Tracking Your Health

These goals are presented in the book as a progressive framework to improve your health. You can achieve each of them by following the daily checklist.


#1: Change One Habit

Pick a simple habit of yours and change it. A good example might be walking to the vending machine at work to buy a candy bar every afternoon. Or maybe just switching the pocket where you put your keys. In the book, we'll discuss some strategies that will make this faster and easier.

#2: Buy a Pedometer

This is probably the easiest goal in the book, but possibly one of the most useful. In fact, many studies show that simply wearing a pedometer is correlated with taking more steps. Below is a list of links to a few recommended pedometers you can buy:

#3: Find Your Resting Heart Rate

The best way to get your true resting heart rate is by taking your pulse first-thing in the morning before even getting out of bed. A normal range is between 60 and 90 BPM -- you should see a doctor if it's any higher than 100 BPM.

Resting heart rate can tell you a lot about your body. In 2011, researchers in Norway and Sweden published the results of a 10 year study that tracked the resting heart rates of 29,000 people. The participants whose resting heart rate was under 70 BPM at the start of the study and rose to over 85 BPM by the end of the study were 90% more likely to have died in those 10 years. The results suggest that lowering your heart rate over time may be beneficial to your mortality, but the researchers could not say that for certain.

#4: Check Your Blood Pressure

Your blood pressure can be an early indicator of many health problems. Blood pressure is the force of blood against the arteries created by the heart as it pumps blood through the circulatory system. Like all muscles, the heart alternates between contracting and relaxing and blood pressure varies between these two states. That's why we measure it with two numbers: systolic blood pressure (the pressure when the heart contracts), and diastolic blood pressure (the pressure when the heart relaxes). Overall blood pressure is expressed as systolic over diastolic (e.g. 120/85).

Most pharmacies are equipped with machines that allow customers to measure their own blood pressure. This is probably the quickest way to get a reading. You can also buy a device that hooks up to your iPhone if you like tech gadgets. But a trained professional, such as the nurse at your family doctor's office, will usually give you the most reliable reading.

#5: Enhance Your Workstation

The best desk position is the one you aren't in right now -- movement is key to being healthy. If your workstation doesn't allow for you to change position, then it's an obstacle. Use the advice in this chapter to enhance your workstation so that it facilitates at least three different positions.

For ideas, check out Jessica Allen's blog posts on standing desks.

#6: Count Your Calories For One Day

This may sound simple but there's a good chance you'll get it wrong. Studies have shown that most people are very inaccurate when counting calories. They don't include snacks, they feel ashamed and ultimately underestimate.

In one case, two neuroscientists at Kennesaw State University in Georgia had people photograph their food before they recorded it in a diary. They found that the majority of participants had substantially underestimated their food intake -- sometimes by an entire meal. Other studies have found that subjects underestimated their consumption by an average of 13 percent.

In The Healthy Programmer, we'll discuss strategies that will help you eat consciously, which will better enable you to accurately meet this goal.

#7: Get an Eye Exam

A comprehensive eye examination is a series of tests that check your vision and the health of your eyes. It should be performed by a professional licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist. The exam includes tests for visual acuity, three-dimensional vision, peripheral vision, pupil function and color blindness among other things.

According to the National Institutes of Health, adults between the ages of 20 and 39 should complete a full exam every five to ten years with regular checkups as needed. Adults who wear contacts should have an examination every year. Adults over the age of 40 should have an exam every one to three years.

You can also do a self-examination with your iPhone. A few good apps are listed below.

#8: Pass All Kraus-Weber Tests

The Kraus-Weber (K-W) Test of Minimum Muscular Fitness measures large muscle groups for strength and flexibility. After practicing the exercise plan in The Healthy Programmer, you should be able to pass all six of the K-W tests.

#9: Get a Negative Result on Reverse Phalen's Test

In the 1950's, George Phalen develop a test to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome. The test worked well, but in the last 20 years a modified version, a Reverse Phalen's Manevuer, has proven to work better. If you get a strong positive result, see a doctor.

#10: Take a Yoga Class

There's plenty of research showing the health benefits of yoga, but it needs to be practiced under the proper instruction and supervision. That's why it's best for you to learn about it outside of this book. There are also indications that it can help with wrist pain.

#11: Do a Pomodoro Workout

Get a timer and do a Pomodoro Workout. In the breaks between iterations you can do some of the activities you've learned in the book.

#12: Sign Up For an Online Fitness Service

Go sign up for an online service. The best service for you depends on your ability level. If you're ready to tackle some tough challenges, then try Strava. If you're just getting started or need more guidance, then try the Daily Burn. Some other services inlcude:

#13: Learn About Your Family Medical History

Ask your parents and grandparents what caused their parents deaths. Did they suffer from any health conditions that you didn't know about? Understanding your genetic predisposition for cancer, heart disease and stroke can help you make better decisions about your health. Write this information down and pass it on to your next of kin. Some tools for doing this are listed below.

#14: Take an Outdoor Vacation

Schedule a trip to go camping, hiking, fishing, canoeing, rock climbing or participate in any other outdoor activity. A trip to a National Park or any other forest may boost your immune system, lower your blood pressure, and reduce stress more than a vacation to a city.

#15: Take a Rock Climbing Class

You don't have to ascend mountains to go rock climbing. Short bouldering problems like those pioneered by John Gill can exercise every aspect of your fitness in just a few minutes. A bouldering problem is a puzzle that must be solved by practicing the movements and angles required to complete the route. This kind of complex motion can have a unique affect on your mind.

#16: Reach the 50th percentile for the Fitness Test

Achieve a score on the fitness test that surpasses 50 percent of people in your age and sex group. That means the goals will vary for each reader. You can get your exact ranking by entering your scores online at The Adult Fitness Challenge website.