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)


  1. Another problem is that we enjoy our work so much that we are workaholics (at least I know that I have tendencies towards this). In addition, no matter how ergonomically correct I set up my desk and work area, I always find some way to sit awkwardly with poor posture...

    One thing in my favor is that I like schedules; once I have something scheduled, I will do it. I always schedule my time so that I go to the gym at least two nights a week during the week and then go to my two favorite exercise classes on Friday and Saturday. Any extra exercise, such as a walk to the bank to deposit my checks (^_^), is an added bonus.

  2. The bad effects of sitting for hours may far outweigh the good effects of 3 weekly exercise sessions.

    Read "Is sitting a Lethal Activity" from the New York Times.

    We might have to start fidgeting for our health!

  3. Keep note of your research so you will be certain to remember the abdominal exercise machines that will give you the best performance for your kind of training when you are ready to buy. As you shop for elliptical machines, remember that these beauties can give the best of several forms of workouts combined into one machine.

  4. should just let all designer's blast Lady Gaga, good luck staying still then.