Shape up: Tech to keep IT admins healthy

Shape up: Tech to keep IT admins healthy
Credit: Pixabay

Follow these three suggestions if you want to stick around long enough to see flying cars and a Mars landing


Let's get real: The life of the IT admin isn't always the healthiest. We remain slumped over keyboards, dealing with a ton of stress, and eating badly. It's literally harming us, even shortening our lives. We all need a helping hand here.

That's why I'm offering three suggestions on what you can do to take care of yourself while you take care of your company's systems. After all, as a geek, don't you want to live long enough to see flying cars, a holodeck in every home, a Mars landing? Or even the full move to the cloud, which should be happening in the near future.

1. Use Netflix for health education

Netflix is not only for all-you-can-consume entertainment gluttony; it's filled with a variety of educational documentaries and TED talks to help you learn more about nutrition and exercise. (This advice isn't limited to Netflix; other streaming services have similar content.)

Without endorsing any one approach, I suggest you check out popular shows like "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead" about juicing your way to better health, "Gerson Miracle" about the need to introduce more whole-plant-based foods into your diet, and "Forks over Knives" about eating more green items and fewer objects that moo.

You can also look to Netflix to help with streaming workout videos of all sorts.

2. Track your activity with a wearable

Get yourself an app or device that tracks your health and fitness goals. There are apps built into iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, as well as plenty of fitness bracelets and watches to choose from.

Even if you're partial to a platform, you'll find something in its universe that fits. For example, a Windows Phone user may go for the Microsoft Band, whereas an iPhone lover might get the Apple Watch. There are also devices like the Fitbit that work with multiple platforms.

But keep in mind that the features vary from device to device, so check out what they track to ensure it's useful to you, such as standing-up reminders, calories burned, level of exertion, miles run, and movement levels. You don't need a device aimed at athletes if your goal is simply to increase everyday physical activity, but if you're looking to make the move into more-athletic pursuits, get a device that can track that too.

I have a Fitbit Charge that I used with my iPad. I loved it because it told me how many steps I walked and how many flights of stairs I climbed. It even monitored my sleep and told me when I had a bad nights (though I already knew that because, well, I was awake and restless).

I then tried out the Microsoft Band. I liked that it had a big interface, allowed me to see texts, and had a GPS in it, so I could track my runs and such.

Despite their differences, both devices helped by keeping me aware that I was wearing it. That mere presence on my wrist encouraged me to do more physical activity: to walk to the mailbox rather than send the kids to do it, to walk to the office from the train rather than take a cab. The miles quickly added up.

Last week at Microsoft's Ignite conference, I made sure to wear my Microsoft Band every day, and by the end of the week it showed that I had walked the equivalent of a marathon (26.2 miles). Simply knowing that was an incentive to do more, to eat better during the event, to have one fewer alcoholic beverage (drinking our calories is as bad as eating them, but easier to miss detection), and be overall more health-conscious.

3. Stand!

In our line of work, we typically spend many hours sitting. That's going to kill you. Our bodies were meant to be up and moving. Our jobs impose the opposite behavior.

Many fitness devices and smartwatches remind you to stand for a minute per hour, and that's a good start. But you might go further and consider using an adjustable desk.

I rejected that notion when it was first presented, but I finally tested the use of a tall table as a workstation. Although I cannot use that station for all tasks (at times, I need to be seated), it works well for attending webinars and taking calls. (A bonus side effect is that it revealed I pace during calls, an activity that's great for my health because those steps count too!)

I used a table I had around the house to see if the concept made sense for me, but you can buy an adjustable desk whose top you can move up or down based on whether you are standing or sitting. That way, you can vary your posture but have all your equipment in reach. I've bought one such desk, the Varidesk, which I like.

The only danger with adjustable desks is that you might get complacent and stay seated; having a permanent standing station may be what you need to force you to stand -- at least until you've developed the habit.

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