2011-04-19

Body Care for Designers – Exercise

Designers spend long hours at their computers in fixed positions. Their overall workload is sedentary and involves no great strenuous physical effort. The mental loads of designers tend to have them crave sugars and carbohydrates to feed their brains. Designers often have poor posture. A previous eturnerx article explored how to avoid OOS in these situations. In addition to exercise breaks, that article also suggested background fitness and exercise. This article discusses what form those exercises should take. Disclaimer: consult your healthcare professional – their advice trumps mine.

Consult the professionals before beginning any new exercise routine. This starts with a quick check up from your doctor then talk to a personal trainer. Many gyms will include a personal trainer consultation with any new membership – but it pays to ask. Let the personal trainer know that you work long hours at a computer, any areas of pain you have and what goals you have for your exercise regime. If you already have particular areas of pain then a doctor might suggest consulting a physio (physical therapist) who will prescribe remedial exercises.

In general, designers need a well rounded fitness routine – one that does not rely too much on just one of strength, flexibility, speed or cardio-vascular exercises. The exercises should be tailored to improving how the designer handles their daily work tasks.

One issue with sedentary lifestyles like design is that metabolic rate can slow and thus reduce the rate at which toxins are eliminated from the body. The static workloads of designers mean that lactic acid builds in muscles – particularly in the neck, shoulders, arms and hands. Most exercise routines will boost metabolism and a faster metabolism helps the body eliminate lactic acid quicker.

Cardio-vascular exercise gets the heart pumping for at least 20 minutes three to five times per week. This form of exercise is important to promote good blood circulation which will help flush lactic acid from the muscles where it may cause damage. Cardio also produces endorphins that helps combat the nervous stress of working to deadlines. Too much deadline stress builds up adrenaline in the system which can ultimately disturb sleep and shorten life expectancy. Strenuous cardio exercise can work off that adrenalin.

Designers should avoid too much anaerobic exercise – particularly in the arms and shoulders – because anaerobic exercise builds up lactic acid. Designers already have problems with lactic build up so anaerobic exercise should only be done if extensive warm up and warm down exercises are done to fully flush any lactic build up.

Stretching is an important part of the designer’s exercise regime. The daily static workloads mean that joints are rarely moved through a full range of motion so flexibility will be lost over time. Incorporating stretches into the exercise routine will help combat the loss of flexibility and promote better mobility as the designer ages.

Strength training to build (or maintain) muscle mass is important. Muscles are necessary to support the weight of the body and also have a background calorie burning effect. There is no need to become an body builder but do some strength training. A particular area to focus on is the core abdominal muscles that hold the upper body erect. A strong core can promote good posture and avoid back pain. Exercise systems like Pilates can promote good core strength.

Take care of those bodies designers, they need to last a career well enough to have a long and enjoyable retirement.

(The article on OOS discusses why lactic acid build up is such a problem for designers)