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The Healthy Programmer: Get Fit, Feel Better, and Keep Coding (Pragmatic Programmers) Paperback – 6 Jul 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Pragmatic Bookshelf; 1 edition (6 July 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1937785319
  • ISBN-13: 978-1937785314
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 1.3 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 498,883 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Joe Kutner has been a programmer for over a decade and he's spent many of those years researching the health issues that relate to his sedentary job. He's also a former college athlete and Army Reserve physical fitness trainer. Through his research and personal experience, he's learned that small changes can make big differences in peoples' health. Now he wants to help other programmers improve their lifestyles.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An excellent book that is very well researched. The author does not give in to sensationalism by making radical claims in the health department. Instead Joe Kutner actually uses a good selection criteria for each claim he makes. All are based on peer-reviewed publications.

In case you do not know - in the world of science - you research something and then publish it in a journal. This allows others to critique it and it is essentially the aim of every researcher. However, there is a lot of pseudoscience out there. This is the stuff that is so niche as to be impossible or at least very difficult to disprove. Eventually such work will lose attention of peers and pass into history unless someone does the right legwork and tries to disprove it. It's essentially a shortcut to a doctorate or similar award. Become a specialist in something that nobody else knows about. This is often why there are so many fabulous but fickle claims in the popular press. One minute fat is bad for you, the next it is essential. Eggs can kill you, then they can make you live longer. The list is endless, and is primarily due to science journalists' literal reading of such unique research.

Joe Kutner selects only those claims that back up existing bodies of work (i.e. ensure it is not revolutionary), and secondly only those claims that are published in professional journals. For me, this is just the start of the beautiful way this book is written for developers. Joe used to be a health practitioner before becoming a programmer, and this gives him a unique view on the world of development.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 13 reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
One of the best common sense guides to health and fitness 12 Aug. 2013
By Ben Rothke - Published on
Format: Paperback
Diet books are literally a dime a dozen. They generally benefit only the author, publisher and Amazon, leaving the reader frustrated and bloated. With a failure rate of over 99%, diet books are the epitome of a sucker born every minute.

One of the few diet books that can offer change you can believe in is The Healthy Programmer: Get Fit, Feel Better, and Keep Coding. Author Joe Kutner observes that nearly every popular diet fails and the reason is that they are based on the premise of a quick fix without focusing on the long-term core issues. It is inevitable that these diets will fail and the dieters at heart know that. It is simply that they are taking the wrong approach. This book is about the right approach; namely a slow one. With all of the failed diet books, Kutner is one of the few that has gotten it right.

While the title of the book says it's for programmers, it is germane to anyone whose job requires them to be at a desk for extended amounts of time.

Kutner is himself a programmer who builds Ruby and Rails applications, and a former college athlete and Army Reserve physical fitness trainer.

The book focuses on two areas that require change: regular exercise and proper nutrition; and it details the steps necessary to create a balanced lifestyle.

While popular diet books require rapid and major lifestyle changes and promise quick weight-loss, the book notes that small changes to your habits can provide the long-term effects that can improve your health. The book focuses on incremental changes and sustainability, not about losing x pounds in x weeks.

The book is different (read: effective) as opposed to other diet and lifestyle books, in that its goal is to make your healthy lifestyle pragmatic, attainable, and fun. It is only with those aspects that long-term change be possible.

As to programmers, Kutner writes that programming requires intense concentration that often causes them to neglect other aspects of their lives; the most common of which is their health. People's bodies have not evolved to accommodate a lifestyle of sitting and there are many negative health effects from it.

The book takes a start small approach, rather than one of drastic changes. In chapter 2, it notes the myriad benefits of walking. It states that walking is a powerful activity that can stimulate creative thinking (a required trait for a good programmer) and is a great way to bootstrap your health. The chapter details the ways in which a few short walks during the day can have a dramatic positive effect on your life.

Chapter 3 is about the dangers of chairs and sitting for long periods of time. It details a number of ways to counter the dangers of sitting. It also notes that while sometimes you simply can't get away from your chair, and when that happens, you can make sitting less dangerous by forcing your muscles to contract without even getting up. It then details a number of different calisthenics to use to do this.

Chapter 4 - Agile Dieting - is perhaps the best part of the book. It details how to fight the real causes of weight gain and details proven solutions that work. That chapter repeatedly uses terms like iterative, sustainable, slow to show what it really takes to lose weight and achieve a healthy lifestyle.

Kutner notes that most of the popular fad diets are idiosyncratic and unbalanced. They will provide short-term benefits, but ultimately fail miserably. The chapter quotes research data on what needs to be in a balanced diet. It then notes that almost every fad diet violates those needs. Nutrition needs to be rounded and well-balanced and the fad diets for that reason will only work in the short term.

This book is everything the fad diet books are not and this is most manifest in chapter 4 where Kutner writes one should cut calories slowly. This is based on research which shows that quick drastic weight loss is counterproductive. While the fad diets talk about drastic caloric changes, Kutner suggests dropping your intake slower, about 100 calories every two weeks until you get you your targeted caloric intake level.

While much of the book is on fitness and nutrition, it takes a complete body approach. Chapter 5 details the importance of eye health. This is an important topic since the average programmer spends much of their week behind a monitor.

Kutner writes about computer vision syndrome (CVS); an eye condition resulting from focusing the eyes on a monitor for extended amounts of time. Symptoms of CVS include headaches, blurred vision, neck pain, redness in the eyes, fatigue, eye strain, dry eyes, irritated eyes, double vision, vertigo/dizziness, polyopia, and difficulty refocusing the eyes. The book also details methods in which to minimize the effects of CVS, and how not to become a victim of it. Kutner writes that CVS is what most programmers refer to as life. But it does not have to be that way.

The rest of the book covers other physical ailments that plague programmers. This runs the gamut from headaches, backaches, wrist problem, carpel tunnel, head strain and much more. Most of these problems can be obviated if one follows proper ergonomics practices and employs some of the physical conditioning detailed in the book.

Another area where Kutner goes against the tide is with stretching. For many people, stretching is an integral part of their pre-workout preparation. In the book, he quotes research that stretching may do more harm than good, and ultimately provides little benefit for most people.

Another theme of the book is using goals as an impetus for change. The book lists 16 goals which can be used as a progressive framework to improve your health. These goals include buying a pedometer, finding your resting heart rate, getting a negative result on Reverse Phalen's test and other lifestyle changes.

Given the preponderance of obesity, diabetes and other maladies associated with a sedentary lifestyle, this may be one of the most important non-programming books that every developer should read and take to heart.

The book has hundreds of bits of excellent advice and subtle lifestyle suggestions that over time can make a significant difference to your health.

The book concludes with the observation that programmers often say the hardest part of software development begins when a product is released. The real work, maintenance, continues on, much like your health. You must sustain a stat of wellness for the rest of your life, and you need to continue setting goals, iterating and making small improvements,

For many programmers, they love their job but not the lifestyle problems that come with it. For the programmer that wants the challenges of the professional and the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, The Healthy Programmer: Get Fit, Feel Better, and Keep Coding, may be a life changing book, and should find its rightful place on every programmer's desk.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A health guide directed at desk-bound workers 10 July 2013
By Robert L Miller - Published on
Format: Paperback
When I heard about this book I purchased it while still in pre-release form through the publisher's beta release program. I had seen the presentation by the author at various venues regarding the health issues that a desk worker faces and things they can do to improve their overall health. I am a programmer and have really begun to feel the effects of sitting behind a desk all day for so many years.

I like the book. Its style is in the form of many of The Pragmatic Bookshelf titles and is very approachable. It can be read by people who just want to know what to do and also has detail balloons with information to satisfy people who want to know more technical information.

A few items this book addresses that I keyed into first:
-Back strain
-Eye strain
-Wrist pain (a big deal for me)
-How to evaluate and adjust the foods you eat. Being "Agile" with your dietary approach
-low-intensity exercises (with pictures of people doing them). Some you can do in the office, others you could do at home

The author also talks about how exercise and food adjustments can make you more creative and intelligent.

This book fits my approach to health much better than others I have seen because I am a desk worker, and I wanted help with things I can apply within my environment. It really comes down to happiness, and if I get healthier I equate that to having a higher baseline happiness and quality of life.

P.S. I forgot to mention that there is a free companion iPhone app which is very closely matched to the book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Agile Health! 13 Aug. 2013
By M. Helmke - Published on
Format: Paperback
I sit at a desk all day. I sit with my hands on a keyboard or mouse and my eyes fixed on a computer screen. This is a terrible thing to do to one's body. I learned this first hand when, just over two years ago, I developed wrist and back pain so severe I nearly chose a different career. Instead, I talked to a doctor, read up on ergonomics and repetitive stress injuries, and made some significant changes to how I work.

I wish this book had existed back then, and better yet that I had read the book before the pain started. Even though I am healthy and doing well, I find that I must be vigilant. I get up and walk for a few minutes every hour. I take longer walks at least twice a day. I look away from the monitor frequently. Still, when I'm in the groove, it is easy to look up and realize that I have not changed my position for 3 hours. Those moments are far less frequent, and must be infrequent if I want to be able to do this sort of work the rest of my life. Same goes for you, and the sooner you realize it and adjust your work habits for the sake of your health, the better.

The Healthy Programmer: Get Fit, Feel Better, and Keep Coding is a book I recommend highly to all who work behind a desk all day, but it is especially written for programmers. While I spend more time writing documentation nowadays, my thinking patterns and my physical habits fall into the same category. This book spoke clearly to me and I think it will to anyone in a similar position.

The Healthy Programmer suggests a method of implementing changes to daily work and diet patterns that will be familiar to programmers. It is iterative, measured, and all-around Agile. You start by taking stock of where you want to go, what you want to see happen. Then, you measure how things are today and make small changes, one at a time, to your life and see how each affects the things you measured. As you get the hang of one thing and choose to incorporate it into your regular lifestyle, you measure something else and repeat the process.

We start with an introductory chapter. These lay the foundation for why some habits are good while others are not. Most of the facts are already known to us. Face it, programmer/computer engineer types are a pretty bright bunch. However, we don't always choose to apply our knowledge, primarily because of how we have adapted ourselves to the pressures of the job. Once you get past the no-scare-tactic-or-hype discussion of habits and the well-cited using academic journals research behind what the book promotes, you find yourself wanting to do the things it discusses. It is kind of like that time you heard about a new toolkit available in a programming language you love that lets you implement a feature you have been dying to play with. You can't wait to get started.

Topics covered in the book include walking, sitting vs standing, diet and nutrition, headaches and eye strain, back pain, wrist pain, exercise, getting up and out of your cube or home office, understanding fitness, and more. Everything comes with citations and balanced, scientific discussion that never gives in to hype or fad. You get advice that is backed up by doctors, scientists, nutritionists, and fitness professionals...and none of it sounds like the stuff you hear in the diet craze of the month or year. There are no vague promises, no unrealistic expectations, no fearmongering nor scare tactics. Just good information that is well presented and molded into a style of communication and plan for implementation that will be familiar to programmers.

This is a 200+ page book that can be easily skimmed over a weekend. Then, you can go back through it slowly over a period of months and let it help you be or become healthy and prevent, reduce, or eliminate pain. It is worth it.
Does fine job spreading useful information about healthy lifestyle for programmers 2 Sept. 2014
By vrto - Published on
Format: Paperback
We, the programmers, don't use our body as it was intended to by mother nature. We sit all day and stare into screen. Not exactly healthy activity, aye?

Healthy lifestyle and regular exercising are essential not only to our health, but to our productivity as well. Healthy body - healthy soul. Few programmers realize this, but it's getting better! The single most important thing about this book is that is spreads the useful word. And it spreads it in a way that is easy to consume by programmers.

You're gonna find out some interesting things; on sitting, chairs, standing tables, walking, running, diet, exercising, healthy companies and so on. I try to have fairly balanced diet and get enough of exercise, but I still learned plenty of interesting facts. I consulted some things in this book with more athletic friends of mine and even they were (pleasantly) surprised with some things that book mentions.

Yeah yeah. It's nothing revolutionary. Yes there are other very similar books. Yes this is just normal 'healthy lifestyle with fitness' book with some obscure programmer jargon (like unit testing your body and refactoring your diet and so on). But hey, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that!

Note: I actually bought audiobook and listened to it on my commute. It's one of few audiobooks on 'programming-ish' things available and it's really nice to listen to.
Just what every sedentary worker needs to read! 11 Aug. 2013
By Sandra Henry-Stocker - Published on
Format: Paperback
I just read this book and reviewed it at [...] I was very much impressed by the quality of the scientific research that the author references and uses. His insights and advice are on target and can be used to reverse or avoid so many of the health problems that IT workers are facing. Super book! Well researched, well written and very practical. If all you can do is move around every half hour or follow some of the suggested exercises, you will feel the difference. And, as the author points out, working toward fitness in the ways suggested will not only improve how you feel; it will improve your mood and ability to solve problems. Your body AND your career need you to read this book!
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