The human body is an amazing machine and it is so adaptable that it allowed human mankind to survive and evolve over millions of years. However, there are limitations to what the body can do and the pace of how we have transformed our society poses major challenges and dangers. We went from an almost exclusively outdoors working and physical activate society, to one where we now almost exclusively sit all day long, the longest distance we walk if from the house door to our cars, perform mostly passive work with lots of mental stress without having the possibility to vent, and we look at bright screens from when we wake up until we fall asleep.
As traders, we spend most our days and life’s sitting down, not moving, being exposed to constant stress, while trying to perform at the highest level. Throughout this article we provide evidence of medical and scientific research how our trading lifestyle influences our physiology and our health. And, even more important, we provide practical tips how you can improve your work situation easily and efficiently.
Sitting is the new smoking
The heading might sound a little exaggerated but the findings of the studies we are going to present now have greatly surprised us as well; we also want to stress that the selection of studies around sitting presented here are just a sample of hundreds of similar and equally significant findings:
- In a study that spanned over 16 years, researchers found that people who sit for long periods were 24% more likely to die from health problems during the study.
- The study also showed an 18% increased risk of dying of cardiovascular disease (disease that involve the heart and blood vessels, such as stroke, hypertensive heart disease, rheumatic heart disease, among many others) and a 17% increased risk of dying from cancer caused by extensive sitting.
- But the highest risk comes with a 91% increased likelihood of getting Type 2 diabetes when sitting for long periods.
- com provides another list of different studies around the effects of sitting which state that sitting causes obesity, raises the likelihood of cancer, an earlier death, muscular issues and higher depression.
Although we will come to the more specific tips how to achieve a more balanced lifestyle later, we want to highlight an important finding here. Dr. Alter, senior scientist, Toronto Rehab, UHN, said that “it is not good enough to exercise for 30 minutes a day and be sedentary for 23 and half hours.”
Just think about your average day. In the morning, we get in our cars or into the subway (where we sit down), at work we only leave our desk to get another coffee or to get lunch where we sit down with our colleagues. After we get home in the evening, we lay down on the couch and spend our evenings watching TV. Common sense already suggests that 30 minutes of exercise cannot be enough to offset such a highly sedentary and sitting lifestyle.
Stress – A trader’s best friend
As traders, we are constantly exposed to a level of stress from the time we pull the trigger on our trades, to the time when we manage our trades and react to the market volatility, until the moment when we close our trade. Stress is an always present companion for traders. Although stress isn’t bad per definition, the combination of chronic stress and an unbalanced passive lifestyle can be disastrous for traders.
A studied showed that 90% of all illnesses and disease are stress-related. This study should make it obvious why stress and avoiding stress is worth your attention.
When we experience stress, our heart beats faster and it signals our brain’s prefrontal cortex (the part of your brain which is responsible for thought processing and decision making) to shut down temporarily and to let your midbrain take over (the older part of your brain where our impulsive reflexes and instincts are habituated). This physiological effect is also the cause why traders so often make ‘bad’ decisions when exposed to stress, because they stop making rational decisions, and just respond to the ancient fight or flight instincts.
Chronic stress, such as the stress traders experience daily, is also linked to shrinking the hippocampus which is responsible for our memory forming. Chronic stress can also cause us to enter a state of cortisol dominance, which negatively affects learning, attention span and memory – 3 things which are essential for traders and successful trading. Chronic stress also affects our immune system and it, thus, can make us more susceptible to getting sick. It can also lead to the development of heart disease and high blood pressure.
The computer mouse – how bad is it really?
Although the computer mouse (or notebook touchpad) seems like such a small and innocent tool, we are constantly using it to connect to our charts. At any given day, we wrap our hands around the mouse for hours.
The excessive use of a computer mouse can be the cause for a variety of health problems, such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Tenosynovitis / DeQuervain’s Syndrome, Tendonitis, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, Trigger Finger, among many others.
The constant demand of keyboarding and ‘mousing’ combined with the postural stress of confinement in an office chair with one’s neck and back held in prolonged fixed positions has resulted in an epidemic of injuries that includes hand pain, wrist pain, arm pain, neck pain, back pain and shoulder pain. (source: Businessknowhow.com)
To overcome these problems, we have a variety of tips and tools at the end of this article.
Computer screens and artificial lightning
We have tackled three big problem areas who make up the most part of our trading days so far: the sitting, the stress and the mouse. Now we take a look at how staring into a screen all day long affects our well-being and our health. The findings we came across were very surprising to say the least.
During night our body produces Melatonin which is a hormone that helps us recover and it can only be produced when we are not exposed to light. Research has found out long ago that being exposed to bright light before going to bed can influence and harm the Melatonin production. Thus, staying in a bright light room before sleeping can interfere with our Melatonin production. Melatonin deficiency can lead to sleeping disorders, cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression and impact our immune system.
Maybe even more important for traders are the impacts of ‘blue’ computer screen light. The Harvard Health Plubication put together an extensive health letter about the problems of blue light; we highlight the most important findings here:
- Exposure to light at night increase the likelihood of developing several types of cancer (breast, prostate), diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
- We do know that exposure to light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that influences circadian rhythms, and there’s some experimental evidence (it’s very preliminary) that lower melatonin levels might explain the association with cancer.
- Researchers have linked short sleep to increased risk for depression, as well as diabetes and cardiovascular problems.
Our tips and tools for a healthier trading environment
The purpose of this article is not to disturb you, but to raise awareness for the importance of optimizing your trading environment. We, as traders, spend the majority of our lives in front of our charts and that’s why we should minimize the risks of damaging our bodies and health!
The correct setup of your desk
The biggest impact on your health has adjusting your desk and the setup of your screen(s), chair and posture. You can use the following link to check how your current setup compares to the optimal ways of sitting at a desk.
The best office chair
Moritz uses the Aeron office chair and although is comes at a steep price (> $700), it is worth every Penny. You spent thousands of hours sitting on your butt and the choice of the correct chair impacts your health on so many levels as we have seen. You have to know for yourself what your health is worth to you.
The ultimate, ergonomic mouse
The Evoluent mouse emulates the natural hand posture and it helps reduce the negative effects of using a regular mouse.
Additional wrist exercises: Here are three exercises that you can do throughout the day to avoid the capal tunnel syndrome.
Additional wrist support: Research also found that by using a soft support for your wrist when using the keyboard, muskusceltol problems can also be reduced.
Reducing the bad effects of a bright computer screen
This is a tool we have been using for years and we can’t live without it anymore. Flu.X reduces the blue light of your computer screen at night and adjusts the color temperature of your screen.
We urge you to give it a try. When the sun sets, the screen adjust automatically; try disabling flux after using it for a few hours and you will see the huge difference. This is an especially important tool if you work late at night because it may help reduce the negative effects of blue screen light.
The newest smartphones also have a settings option which allows you to adjust the screen light based on the surroundings.
Additional tip: Research found that anti-glare screens also reduce visual problem among people who excessively engage in computer work. If you don’t want to invest in a new anti-glare screen, many different types of anti-glare foils are available which have similar effects.
Tips for less visual problems
The 20 20 20 rule helps avoid visual problems which are caused by excessive computer use. The rule says that every 20 minutes you should look at an object 20 feet away for more than 20 seconds.
Rob Hogan (2000) reported that looking on the screen for long periods might reduce the blink rate of the eye and allow the tear film on the surface of the eye to dry which can result into dry and sore eyes.
The 20 20 20 rule relaxes your eye muscles and may prevent other visual problems.
Your office environment
Lightning: Do you get enough natural daylight? Research showed that a not having enough exposure to natural daylight can cause sleepiness much earlier in the afternoon; and who doesn’t know the “4 p.m. slump”?
The correct combination of different light sources is also very important. While indirect light helps reduce the effects of glaring and reflections, direct lightning provides shadiness for good illumination.
Temperature: Another study showed that people made more mistakes when the room temperature was low (68 degrees or 20 degrees Celsius). Feeling cold makes us use more energy and distracts our focus. The optimal room temperature is at 77 degrees or 25 degrees Celsius.
Relax and take a mini-vacation at your desk
We have talked about the disastrous effects of chronic stress before. Now we show you how to reduce the impacts; stress-reduction strategies, such as meditation, relaxation, and exercise, have been shown to help reverse this effect and prevent disease.
Calm.com is an easy, fast and efficient way to escape the hectic routine of the markets for a short time. Just choose your favorite surrounding such as water drops, a tropical rain, a flowing river, or the sounds of the ocean and you can start a 5 minute guided meditation. Give it a try and fully immerse yourself in the experience; it’s a great way to take a short break.
Rolf is also a big fan of the meditation app Headspace and he uses it daily. You not only find your regular guided meditations on your app, but it also offers meditations that go along with sports, commuting and sleep help.
Easy to follow health tips
This scope of this article probably doesn’t leave enough space to offer a thorough health and exercise plan, but we want to give you a few tips and raise your awareness for how easy it often is to improve the quality of our days; being mindful can help you make better decisions.
- Take the stairs. Yes, you have heard this so often before, but we hope that by showing you how bad the excessive sitting lifestyle is for our health, you are now ready to start making a change
- Take mini-breaks. Instead of having a bottle of water at your desk, take a glass at a time to make sure you get frequent breaks
- Stand up! There are many forms of office desks with adjustable heights. This would be a great purchase and well worth your money.
- Use printer time. While waiting for the report to be printed, use the time effectively. Calf-raises, some stretching routine or other forms of mini-exercises can be done
- Better coffee breaks. When you meet your coworkers in the cafeteria for a coffee, don’t spend your time sitting again. Use these 10 – 15 minute breaks consciously to get some standing-time
Here is another great list of 33 desk exercises that can help you spice up your office routine and provide health benefits while being at work.
What is your favorite tip and which tools are you using to create a healthier trading environment? If there is something that you are passionate about and use in your daily life, we would like to hear from you. Just leave a comment below and we make sure to give it a try and include it in our list.
“Man surprised me most about humanity. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.” – The Dalai Lama
Image credit: Datei: #92696037 | Urheber: cookamoto