How Our Jobs Are Killing Us and What We Can Do About It – Fitness for Software Nerds

How Our Jobs Are Killing Us and What We Can Do About It – Fitness for Software Nerds

This is a guest post by Brock Armstrong. Brock is a musician, web developer and digital media instructor turned personal trainer, marathon and triathlon coach. To fund his Triathlon & Marathon racing habit, he takes well planned designs and turns them into clean and consistent HTML and CSS code. Find out more by going to and/or

Brock gave a Lightning Talk at Business of Software 2012. This is a summary of his talk.


Photos of people exercising at work

After making the (partial) switch from Developer to Coach, I have become very aware of my fellow desk-jockey’s lack of… physical prowess and I want to do something about it. I don’t think everyone needs to run marathons, I just want you to feel better, look better and live a good long life.

The Problem?

We average North Americans work more than 47 hours a week and we’re sitting down for most of that time. In fact, we’re sitting more than ever before in human history: 9.3 hours per day. That’s more time than we spend sleeping!

Did you know that sitting for 6 hours (or more) per day makes you up to 40% more likely to die within 15 years than someone who sits less for than 3 hours per day? And here’s the kicker – this is true even if you get regular exercise.

More photos of people exercising at work

Between 1980 and the year 2000, exercise rates in the UK stayed the same but sitting increased by 8% and obesity doubled (obese people, on average, sit for 2 and a half more hours per day than thin people).

Desk jobs, commuting, watching TV, and playing video games all encourage us to be sedentary and even people who exercise regularly spend much of the workday planted in a chair in front of the computer.

The solution!

Reduce our sedentary behaviours to a total of 3 hours per day (or less) and we could increase our average life expectancy by 2 years (among many other more “fashionable” advantages).

Two people using standing desks


I have a confession to make… I’m one of those people who has a standing workstation – because standing workers (like a clerk at a Best Buy) burn about 1,500 calories while at work; a person behind a desk might burn 900. This explains why people gain 16 pounds within 8 months of starting a sedentary office job.


What it comes down to is that you don’t absolutely have to stand all day long but you should absolutely interrupt your sitting and move around as often as you can. I set an alarm on my iPhone to go off every hour, on the hour, and I do pushups, or calf raises, or squats, or jumping jacks, or burpees, or… you get the idea.

A long list of exercises moves you can do at work

Getting up and raising your heart rate for 4 minutes, once an hour, gets you the 30-ish minutes per day that your doctor has been nagging you about. Plus it makes you more productive, clears your head, gets you refocused and energized.


Try these when you are not at work: Never sit on a bus/subway. Always take the stairs. If you are on an escalator, pretend it’s stairs. Never sit through a commercial break on TV. Ignore what your mom told you and bounce a leg or fidget whenever you can. This extra movement is called “Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis” or “NEAT” and it all adds up.

Yet more photos of people exercising at work

Eat Real Food!

But… getting up and exercising alone is only part of the equation – you have to look at your diet too.

Here are 3 great phrases to remember:

  1. “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants” – Michael Pollan from In Defense of Food
  2. If it’s not something your great grandmother would recognize as food, put it down.
  3. If you are not hungry enough to eat an apple, you’re probably not that hungry.

Lastly, remember the 80/20 rule: you don’t have to be perfect all of the time (that will set you up for failure), just be perfect 80% percent of the time… that other 20% probably won’t kill you.

Brock Armstrong -

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