to be heavily focused while multitasking day after day. Is it surprising that this same brain does not do well when forced to isolate down to one task?
    i doubt that the reason that i can't run a couple miles is that i'm not doing enough tasks. i doubt that i'd be able to run for miles if i was only replying to email while searching databases while answering the phone, etc.
  • by GillBates0 (664202) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @02:59PM (#15069973) Homepage Journal
    ...here's a link to the Hacker's Diet [fourmilab.ch] discussed on /. on on many earlier occasions [google.com]. It helped me lose (40lbs) (albeit in combination with modified low-carb diet) ...maybe it'll help somebody else out of a 200lb mess.
  • by Stonent1 (594886) <stonentNO@SPAMstonent.pointclark.net> on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @03:01PM (#15069998) Journal
    My back pain went away when I started using a machine at the gym that you strap into and do reverse sit-ups in. You sit and lean back repeatedly. It is extremely easy to do even with 200+ lbs on it and it really helps. When I cancelled my gym membership for financial reasons, the pain returned.
  • by LunaticTippy (872397) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @03:04PM (#15070031)
    I had insomnia and back pain until I started swimming regularly. 3x a week for an hour at the city gym. I sleep much better, have more energy during the day, and haven't had back pain in months. Plus, I have more stamina for physical activities.

    Oddly, my wrist pain went away too. I used to get achy wrists after a long day.

    I even got some tech to make it more interesting, I have optical goggles and am pondering how to make a waterproof mp3 player.

  • by bigattichouse (527527) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @03:06PM (#15070047) Homepage
    Do back bridges.. just try and get your back off the ground for the first week, then work up to holding for a few seconds, then to getting your head up off the floor. After two weeks, you'll have better posture, and your back will feel better.
  • by toad3k (882007) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @03:16PM (#15070141)
    I used to wear glasses, and then switched to contacts, expecting not to like them.

    It ended up relieving eyestrain, increasing clarity, and got rid of my headaches. They require less maintanence, and they cost a fraction of what glasses cost.

    It turns out since one of my eyes was so much worse than the other, there was a telescoping effect that caused one eye to see things bigger than the other causing disorientation. Since contacts are right on the eye, that effect is no longer a factor.
  • by hazem (472289) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @03:26PM (#15070257) Journal
    I would add to all that a problem with frequent heart-burn. I go through rolaids like they're candy.

    Until this last week. An office worker of mine is Hindu and told me, in an unrelated conversation, about a Hindu proverb or saying that says to chew each bite of food 28 times. He said something about how you'll eat less and enjoy your food more.

    So, I started thinking about how I chew. I was startled. Probably as a result of always being on the go, and maybe bad eating habits from the Army, I mostly chew my food just enough to swallow it. So, I've really focused on chewing my food. I find that it often takes up to 40 chews to get a good thorough job of it. But, the amazing result is that for the last week, without changing my diet (which includes spicy thai food, hot wings, etc), I haven't needed a rolaids or tums.

    I'm startled and amazed by this!

    So, chew your food!
  • by Xeger (20906) <`slashdot' `at' `tracker.xeger.net'> on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @03:53PM (#15070547) Homepage
    I've always hated exercise-for-exercise's-sake (think treadmills, stationary bikes and StairMasters here) and because of my hectic work schedule and a number of non-physical hobbies, it's rare occasion that I have the time to engage in recreational exercise.

    In the past two years I've been putting on weight, and I'm NOT happy about it. So I've come up with the following workaround:

    1) Buy an iPod

    2) Load it up with good music, audio books, learn-a-language casettes, and other engaging activities

    3) Go to gym; hop on cardio machine of choice; turn iPod up

    4) Zone out as you exercise. Let the audio distract you; try to forget completely about the discomfort of working out, while still concentrating on the physical side of things (are we running fast enough, is our posture correct, etc).

    It works surprisingly well. It's unbelievable how quickly 45 minutes can pass while I'm learning Arabic or reading Joe Haldeman in my head. And the best thing is, I've gotten to the point where I don't strictly *need* the iPod distraction in order to enjoy a workout. I've trained myself to tolerate the mild physical discomfort (sweat, tired muscles, et al) -- though I still enjoy the iPod.

    Yes, I'm a big wimp. But at least I've got mental hacks to compensate for it!
  • I can relate... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stonewolf (234392) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @03:56PM (#15070584) Homepage

    I'm an older geek. I learned emacs in 1981, learned FORTRAN in 1972.
    I have lived something like the typical geek lifestyle most of my life. I got fat. I got sick. My Dr. told me had to exercise... I hate gyms... Jocks bore me... I took ROTC in high school so I wouldn't have to deal with another coach. What was someone like me going to do for exercise?

    I bought a stationary bike. I wore it out. I bought another one and wore it out at about the same time my Dr. told me to never ride a bike again because the damn seats pinch nerves and make you lose feeling in parts of your body you don't ever want numb... I next wore out a Nordic track machine. And then I wore out several pairs of walking shoes: all of those activities were boring as hell. It was like taking bad tasting medicine. I know it was good for me, but it was hard to make myself do it because it was so boring. At least I could listen to music and even read on the bikes.

    I kept getting older and I kept fluctuating between being fat and not so fat as I overcame the boredom and exercised. I mean seriously, how many times can you walk down the same trail before it becomes so boring that it actually hurts to think about it?

    Finally a friend talked me into taking a class at his Kung Fu school. The first words out of the instructors mouth were "Remember, there is no shame here." And there isn't. There are a variety of activities in each class. It is the hardest work out I ever imagined doing. The combined mental and physical challenge of learning forms is as much fun as solving a hard programming problem or learning a new system. Not to mention that I soon found that the majority of the students are geeks of some sort. Even the master of the school has a Ph.D in neuroscience. Then I started getting in to the internal side of Kung Fu, meditation and Chi Kung, and found more there than I believed was possible.

    I started studying a martial art at age 50. My doctor said I was nuts but that it probably wouldn't kill me. Now he says he is amazed at the physical and mental changes he sees in me. I really believe that if you find a serious martial arts school, *not* one run by a bully show off or that is focused just on winning tournaments, you will find an activity that appeals to geeks the same way science and math appeal and for the same reasons. Even within the same style there are good schools and there are bad schools. The master makes the difference.

    I never believed I would look forward to spending 2 or more hours at a time sweating so hard that puddles form around my feet when I take a break, but I do.

    Stonewolf

    P.S.

    I am not claiming I am any good at Kung Fu. I am just saying that I love it and I am getting amazing benefits from it. Unlike some styles Kung Fu is appropriate for people of all ages.
  • by BigBadPete (241096) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @04:03PM (#15070660)
    Allow me to relate a problem I've been fighting for over a year now.

    I used to sit at my computer at home the way I've seen many folks sit at theirs: slouched down in a low-backed chair with your back at about a 40-70 degree angle and head upright (with nothing supporting it besides my neck) looking at the screen. I spent probably six or seven years doing that on a regular basis for hours on end with no apparent problems. At work I sat correctly in an ergonomic chair with everything set up properly, keyboard and monitor at the proper height and all that jazz. During this time I also did weight training and martial arts quite regularly, and I was quite healthy and rarely sick.

    Then one day I realized I had a dull pain in my back, just between my left scapula and spine, that got a little worse when I moved my head certain ways. Thinking I'd just injured myself in one of my non-sedentary hobbies, I went to a chiropractor who managed to fix me up in about three or four weeks, and I was symptom-free again. Then the pain came back, and I went back to the chiro and got re-adjusted and felt fine, the pain came back again...and so on for a few months. Eventually I started feeling pain and tingling in my fingers and hands, and severe muscle cramps in my upper back. It also spread to both sides of my back.

    I finally saw a doctor who referred me to an osteopath (D.O.) who gave me almost the same therapy (the manipulations felt identical, in all the same places, even though he claimed that osteopathy and chiropractic were quite different) as the chiropractor had with some acupuncture added in. Again he'd get me fixed up, and I'd relapse, and so on for another few months.

    Oddly enough, even though they both told me that proper posture was the key to feeling better, it didn't sink in exactly what I was doing wrong the entire time. I figured that since I sat properly at an ergonomically-organized workstation at the office all day and had completely given up my strenuous hobbies that I couldn't be doing anything wrong.

    It took weeks of googling before I finally found a concise, lucid explanation [teamdoctors.org] for what was going wrong: the way I'd been sitting at home (at the PC and the TV) was putting stress on my scalene muscles, which were helping to stabilize my head and neck in that position. Those muscles in turn are connected to the first two ribs at the top of the rib cage, and the first rib was being pulled slightly out of position by the over-developed and tense scalenes. It fit with what the osteopath had told me ("Your first rib is out of place") and the treatment I'd been getting the entire time. I just kept yanking everything back out again with an hour or so of video gaming or internet chatting while slouched and relaxing.

    So, now I'm pursuing treatment with my chiro again since my insurance stopped paying for the osteopath (who was being billed as a physical therapist, even though he didn't seem to operate much differently from my chiropractor). I'm just hoping I didn't wise up too late to fix my back for good. I'm now sitting up straight at home, and I can definitely tell that the postural correction is what I needed. Although my back is still a bit sore, my symptoms aren't nearly as bad as they were at their worst; practically no tingling or pain in the arms and hands, and the muscle cramps aren't as bad, nor are they getting worse.

    So kids, your parents were right, sitting up straight IS important, because you can cause very serious health problems with a few years of bad habits.

  • by arnie_apesacrappin (200185) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @04:11PM (#15070752)
    To help with your back problems, you could also try these two yoga positions (which are sort of the same thing):
    The bridge [about.com]
    The wheel [about.com]
    The bridge requires a lot less strength than the wheel, but I feel the wheel does much more for the back. You can do an approximation of the wheel pose with one of those large workout balls. It helps my back a lot.
    If you do start doing the wheel or bridge, I'd suggest alternating with something like the child [about.com] pose just to even things out.
  • by Plebiscite (924986) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @04:17PM (#15070831)
    The idea that the Greeks and Romans saw the body and mind as intimately connected is what really got me interested in exercise in the first place. I used to be somewhat anti-physical, but all of those feelings went away when I saw how much better I felt after I started to exercise regularly. It seems as though our society is still influenced by the idea of the intellectual that completely rejects the physical world and solely devotes himself to the world of thought. I've come to think of this as the result of our Christian heritage. The idea that in order to live in the service of god one must reject the physical world and solely devote oneself to the spiritual.
  • by nefertari (240766) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @04:25PM (#15070903)
    Oddly, my wrist pain went away too. I used to get achy wrists after a long day.
    This not so odd. In the book "Pain Free" there are some exercises against problems with your hands and wrists. Most of those are putting the shoulder in its correct position. In my case they worked great. I think by swimming you were doing similar movements and so helping your shoulders and wrists.
  • by HardCase (14757) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @04:26PM (#15070907)
    ...read Perfect Vision without Glasses (now in the public domain) by William H. Bates. It works.

    Right on! [quackwatch.org] Just like that perpectual motion machine that I'm going to patent!

    -h-
  • by mikehilly (653401) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @04:39PM (#15071054)
    Since college, I have gained some weight to the point where I was not happy with myself. Not massive, but to the point where it limited some of the things I did and for how long before being completely winded or tired. My wife and I (she really exists) bought a fancy smancy scale to tell help us keep track of progress and we started a journey together. She works with Weight Watches and I have been keeping track of my progress at https://www.presidentschallenge.org/login/index.as px [presidentschallenge.org] I know how much everyone likes Pres Bush and all, but this site is handy for keeping track of progress. Anyways, for me it was just making time to get out and exercise. Walk your freaking dog people!! Don't have a dog; go on a walk with your girlfriend/wife. Don't have a significant other; then go out by yourself. Just exercise. Takes about 30 mins 5 times a week. Don't have to get super fit or anything, just start working on it. For me, I have been doing my exercise about 4 weeks now and have lost about 10 pounds, but the important part is that I sleep better, am more productive at work, have more energy in general and love life more. Take the challenge. Exercise consistently for a month and see if you can tell a difference in weight and energy levels in your life. If you are happy with it, then continue. If not, then see your doctor and work out a plan. We are not doomed to a life of unhealthy habits and choices.
  • by pklinken (773410) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @04:45PM (#15071109)
    I started studying piano at a conservatory about a year ago, and my teacher made me sit up straight. Initially this would result in very intense pain in my back after only 30 minutes of practicing in this (proper) position.
    By now, i only feel a tired pain at the same spot _after_ a long day (5 or more hours) of practice.
    I think sitting up straight is already a great help for your back, and a pleasant side-effect (for me) is that im also walking up straight these days.
  • by dsands1 (183088) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @04:50PM (#15071167)
    "Just give up 30 minutes of WoW, 3 times a week, and go run/ride/lift/stretch/something."

    Are you freaking kidding?!?!? Giving up 90 minutes of WowW a week is absolutely out of the question. In fact, I'd rather geek out and build a recumbant exercise bike that shut of my monitor if I didn't keep a pre-defined RPM, and thereby keep my WoW fix... So, I did [imagedump.com].
  • by Namlak (850746) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @06:01PM (#15071679)
    The L.A. Times just ran an article about those who mountain bike in the dark to accomodate a busy life. I ride with the featured club twice a week and even though a geek and someone who grew up with asthma, my cardio capability has increased many-fold in the two years since adopting this practice. And when I come back to work the next day after a ride, I feel more flexible and have much much less back, neck, and shoulder stiffness/pain/headaches.

    So although I work for a high-pressure "full commitment"-type IT job in this company (200 desktops in five locations on both coasts and two contries and an IT staff of "me" for everything from desktop support to network to web app programming), I can jet out of work at 5pm, catch an evening ride and come back at the perfect time to do server/network or some "leave me alone and let me write code" work.
  • by jridley (9305) on Wednesday April 05, 2006 @07:42PM (#15072300)
    I was approaching 200 pounds and resolved to reverse that trend, so I started running on the treadmill at work, got to 4 miles a day. The problem is, it's deadly dull even with music, and then I got a stress fracture in my shin and had to stop for a while.

    So I bought a decent bike and started commuting 21 miles round trip a day. It's now my favorite part of the day, I get about 70 minutes a day to de-stress and to do my creative thinking that I normally only had a 5 minute shower a day to do it in.

    I find I get a (perhaps perverse) sense of pleasure in riding in all kinds of weather; below-zero (F) temps, 40-MPH headwinds, rain storms, whatever. If you're well equipped (rain gear and lighting) it's great fun. The first year it's tough to keep motivated, but once I got in shape, I found that on the days that I drove, I ALWAYS wished I would have ridden instead, and I NEVER wished I'd driven when I rode in. Now I simply don't drive unless I absolutely have to.

    I get to work, and back home again, feeling like superman and ready to do anything. Also as an environmentalist I like the fact that every day I ride I kick out 20 pounds less CO2 into the atmosphere.

    At 42 after 2 years of riding I'm in better shape than I ever have been. I hope to continue riding daily until I'm physically unable to anymore, which could be a long time since people who keep up that level of activity often continue to ride into their 80's and 90's; regular aerobic exercise is better than anything else to make you feel great and not wind up a drooling wreck in a rest home at 70.
  • by wobbilycol (959103) on Thursday April 06, 2006 @04:56AM (#15074461)
    "However, if you take one of the these college basketball athletes, any of them would be able to run miles without even breathing heavy. However, if you made them sit down and try to learn Java for 12 hours a day, most of them would be asleep at their desk before lunch"

    I think that is a bit of a self flattering comment. There is a difference between programming a lanuage you know everyday and sitting learning a new one. The last time I had to sit through a three day Perl course (not that there was anything wrong with the course) I felt pretty bloody knakered by halfway through each day......

    If you get off your arse and do a bit of excercise you will probably feel more motivated when you do sit down in front of the computer. (Or am I not really much of a geek?)

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