This article is written by Fitday Expert panel member, Dr. Umashri Rao Francis (M.B.B.S)
If you are an IT professional, working in an MNC or BPO, people generally think that you have a cushy job with only five working days, no sweat and dirt, centrally air-conditioned offices, and weekends off. But, is it truly a ‘happy’ job in reality?
If you are in your 20’s,30’s, or 40’s it is not unheard of that working as an IT professional you work about 10-12 hours daily in front of a computer.
An A-typical day of life
If you are working in a day shift the heavy workload permits you to only maybe make it to the cafeteria to eat something at least halfway healthy. However, if you don’t make in the lunch hours it means a trip to the vending machine to pick a cup of bitter espresso or tea, and back to the desk furiously typing away or attending calls. Weekends mean family obligations, household chores, and few hours stolen to catch-up on key projects for work.
If you are working in a night shift then it gets all the worse, working the whole night, gulping down cups of tea or coffee, and dry sandwiches to keep yourself awake and alert. You reach home in the morning and crash land on the bed till late afternoon, skipping breakfast and offsetting your cycle of eating.
The cumulative result is an early burnout. IT professionals usually do not have the luxury to eat on time, sleep on time, participate in activities like mowing the lawn and playing with their kids. The long days, heavy workload, poor eating, irregular mealtimes, no exercise, and bad posture add up to a stressful environment. You may be in a high paying job and your skills rake in big money, but keeping up with this lifestyle for 10 to 15 years, you will invite a host of ailments; involving different parts of the body from head to toe.
Studies reveal that there are various health issues encountered by IT professionals, like:
- Repetitive strain injury of hands & wrists
- Frequent migraines and headaches
- Eye strain
- Vocal problems
- Digestive system issues
- Behavioral issues
- Physical strain
- Weight loss
- Trouble in concentration
- Sleeping disorder
- Spondylitis/neck pain and Back pain
- Thyroid problems
- Gynecological problems like irregular cycles, infertility
- Hearing disorder
- Vitamin deficiencies
Preventing the problems
Since the advancement in information technology the world is becoming more and more dependent on technology. It is used not only by IT professionals but also students, gamers and almost every other professional so it can be concluded that prolonged use of computers and other gadgets can lead to health problems in most members of the working population.
Today the MNC’s understand the need for a healthy workforce. Whether in the USA, UK or in developing nations, health surveys point towards a rise in chronic diseases, and lifestyle diseases amidst IT professionals which is why wellness measures are being taken for employees. But as individuals there is a need for you, too, to take responsibility of yourself and your health.
As Prevention is better than cure, it’s better to keep your health intact by having to follow a proper disciplined way when you use a computer or smartphones.
Carpel tunnel syndrome – Due to constant use of hands and wrists a major nerve can get compressed due to repetitive work, which may cause pain, numbness in the hands and arms. To prevent this, you need to rotate and stretch your arms and hands. Keep a soft cushion while using the keyboard and mouse, do not sit on the system for long hours and take short breaks periodically for sure.
Anxiety, Stress, and Depression – Continuously meeting of set targets and deadlines induce additional stress and anxiety in IT professionals. Yoga and meditation help to calm down the nerves and control your stress hormones while Exercising is the most effective way to beat the stress.
Deep vein thrombosis – Due to sitting for long hours there is pooling of blood in the legs which may lead to clotting of blood in the veins which causes pain and stiffness. Movement at regular intervals, every 30 minutes, and gentle massage of limbs helps with preventing formation of clots.
Heart disease – A sedentary lifestyle slows down the blood circulation which causes heart disease. Regular exercise, a heart friendly diet, and supplements will help manage and/or prevent heart disease from occurring.
Computer vision syndrome – Long periods of staring at the computer can cause pain, dryness of eyes, and headache. It is advised to avoid using your computer in a darkroom, use antiglare spectacles, keep blinking, and place any screen at least 18-24 inches away from your eyes.
Insomnia – Difficulty in sleeping is a common disorder in software professionals. Staring at illuminated computer screens can alter the production of melatonin, which helps you sleep, in the body. As time passes with the problem unattended you end up with chronic insomnia. At least one hour before sleeping switch off all the devices and try to get 6-8 hours of sleep. You may dim the light and read a book instead.
Lower back pain – When you are sitting in the office chair for hours at a time you may experience lower back pain. Sitting in a fixed posture for long periods it causes stress on bones, joints, and cartilage which over a period can give rise to chronic spinal problems. Change your posture at intervals, do stretching exercises like yoga and use support pillows for the back on your chair. A regular massage will also do wonders.
Neck and eye strain - Neck strain is due to sitting with a neck tilted at an angle for a long time. Hence adjust the level of the chair and computer viewing angle. For eye strain follow a 20/20/20 rule which is, after every 20 minutes of computer work, look at a distance of 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Obesity - This is a typical problem in IT professionals. Lack of exercise, activities and dependence on fast food due to a lack of time for cooking and sitting in one place for long hours adds up the extra pounds. It increases cholesterol and heart problems.
To prevent and cure this Avoid junk food, avoid fried food, eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly and Avoid sitting in one place for long hours.
Breathing problems - Most of the IT companies, MNCs are centrally air conditioned and proper ventilation is ignored. The carbon dioxide level is high inside the office when lot of people exhale in poorly ventilated space. As your brain receives less oxygen, over a period it leads to depression, anxiety, lack of concentration, musculature weakness, reduced memory, strain and pain in the
Pranayama is the best way to maintain A healthy respiratory system along with a body heat and oxygen balance. Arrange ventilation by opening windows, or go out to balconies, gardens a few times every day for fresh air.
Importance of nutrition for IT professionals
With targets to achieve, deadlines to meet, late night work, or hampered sleep cycles due to night shifts, it is very difficult to take control of your health.
Hence the simplest way to enhance your health is to boost your metabolism, maintain healthy body weight and increase brain functions for which you must follow a healthy routine which is easy to stick to. Most of you start your day by skipping your breakfast or the night shifters come home in the morning and crash land on your beds without having your breakfast and only getup at lunchtime. This is not good as no food at the start of the day will make you feel tired early, and a poor nutrition reduces your productivity and your enthusiasm to do work.
- Start your day by having a healthy breakfast. Avoid eating a breakfast high in carbohydrates and sugars but go with one high in complex carbohydrates like oatmeal, cereals, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, yogurt, eggs, and good quality protein powder
- Avoid excess coffee as it overloads the liver and dehydrated you. Instead enjoy herbal teas, and non-caffeinated teas like the green tea
- Portion size all your meals
- Stay hydrated – Drink 8 glasses of water, minimum, in a day
- Eat local whole foods like fresh meat, fish, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds, like our ancestors did
- Dine out but the smart way! Look for steamed, poached food or salads and avoid fried items
- Limit your alcohol intake
- Avoid white rice, white bread, white pasta, and white sauces
- Always carry your own snacks
- Don’t overeat and avoid eating late in the evening/night
Best food for tackling sleeplessness – Melatonin is a hormone required to get good quality sleep. Due to excess exposure to illuminated screens the hormone level may drop. There are foods that can help in inducing sleep and increasing levels of melatonin, potassium along with other vitamins and minerals for sound sleep.
Six essential nutrients for IT professionals
Vitamin B complex – which helps in good digestion, reduction of stress and maintains energy. These are available as multivitamin supplements and naturally found in fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy products, nuts and seeds.
Omega-3 fatty acids – they are helpful in fighting inflammation of joints, tissues and ligaments. Hence help in maintaining joints health. They are found in tuna, sardine, flaxseeds, walnuts, and olive oil.
Calcium – helps in maintaining bones and muscle strength and good blood circulation. It is found in milk, cheese, fortified cereals, leafy vegetables, Enriched soy or almond milk.
Vitamin D – As you are working the whole day in a closed office or night shifter’s sleeping in the bedroom in most part of daytime, you may have almost no exposure to sunlight. If the deficiency is gross, then you can take a vitamin D supplement. It is naturally found in fish, cheese, fortified cereals, and sunlight.
Vitamin C – It helps in improving immunity and reduces inflammation in case of arthritis. It is found naturally in citrus fruits, strawberries, mangoes. Sometimes it is needed to be supplemented by supplement tablets.
Polyphenols – it is an antioxidant for reducing inflammation of joints and slows wearing down of cartilage and helps fight infections. It is present abundantly in green tea.
Other Nutrition Supplements – Despite all the care, you may require appropriate nutrients in form of supplements which may not be fulfilled by your diet.
- A good quality multivitamins or minerals like B complex vitamins is recommended for stress management and a healthy immune system
- A good omega -3 supplement like fish oil helps to keep the brain alert, digestion good and appetite controlled.
Healthy eating may look simple, but we fail at prioritizing our health. When you take care of your body and mind well you will find yourself more productive and energetic. This will keep you happy, healthy and reduce illness and help you to excel in your career.
Exercise for at least 30 to 40 minutes, five days a week as It improves circulation and your joints become free, while muscles get well toned and strong. Yoga with meditation helps in reducing stress and inducing good sleep.
Healthy diet and sound sleep leads to sound health. Sound health leads to a productive, high quality life. Because at end of the day it comes down to only one thing: if you don’t take care of yourself, then even the big bucks you make will only come to use to pay the fat hospital bills.
A Healthy life paves the way for a successful professional life.
- Image 1: https://familyhealthchiropractic.com/sitting-sucks-dont/
- Image 2: https://www.treatpainnow.com/blog/your-daily-routine-may-be-putting-you-at-risk-for-carpal-tunnel-syndrome
- Image 3: https://thebitingtruth.com/nutrition/9-foods-for-a-good-nights-sleep/
About Dr. Umashri Rao Francis: Dr. Francis has been practicing Medicine for over 26 years. She is an experienced General Physician successfully treating a vast majority of the local population, in particular the poorly diagnosed and difficult cases. Dr. Francis is a regular contributor to the #FitBlog and is available to answer your article related questions at firstname.lastname@example.org