The Freelancers Show 086 - Book Club: The Healthy Programmer with Joe Kutner

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A Book Club episode on The Healthy Programmer by Joe Kutner.


CHUCK: Your book pricked my guilty conscience. [Hosting and bandwidth provided by the Blue Box Group. Check them out at] [You're fantastic at coding, but do you have an action plan to take it to the next level? The upcoming book, Next Level Freelance, will help you optimize your freelance business for happiness. The book is packed with actionable steps to make more money, case studies, tips to find more clients, and exercises for you to establish your desired lifestyle. Extras include: 9 interviews with freelancers who make great money while enjoying great work-life balance, videos on strategies to find quality subcontractors, and videos on making more free time by outsourcing your daily tasks. Check it out today at!] [This episode is sponsored by Planscope. Planscope is a project management and collaboration net built for freelancers in the way they work with clients. It makes it easy to price out new estimates and once you’re underway and help answer the question, these get done on time and under budget. I’ve been using Planscope to do my estimates and manage my projects and I really, really like it. It makes it really easy to keep things in order, and understand when things will get done. You can go check it out at] CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to Episode 86 of The Freelancers’ Show! This week on our panel, we have Reuven Lerner. REUVEN: Hello there! CHUCK: Curtis McHale. CURTIS: Good day! CHUCK: Eric Davis. ERIC: Hey! CHUCK: Jeff Schoolcraft. JEFF: What’s up! CHUCK: I’m Charles Max Wood from We have a special guest, and that’s Joe Kutner. JOE: Hi! CHUCK: Joe, since you haven’t been on the show before, do you want to introduce yourself? JOE: Sure! I’m a freelance Ruby Programmer, and I’m also an author. I’m pretty active in the JRuby Community and I maintain some JRuby open source projects, and I do contracting on Ruby projects. CHUCK: Nice. So you wrote this book called “The Healthy Programmer”. It’s kind of interesting; it fits well with the show because we talk a lot about lifestyle. But how do programming and health intersect? JOE: It may seem like a strange way to scope the topic of health to programmers, and certainly, not all programmers are unhealthy and we’re not the only folks who are concerned about our health. But there are aspects of our job that I think have an impact on how we take care of our body. For example, programming requires a lot of concentration. As a result of that, we sometimes lose track of other important things like our health – how we’re eating and how often we’re getting physical activity. In the book, I tried to address some really simple things you can do to overcome those problems. CHUCK: Yeah, I really liked it. What was it that prompted you to write the book? JOE: [Chuckles] It’s a topic that has interested me for a long time – just general health aside from programming. I’ve always been very athletic and just interested in those kinds of things. But when I got my first job out of college, I immediately noticed changes in my body. I was putting on weight; I just didn’t feel as energetic as I had a year before. So I made it sort of a hobby of digging into these topics. At some point, I decided that I had enough material, enough research that I was aware of and things like that to turn it into a book. But I would say, actually, the real catalyst was when I started seeing research and seeing more and more people talk about the impact that physical activity has on your mind and your ability to think and ultimately be smarter because that’s really important to us as programmers. CHUCK: Yeah, I’ve definitely seen that. When I was working for a company here in Salt Lake City, one of my co-workers frequently would, when he noticed that he was feeling a little bit rundown or I looked like I was kind of losing focus, he would recommend that we go for a walk, and that’s something that you recommend in your book. It was always something – just 10 minutes, we’d go walk around the parking lot and come back, and it made a huge difference in our ability to kind of finish up the day strong and get stuff done. JOE: Yeah. I find that if I’m up against with tough problem or trying to debug some tough code or something like that and I’m really stuck, one of the best ways to get unstuck is just to go for a walk. There’s no doubt about the effects it has on your brain, actually, causing your brain to create proteins that help you remember things better and solve problems better. But actually, it has a big impact on our health, too. I think for a long time, I wouldn’t go for walks or I wouldn’t go out and get 5 minutes of brisk walking or walking stairs or something because I figured it was a waste of time. But the fact is, those small little spurts of activity throughout the day – 5 minutes every hour – can actually be more important to your health than, for example, 30-minute trip to the gym. So it’s these small things that – REUVEN: I was just saying in our back channel that I love to walk and I walk for my clients’ offices, from the train station to the client’s office and back so I see that it was a while [inaudible] before I get some walking in. But from working at home for the day, I might as well say, “Well, I’ve gotten a few minutes,” and I really never thought about even going outside for a walk for 5 or 10 minutes because I thought that it is a waste of time. And you’re basically saying, “No, no, this is really good for you and this could have [inaudible], too.” JOE: Yeah, absolutely. It’s essential that you mention working from home because, when I’ve worked in office environment, I actually find that it’s quite a bit easier to get more step count; to get a little bit more walking. I’m the guy that recommends that instead of having a meeting sitting down in a meeting room, we go outside and I’ll walk around on a trail or something. But at home, boy, I find that if I’m tracking my step count, it’s absurdly low. The most walking I do if I don’t try is shuffling between my office and the bathroom around the corner, so I have to really be conscious about it – working from our own environments. CHUCK: Yeah, I can definitely attest to that. I’ve had a Fitbit for a long time, and I put it on this last week or so. And if I make it out for a walk or make it down to the gym, I’d get 8, 9, 10,000 steps in a day, but if I don’t, it’s usually like 2500 steps, which is really, really low. JOE: That step count, again, it seems like a simple thing to track and it seems almost like a trivial to track, but it really turns out that it’s important. There’s a high correlation between people who’d take more steps and their health and even their lifespan. A number of studies have shown that people who work in jobs that require them to be more physically active – good examples are restaurant servers, nurses, farmers – that they tend to live longer. CHUCK: Yeah, I definitely see that. I’m also diabetic and I’ve read a few studies that actually show that the more active you are has more of an effect on your overall health – on your blood sugar levels and everything else – than your medication does. JOE: Yeah. CHUCK: And if you’re highly active for 30 minutes, it’s equivalent, I think, to 2 doses of your medication, is I think what they figured out, minus all the side-effects, like you don’t run the risks of overdosing on your drugs kind of thing with your exercise, but you get all the positive benefits that you would get from the medicine that you’re taking. So, it’s highly effective that way; it just makes a big difference. JOE: Yeah, there’s some real good science there – looking at people and medications and walking. One study that I often reference was done in Japan a few years ago on a group of about 250 adults who were doing no physical activity or no formal exercise part of the study. They were enrolled in a 5-month walking program or they just simply supplemented their day with a little bit of walking – some brisk, some moderate. At the end of the study, they found that the participants who had done the walking had significant increase in their aerobic capacity by muscle strength, it had a significant drops in blood pressure, and ultimately reduced their risks of lifestyle-related diseases like diabetes, heart disease. CHUCK: Yeah, it’s pretty amazing just the difference that makes. I’ve also heard that diet makes more of a difference than exercise. Have you seen that or seen? JOE: Yes. It depends [on] what your goals are. Now, before we talk about diet, I would say, there’s 3 things that you should never talk to people about: it’s politics, religion, and diet. REUVEN: [Laughs] JOE: Diet is a tell thing to talk about. I think it’s because we’re all kind of experts. We’ve pretty much been eating almost our whole life so we know a thing or two about what works for us and what doesn’t work for us. So there isn’t really a one-size-fits-all diet, and I think there’s some real movement in that direction. There was a recent commentary in JAM or the Journal of American something; it was called “An End of the Diet Debates”. The idea is that we need to stop focusing on sort of the macronutrient composition of our diets because most studies are showing that the difference between whether it’s Atkins or Mediterranean diet or whatever, that these differences are marginal, and that there’s a much bigger impact on simply the number of calories we eat, our lifestyle interventions, and even the psychological issues that go along with it. Then it’s not the reason that it’s difficult to talk about. Diet is, for a lot of people, it’s a psychological issue. Another thing, it’s important to consider that. Back to your original point, if your goal is to lose weight, then yeah, it’s pretty clear that your diet is the largest factor. I see a lot of people who are trying to lose weight and until they start running, something like that. If you look at the calories that you’re burning when you go for a run like a 20-minute run, it might be a few hundred calories over what you would have otherwise burned which is the equivalent of a bottom muffin. So you could either not eat that muffin or go for a 20-minute run – it’s your choice. Exercise has a lot of different health impacts, not just your weight. But if your goal is taking off some pounds, it’s definitely diet as one you need to be focused on. CURTIS: Yeah, I’ve found with diet – and you may not notice, but I do a ton of cycling which I talked about on the show previously – my biggest challenge with diet is when I’m going from 300-400 kilometers a week down to a couple of hundred because of life or when a relaxing weekend keeping up the diet to where it was when I was exercising, puts on a couple of pounds pretty easy in a week. JOE: Yeah. CURTIS: And it’s eating the same stuff, same healthy thing, same everything, it’s just not tracking it and not realizing how much I’m burning versus how much I’m actually consuming. JOE: Yeah, endurance sports and endurance exercise, I know – I am a big cyclist, too, actually, and its amazing effect it has on your appetite. As soon as I start a training regime or whatever, I get hungry well beyond the amount of calories that I’m burning. And when I start pulling back, I often keep it at the same level like tough to deal with. CHUCK: When I was in high school, my swim coach – I did swimming in high school – he actually warned us all. He’s like “You see this?” and he kind of points to himself, he’s like “This is what happens when you quit swimming and keep eating like you’re swimming.” REUVEN: Yeah [chuckles]. CHUCK: He was trying to give us that life lesson, “Don’t do what I did.” REUVEN: Yeah, but Joe, what you said about exercise and calories, I have an app on my phone for keeping track of how many steps I’m taking per day when I was going on a treadmill, and every so often I’d calculate how many calories I’ve burned. It is sort of shockingly low compared to how many calories you’ve consumed in food. JOE: Uhm-hmm. CHUCK: Yeah. Now, does it take into account your Basal Metabolic Rate, Reuven? REUVEN: I don’t know. I’m going to [unclear] on this one. [Crosstalk] REUVEN: Let me repeat that word, I have no idea what you’re talking about [chuckles]. CHUCK: I’ve been kind of interested in this stuff for a while mainly because I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes about 7 years ago. Anyway, your Basal Metabolic Rate is basically the amount of energy it would take to keep you alive if you didn’t do anything, or you are basically sedentary all day long. So your body burns a certain amount of energy just to keep you alive, and then the rest of your calorie burn on top of that is, “Okay, I walked around. Or, I went and worked out. Or, I went down the stairs or whatever. Picked up the remote and change the channel.” REUVEN: That makes sense. No, I mean the app on my phone just asked me how much I weigh, and the treadmill didn’t even do that. So I’m guessing the treadmill is going to be less accurate, but I’ve never really thought about it in terms of how much I need this Basal Metabolic Rate. It makes a lot of sense, what you’re saying. CHUCK: Yeah, it also talks about it in the book. I saw that the formula is in there. I don’t remember exactly where. JOE: Yeah, there’s a companion app to my book for iPhone, and there’s a little calculator in there that you plugin a few metrics and it’ll give you your BMR or your BMI and small other things. CURTIS: Now, what do you think about BMI, though? Because as I cyclist for many, many years, I have monster clods and I’m 5’8 ½” and like 180 pounds is kind of on the heavy side in the winter, but I’m always like way over my BMI. JOE: I tend to be, too, because I’m just a little bit broader. I’m fairly lean, but…I think BMI, it’s gotten a pretty bad rep lately because it’s very one-dimensional (technically, it’s 2-dimensional), but there’s many more dimensions to your health. So I think, when considering something like BMI, just like when you consider your weight, you have to balance that with other factors. So in and of itself, yeah, there are studies that correlate it with things like heart disease and Type II Diabetes. But in each particular case, you need to factor in other things about you and your body type and everything else. CURTIS: I’ve always said when asked by friends that the BMI really is more to a sedentary person than someone who’s, I guess, an athlete, or someone who’s been doing it for a while, right? JOE: Yeah, I think that’s probably true. It really comes down to – CURTIS: Making a broad generalization here, right? JOE: Yeah. CURTIS: This is a broad generalization there. CHUCK: It’s still height-weight or weight-height, I don’t remember which one, but it’s not a perfect measure. I think most people who get out and exercise regularly and they’re eating right and feel really good most of the time, I think they know that they’re healthy or generally healthy. Whereas, the people who are really concerned about their BMI are the people who are obese or morbidly obese, just don’t pay attention to it until somebody comes up and say, “This number is really off.” JOE: I like to compare it to if you were monitoring a production server and you only looked at CPU usage, you wouldn’t really have a complete picture of how your application is running and the health of that application. That doesn’t mean CPU isn’t important (CPU is just as important), but you really have to consider the bigger picture. REUVEN: That’s a great analogy. CHUCK: I want to talk a little bit about some of the ‘fads’ I guess…I want to get your opinion on some of these. One of them – and you talk a lot about it in the book in Chapter 3 – is the standing desk. Basically, you bring up the point that sitting is probably killing you and then you also bring up the point that standing may not be the best option for you either depending on what your health situation is. I’m kind of curious, how strongly be recommend that people get a standing desk? And if they’re not really cut out for standing because they have one of some of these health issues that make it somewhat dangerous to do, what do you recommend to those people? JOE: I do usually recommend that folks at least try a standing desk. And I just said there, it’s not necessarily right for everybody. But it turns out that best position to work from is whatever position you’re not currently in, so changing positions is really the goal. And really, the purpose of using a standing desk isn’t so much to get you to stand. Standing itself, the amount of extra calories you burn are pretty small; I think it’s something like 50 an hour at most. And then you create other risks like standing puts a large strain on your circulatory system so it increases your risk of developing blood clots or varicose veins and things like that. The real purpose for standing is that it makes you more likely to move around or walk around or change position. Actually, studies done with students in classrooms have shown that the students who work from a standing desk are just more likely to step away, go for a walk, and get that little bit of physical activity that we already talked about is very important. So it’s important to look at your own personal situation, and I think that’s true with any health recommendation. There are very few things that I or any other health experts can say unequivocally everybody should do. For example, some people like treadmill desks or walking desks. And studies have shown by and large that those are good for you; they increase your caloric expenditure, that they’re just great for your health. But those same studies have shown that they actually reduce your productivity by about 15%, and that’s due to a decrease in dexterity while you’re walking. Now, most of those studies were done on people doing true typing activities which for programmers, if all you’re doing is typing, then you’re probably creating more problems than you’re solving. But again, it’s about finding what works for you. I find that a treadmill desk doesn’t work for me; I find it distracting and I’d rather just get on a treadmill when I’m ready to take a break. ERIC: I actually use a treadmill desk. I’m just standing right now, but I found that when I’m not on a treadmill, like right now I’m standing, I’m actually dancing around and bouncing from thing to thing, like I’m extremely distracted. But then when I’m sitting, I put like the afternoon slump, I kind of dose off. But if I’m on the treadmill desk in the afternoon, I’m focused, I work until my wife gets home; it’s the perfect environment for me at that time. But like you said, it took experimentation and trying everything to figure that out. JOE: That’s a great point because I think just as with any software process, you’ve got to try new thing, experiment, and iterate. I’ve tried standing all day and I found that that just didn’t work. [Chuckles] It made my legs very tired and didn’t really probably give me that much of benefits. So I also like getting on a treadmill in the afternoon; I find that works and learned it through experimentation. CHUCK: Nice. REUVEN: We actually got a treadmill from my office, I guess about 6 months ago, maybe a little less, and then I went away for the summer so I really haven’t had a chance to use it as much as I would have like, but the idea was to experiment with it. So far, I haven’t really experiment, I just sort of walked on it maybe 20, 30, 40 minutes at a time, but I really hadn’t thought about using it in the afternoon. I sort of thought it more as a sort of a morning wake up thing. But I’m going to have to try that actually; it sounds like a really smart idea. CHUCK: Yup. One thing that I thought was interesting about the book as I read it was that you seem to put things into a context that programmers understand. You talked about sort of unit testing your fitness so you talked about, “Here’s some unit test that you can answer sort of thing,” there was – I’m trying to remember all of the different instances that I saw… ERIC: The agile. JOE: Yeah, the biggest one was the ‘Agile’ diet. CHUCK: Yeah. JOE: [Chuckles] I caught a lot of flag for that analogy from people who didn’t read the chapter. But I think it’s a fair comparison or a fair analogy. And a lot of the stuff, Unit Testing, thinking about your health and not to eat the increments and doing a daily stand up like you would in Scrum. Those kinds of things, we do them in software because they work, but not just for my health. I find that those are just a great way to make change in your own life, a positive change. And I think, those kinds of like Kaizen-type approaches are universal. CHUCK: I think it’s kind of an interesting way of doing things. I was going to make the joke that I’m an Agile dieter because I lick twinkies or hohoes.. [Chuckles] JOE: I think the key there is, like I said, experimentation. But it’s also about – the reason I called it an Agile diet is that’s much like in software: the worst thing you can do is stick to a plan when that plan isn’t working. I think a lot of folks do that with their diet. They’ll find some as fashionable that sounds appealing. And as you start out, it’s great, you’re happy with it. And then after some time, you become disinterested with it or you find that you’re not continuing to lose weight if that’s your goal. That’s why it’s important to take those things in chunks. I recommend try a diet for 2 weeks, and if it’s not working, try a different diet. Or, if you’re tired of it or if it’s not making you happy, then iterate because that’s important. If your diet doesn’t make you happy, if what you eat day-to-day is not enjoyable, then your diet is not going to be successful. And everybody has different taste, so it’s important to try different strategies and find what works for you. ERIC: That’s what’s important. Like any kind of real scientifically-based diet, you’re going to find that if you stop, like if you stick with it for 6 months and then stop it, you go back to where you were. I use the term diet all the time and people say, “Oh, you’re on a diet?” and I say, “No, I’m using diet as the collection of food that I eat as an organism,” like the biological term. So I look at that as my diet is basically something that I kind of add stuff to use attract stuff, too, but it’s something that I haven’t really change heavily in 4 or 5 years now because I found what worked for me and I stuck with it. And if I feel like I need to make one little change, I’ll do it scientifically like swap this and see if I feel better whether it’s weights, more energy, any kind of factor that I’m looking at. But the important thing is to stick with it and not jump from fad to fad and not do something that’s so unreasonable that I’m not going to be able to sustain it for more than a year. CHUCK: I’ve heard several times from people basically saying that the best diet for you to be on is the one that you’re going to stick with, and I think that’s really the case. If it’s effective, in other words, you feel healthier, you are healthier, and you can stick with it, then that’s a good diet for you. I have another question, and that’s related to ergonomics. One of the things that you put in here was basically unit testing your vision so you talk about eye strain and headaches and things like that. Kind of appropriate since yesterday, I was out with a headache [laughs]. JOE: [Laughs] CHUCK: Can you just summarize some of the advice you have for folks on that? JOE: Yeah, there’s a few things that I think are common mistakes. One is sitting with your face too close to the screen, and one is sitting too far. Your monitor should be about 20-40 inches from your face. Good way to test that is to stick your arm out in front of you, and if you can touch your monitor, your arm is about 20 inches, so if you can touch your monitor, then you might consider moving it farther away. Another problem is not looking away. There’s this great rule called the “20-20-20 Rule”. The idea is, every 20 minutes you’ll look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. That should be enough to help reduce eye strain – actually, eye strain is one of the things that sort of often induces headaches. Also, that 20-20-20 rule fits in really nicely with The Pomodoro Technique and taking Pomodoro Breaks – it works really well for me. CHUCK: One thing that I found that contributes to my headaches is whether or not I’ve had a lot of caffeine; we come back off with the caffeine high… JOE: Uhm-hmm. CHUCK: A lot of times, I wind up with headache from that. JOE: Caffeine is interesting because an initial dose of caffeine will often help relieve a headache. But studies or the research that I read suggest that you can get what’s called the “Rebound Headache” where after that initial discomfort goes away, you end up with another headache. That’s why I often avoid drugs like Excedrin where they include acetaminophine with caffeine – and the purpose of the caffeine is to get the acetaminophine in your blood stream and more quickly affect the headache. But I think, just be careful when using caffeine to help with that kind of problem. CHUCK: Uhm-hmm. JOE: That’s not to say coffee or caffeine [is] inherently bad. There’s plenty of research to suggest that’s actually good, just have to use it accordingly. CHUCK: What about things like neck position, like your posture? JOE: I think, posture, when you’re sitting down is tough, and there’s a lot of things you have to take into consideration. In fact, as part of the research for the book, I talked to musicians who study how to hold your body, how to position your body, and how to control and move your body because pianist have had the issues that we’ve had for many hundreds of years before us. We didn’t invent carpal tunnel syndrome, they’ve learned how to deal with it. In fact, schools like Juilliard or the World College of Music in London, young pianist actually take posture and movement as part of the curriculum. So one of the experts that I talked to, he instructs pianist, singers, and even computer users how to hold their body, and one of the things he told me was that your posture, everybody’s posture is unique. That’s because of the subtle differences on our proportions – the length of our arm, torso, and all that. So, finding the right posture position for you, just like everything else we’ve talked about, requires experimentation and iteration. He actually recommends observing yourself using mirrors or even video cameras so that you can watch yourself as you work and see is it your shoulders that start to hunch or your back that starts to slouch, and learning how to correct that. Now, the bottom line always, no matter how good your posture is, if you’re sitting for long periods of time or even if you’re standing for some time, you’re going to probably start to slouch, or have pain in certain areas. And most of the time, that’s the result simply of weak muscles because when we’re holding a position, we need our muscles to support our spine and prevent it from flexing too much because it’s that flexion that leads to what we just often describe as back pain. So the best thing you can do for your posture or for that kind of back and neck pain is just a few simple exercises that are designed to improve the stability of your core muscles and your supporting muscles. I talk about that a good bit in the book. The exercises that I recommend are based on simply what some of the leading researchers recommend, and they’re not what you might expect; they’re not crunches, that’s for sure. They’re exercises that emphasize stability without flexing your spine because that’s what’s important to us – stability. A mixed martial artist might need dynamic movement or the ability to rapidly twist their spine, but we don’t need that. REUVEN: My brother-in-law is a physical therapist. And just about every time he came to visit our house, he would look at me working and say, “Oh my god! You’re totally sitting the wrong way, you’re not doing the right thing, you’re going to get this, you’re going to get that,” and I see it every day and maybe thoroughly bad… JOE: [Chuckles] REUVEN: As long as that we feel good. But I think, one of the major things that I do this summer which really helped was I got a detachable keyboard. I usually use my laptop as my main computer so I had this computer close to the desk in order to be able to use it. And by getting a separate keyboard that plugged in, I find it now I can sit in a way that is even acceptable to my brother-in-law and quite frankly, makes me feel better as well. JOE: I struggle with, when I’m working from my laptop, and actually that’s I think a point that’s really relevant to this discussion about freelancing, is the best part of being a freelancer is that “I can go work from wherever I want to”, but sometimes, that means I don’t have a good workspace. My favorite coffee shop just has nowhere that I can stand up. I do at one coffee shop that has sort of a [unclear] that I work from, it’s standing height. But yeah, if I’m sitting in an uncomfortable chair and I’m on my laptop and I’m hunched over, I very quickly develop discomfort. I’m the kind of person [that] I’ll work from a hotel lobby [chuckles]. And just a couple of weeks ago, I went up to the front desk of the hotel and it’s like, “Can I just work from here?” so I’m standing at the corner where everybody are probably wondering what was wrong with me [chuckles], working from my improvised standing desk. CHUCK: So what’s kind of the most important point out of the book? JOE: I think the most important point is that, in order to be the best programmer and to continue being a programmer for a very long time, you need to increase your physical activity in just small amount – just simple things as we’ve discussed. But I think, as programmers, we’re very often trying to improve our productivity. So we have a million blogs and discussions on how to set your vimrc file or something like that. But the best way to improve your productivity is by taking care of yourself both in your health and for your mind. CHUCK: When I was reading the book in the initial – I think it was the Preface actually – it really struck on me. It was all stuff that I had heard and that I knew that you need to be healthy and you need to take care of yourself, that you’ll get more done, it helps your brain, it helps your body, you’ll feel better, you’re able to put more hours in if you need to, you’re able to be flexible if you need to. All of these different things, it really just made me feel a little bit guilty, I have to say [chuckles]… JOE: [Chuckles] CHUCK: About not doing them because I know that I need to and I know that ultimately, say, if I go to the gym for half hour or an hour, it’s time that I will earn back, so I just need to make it a priority. So I highly recommend to people now that they go read this book if you’re a programmer. He speaks our language to us about our health. It’s a terrific book, and it really does just breaks things down and go, “Hey, look, here’s how you think about this,” the same way you think about the other things that you do.” Will there other areas of the book that you guys wanted to talk about that are things that jumped out at you? ERIC: There is a couple of areas that – I try to remember because I read The Healthy Programmer a while like in the first few betas, and then I’ve been reading some other books around exercise and the brain connection. There’s quite a bit about how exercise actually helps your brain and how, from an evolutionary perspective, why that works like that. Actually, this book was the first kind of inkling I saw that and it kind of let me into another book called “Spark” and then a couple of other places. But it’s pretty understanding how, just by moving around, that makes you think better and actually like the chemical reactions and the mechanics of how that works instead of just go out and run and you’ll be better. JOE: Yeah, and talk about the ‘from the evolutionary perspective’, there’s some really interesting emerging hypothesis on that. For example, one hypothesis is that our brains evolved to be superior not because of our diet or because we eat a lot of fish as what’s previously taught, but maybe because of the way we haunt prey, that movement may actually be, from an evolutionary perspective, responsible for the size of our brain and our intelligence. The reason for that is based very much in science. As I said earlier, there are proteins that are secreted in our brain when we exercise that improve the connections between neurons, it actually promotes the growth of new neurons, and protects them from damage and stress. I think, and I guess also on the topic of evolutionary biology is something I talked about in the book, it’s “Vitamin D Synthesis”. I think it’s another area where we’ve really gone away negatively from what our bodies need. So we’re spending the vast majority of our life indoors with a little exposure to sunlight, which of course means that we’re not synthesizing vitamin D, and as a result, the majority of the population, in most cases, has a vitamin D deficiency. REUVEN: Is this nature regardless of where you live? Like I could imagine in the northeast where it’s kind of cold, but I live in Israel where it’s pretty sunny a lot of the year like in Florida and Texas. JOE: It is true in most places. It’s even true in Australia. REUVEN: Wow. JOE: There was a study done in 2005 on Australian office workers. More than 50% of the office workers had a vitamin D deficiency. If you know anything about Australia – actually I lived there as a kid, and I remember not being allowed to go play outside without a hat on because the sun is such a big concern. But certainly, people with darker, folks who have Hispanic origin that live in higher latitudes, really are probably the most in danger of this. We can increase our vitamin D levels. It appears somewhat through dietary intake. But more and more, there’s science suggesting that that is just not a good substitute for synthesizing vitamin D the way mother nature have all this to do so well over millions of years. REUVEN: So we should just get out and get more sun on a regular basis? JOE: Yeah! And for people with fair skin, it can be as simple as 10 minutes of sunlight exposure on larger areas of skin per day to get the necessary vitamin D, as much as 6x longer for folks with much darker skin. But again, it’s important to – don’t take what I’m saying the wrong way; don’t go burn yourself in the sun because obviously, that’s not good in terms of skin cancer and what not – but we do probably need more sunlight. CHUCK: Yup! You go outside, you do the Wall-E thing – you open up your panels and recharge. JOE: [Laughs] CHUCK: Let’s talk a little bit about the app for a minute. Did you write the iPhone app? Or that somebody else write it for you? JOE: Yeah, I did. I’ve got a little bit of experience doing iOS programming. Initially, I wanted to do a website, but I thought that a mobile application would be a little bit more useful tool. CHUCK: Yeah, it’s something that you have with you. One thing that I thought was interesting is that you have all the goals in here from the book so you can just mark it off by a pedometer – I already have one so I can mark that off – check your resting heart rates, you do that and you mark it off. And then you got the log where you can add things to your log which is kind of nice. And this checklist, the daily checklist, which is really kind of nice for me because I can sit down and just say, “Okay, I did this,” and check done. JOE: That checklist is something that I buildup in the book. As you read through the book, I explained why each of those 5 items exist. In summary, there are plan: have effectively a daily stand up like you would in a Scrum or something. Walk: just get 20 minutes of walking a day even if you split it up and spread it throughout the day. Another one is eat 5 servings of fruit and vegetables. Well I said, it’s difficult to have general rules that work for everybody about eating. I do like that rule impart because it’s inclusive instead of like [unclear] things that you can say you can’t eat this and you can’t eat that; here’s some things that you should eat [unclear], try to aim for that. The third one is move: use a standing desk, change positions often, maybe several times an hour change position. And then the last one was build strength using some of the exercises I talked about to increase the stability of your core muscles. The app also has a built-in Pomodoro timer for Pomodoro workouts, which for have an idea I promoted in which you use the Pomodoro technique which is working for about 20-30 minutes taking a 5-minute break, and then repeating; but during that 5-minute break, mixing in some walking, some simple physical activity. That timer integrates with the log so it automatically records it for you so you can go back and look at the progress you’ve made. I think keeping a log book however you do it is important for your health because changes to our body and changes to our health take a really long time to become visible, and they take much longer years to become permanent. So recognizing those kinds of changes, whether the positive or negative, is difficult. That’s why I think it’s important to keep track of the progress you’ve made and what you’ve done. CHUCK: Yup, absolutely. And the Pomodoro workout and stuff are all at the end of the book. In one of the last chapters, he talks about that, and the approach, and it’s kind of a cool deal. Of course, sometimes I use my Pomodoro breaks and I’m doing Pomodoro to like go use the bathroom and other necessities. JOE: Well, studies have found that a break as simple as getting up and going to the bathroom can actually be a bit good for your health. If it means that you’re not sitting for 2 or 3, even 4 hours, without getting any movement, then yeah, there is something to be sad for them. CHUCK: Yeah. And you addressed this in the book, but just how evil is sitting? JOE: [Chuckles] If it was a James Bond villain, it would be SPECTRE Number 1, it would be the worst. [Laughter] CHUCK: I have this $900 death trap that I bought that I sit in everyday. JOE: [Laughs] CHUCK: I have the Aeron Herman Miller chair. Does that help at all, having a really nice chair? Or does it really not matter? JOE: Supposedly (and there is some interesting research) it helps people to go with pain. Honestly, I just – when my primary chair is a drafting stool that I keep next to my standing desk so I can switch back and forth, and I’m on that stool more than 20 minutes at a time usually so I’m not on there long enough to notice any discomfort. But in terms of the studies that show certain kinds of chairs were leaving discomfort, similar has also been found with studies on Swissball’s Fitness Balls, which increase the activation of those core muscles. So by balancing a little bit on that ball, you might be doing things that help prevent discomfort. So I think a good chair is great; I think it’s important. But I think it’s more important that you have a lot of option; that you have a Swiss ball you can sit on, or regular chair you can work on standing desk which will allow you just to keep moving and keep active. CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. I went and I got one of those IKEA’s standing desk deals that they talk about on Lifehacker. It was the $22 desk – I spent $30 on mine because the prices have gone up on some of the parts – but it went together pretty easily, and it’s kind of nice just to be able to stand and work. But I find that I don’t move all that much, I’m just standing there. So I have 2 questions related to that. The first one is this, what should I be doing while I’m standing there? Should I actually be trying to move? JOE: Yeah, you should be dancing. CHUCK: Alright. JOE: [Laughs] REUVEN: [Laughs] JOE: It’s true. CHUCK: I’ll put on some – REUVEN: The dancing [unclear]. CURTIS: New podcast of dance moves while you’re coding, right? JOE: [Laughs] CHUCK: Yeah, do the head-bob. REUVEN: [Laughs] CHUCK: And then the other question I have is, how do you keep track of how often you need to switch from standing to sitting? Because you said every 20 minutes, but I get sucked into what I’m working on and I’ll look up and 3 hours have gone by. So how do I prompt myself to get out of the chair or to get back into the chair? JOE: To your first question, what do you do? I’ve experimented a lot of different things including balance boards. There’s one that I really like, I think it’s called a “Spooner”. It’s like this $50 toy basically for kids that want to pretend like they’re doing cool skateboard tricks, and it’s like a bolt, and it was kind of standing on the edges in the wobbles. That active balancing I find keep me from getting little discomfort points. There’s no real evidence of this, but some people suggested that balancing in that way actually improves your creativity because it’s forcing you to use both sides of your brain. Well, that’s not necessarily been proven. We do know that therapist will use balance boards for patients that had suffered from a stroke as part of their rehabilitation. So it’s definitely doing something for our minds. Another thing that I recently read in another column – because it’s so new, I don’t know if there’s any science behind this – it’s doing yoga positions from your standing desk. That sort of something I’ve been playing around with, just different forms and different positions. But yeah, no matter what you’re doing, if you’re standing in for an extremely long period of time, it’s going to be can tire someone and probably uncomfortable. The way I solve that is I have a timer on my desk. I set the timer from my Pomodoro workouts, whether I’m doing it formally or informally. Well, it’s easy to become absorbed in our work that feels productive. I find almost every time that the best path to productivity is to interrupt myself. So I step away, come back, reset and refresh. And then I often have new ideas and I get stuck quite so often. CHUCK: Yeah, and I guess if you’re following Pomodoro, then when you break for your Pomodoro break, then you can just come back and sit if you were standing, or stand if you were sitting. JOE: Yup, that’s exactly what I do. CHUCK: Alright! Well, thanks for coming on the show, Joe. It’s been fun to talk about. JOE: Thanks for having me. CHUCK: I feel smarter about this stuff. JOE: [Chuckles] CHUCK: And the book explains it in the way to where it’s not 10 million ideas; it’s just simple things, and it’s really nice that way. Anyway, let’s do the picks. Curtis, do you want to start this off with picks? CURTIS: Sure! Since we’re talking fitness, I’ll pick my app that I use for kind of food tracking and weigh tracking more often when I’m getting into the cycling season (I’m not as much now), it’s called “My Fitness Pal”. It’s great because you can actually scan the food you’re eating and it will put all your calories right in there and show you exactly what you’re using and its sports Canadian stuff and most other ones can’t scan barcode on the food – Eric is asking questions in chat – and it’ll put everything right in there for the serving size and you can measure it, and it’s great. I got a little scale actually goes with for like $10. Even the weight of the yogurt you’re eating, you can tell exactly how many calories you eat. I was very surprised the first time about how healthy I eat, but how much I actually eat. It was like triple my calories that I really needed. JOE: I got to talk to people about different tools and apps and stuff, and I cannot tell you how many people recommend that app. I’ve used it myself and I find it to be excellent. CHUCK: I’ve used it, too. I really like it. Eric, what are your picks? ERIC: My pick is – it’s actually 2, but it’s a two-part blog post – it’s by IttyBiz, it’s called “How To Double Your Revenue And Profit, Really”. It’s a pretty good one because it kind of gets into like optimizing different parts of your business and it goes over and it kind of does it in detail where it’s not a big dramatic change like unveiling your product or hire 30 new employees, but it’s more of an incremental approach. This is kind of what I’ve been doing a little bit I guess past few months, and follow the different process but the exact same stuff. So it’s interesting if you’re interested in kind of getting some incremental games and kind of doing a little bit better over the next few months. CHUCK: Nice. Reuven, what are your picks? REUVEN: Alright, I’ve got 4 picks for today; 2 sort of on-topic, and 2 less so. First one is, I’m also going to mention the app that I use on my phone called “Accupedo” which is a pedometer app. I have an Androind phone, apparently they have an iPhone iOS version as well, and I’ve had it on there for a while. It’s just nice to be able to keep track at how many steps I’m taking each day, how far I’ve gone, has cute littlegraphs as well. Second thing is, I’m a big fan of The New Yorker, I’ve been subscribed in I guess for about a year and half now and reading it before then, so this is a general pick. I think “The New Yorker” has a great, great fun thing to read, interesting articles, super well-written. I guess it was in May, May of this year that they had an article by Susan Orlean about treadmill desks. I remember reading it, and the first part of it I said, “This is got to be the craziest thing I’ve ever heard of.” Fortunately, she explains in the article not only have treadmill desks that are actually useful and good, but they are not walking at full speed while on them, which was a point that I had set on this. So [unclear] of people walking very, very quickly and try to type at the same time and trying to figure out how they could possibly work. Basically, in the wake of that article after treadmill, I get to arrange it into a desk, but it gave a lot of the inspiration, a lot of very interesting fitness information about how that can work. And then the 2 other picks that I have just a screencast series called the “Emacs Rocks!” which I hadn’t picked before which is kind of fun. The guy is perhaps a little over dramatic and excited about Emacs, even more excited than I am. But that has been a demonstration of a good screencaster. And the last pick is I finally came out a week or so ago, as of this podcast, “Mavericks” the new version of the Mac OS. So far, everything has actually worked super, super smoothly. I cannot see that I see huge differences, so it’s worth the zero-money that they charge, but everything seems stable, working, everything are probably homebrewed working. So the fact the things are not on kaput is actually a positive thing in my eyes. Anyway, that’s it for me for this week. CHUCK: Awesome. Jeff, what are your picks? JEFF: There’s a “Stir Kinetic Desk”, I have not used it, but in the event of the show and has Joe mentioned a couple of times, that they held this position as a one year not[unclear]. So if you’re not as religious with Pomodoro and being able to switch your setup regularly, Stir and I think there’s another one they can program and it will move forward to you. So given some period of time, it will raise your lower and switch your position than you adjust. So, it’s interesting. The other is an Emacs, this is article...I forget the guy’s name, but it’s “Emacs as My <Leader>”. It’s just…I don’t know…the holy fire in the holy water. This is Vim guy that went to Emacs and he’s using evil-mode, which I’ve never heard about. It’s interesting. I don’t I’ll use Emacs, but every once in a while, it’s nice to see how the other side lives. I just thought it was an interesting read. Those are my 2 picks! CHUCK: Awesome. I’ve got a couple of picks. The first one is that Lifehacker “Standing Desk” like I said, it’s pretty inexpensive. Other than the fact that it takes up a bunch of space on my desk, I’m really liking it and I’m planning on using it often on today. I got to put together yesterday and then the tension headache that I was trying to ignore that morning just got to the point where I couldn’t actually do anything other than lay in bed and wish I could die, so I haven’t had a chance to use it again, but I’m pretty excited. Another pick that I have that’s related to fitness is the “The Jillian Michaels Show”. It’s a podcast, and I really, really enjoy it. Her producer is also on the show and she’s kind of an interesting character, but Jillian talks a lot about lifestyle and about fitness and she has people call in and ask her questions. Anyway, it’s really, really awesome. And for those of you who don’t know she is, she’s one of the trainers on the Biggest Loser television show. And then I’m going to double down on the “My Fitness Pal” pick because it really is an awesome app, and I really like it, so +1 there. And we’ll let Joe do some picks. JOE: I’ve got 2. The first one is a piece of software called “f.lux”, I think it’s pronounced that way. It’s f.lux, and I think it’s been mentioned on the show before. But they recently had a new version released, and it’s an application that runs in the background and adjust the color temperature of your screen with the time of day. So as it gets later in the day, it makes it warmer and reduces essentially the blue colors. I found that that’s been in really helpful in getting myself to fall asleep because studies have shown that blue light signals to your brain that it’s daytime. So staring at a blue-colored screen can actually mess with your sleep patterns. So f.lux, it’s available for Windows, Linux, and Mac, and even for jail broken iPhones. The second pick is a talk by Jeremy Walker at Barcelona Ruby Conference this year called “Refactoring Your Productivity”. It’s a soft talk, it’s fun, and it’s got a lot of great tips for being a more productive programmer including going for a walk. CHUCK: Awesome. Alright, well, I’ll have to go check out that talk. I always love recommended conference talks. Alright, let’s go ahead and wrap up the show then. Thanks for coming, Joe! We really appreciate you and your expertise in this area. JOE: It was a pleasure. CHUCK: If anyone has any questions for you, what’s the best way for them to reach you? Do you have a blog or something they can comment on? Or would you rather just have them email you or tweet you or what? JOE: Yeah, I’m @codefinger on Twitter, and you can reach by email, I’m joe@logichaus L-O-G-I-C-H-A-U-S .com. And there’s a website for the book,, and you can find out more about it and get in touch with me that way. CHUCK: Alright! Well, thanks again. And like I said, we’ll wrap up the show. We’ll catch you all next week!

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