More and more of us spend an increasing amount of our working life at a desk, working at a computer. But there’s a whole host of reasons why this isn’t good for us, so let’s look at the dangers of being deskbound – and computer-bound – to see how we can overcome them.
Prolonged Sitting Sessions
Recent research has shown that even if we exercise regularly, sitting for long periods of time can seriously damage on our health. A study of 800,000 people showed a 147% increase in the incidence of cardiovascular events (incidents involving damage to the heart muscle) in people who spent the most time sitting, compared to those who sat the least, and a 90% increase in deaths caused by such events.
The study also showed a 49% increase in death from any cause and a 112% increase in the risk of diabetes amongst those spending longest sitting. “We’re sitting ourselves to death,” warned researcher James Levine, Director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative.
Avoid the danger by:
- Taking regular breaks when you know you’re going to be seated for hours at a time – not just breaks from your activity, but breaks when you get up and move about! Consider enforcing this by using a timer.
- Investing in a standing desk or convertible desk, or alternatively a kit that will turn your existing desk into a standing one. A desk that offers you both seated and standing options without too much conversion time is ideal.
- Looking afresh at the things you do sitting down – travelling on public transport, taking phone calls, reading documentation – and ask yourself if you could do these things standing up (or even better, on the move).
- Remembering that sitting for prolonged periods bad for you not just while working, but while relaxing too. Apply the timed breaks and standing-when-you-can rule to leisure activities as well, particularly if you’re a TV boxset binge-watcher, avid reader or gamer.
Pains and Strains
RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury), Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and back problems can cause major problems for deskbound computer users.
Avoid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome & RSI by:
- Keeping your hands and wrists warm and using ergonomic keyboards and mouse-mats. Consider getting a wrist support and ensure seat height is adjusted so that your elbows are at a 90° angle to your desktop and your arms are just slightly raised at the shoulders.
Avoid Back and Joint Pain By:
- Sitting as close as possible to your desk
- Ensuring your monitor is at eye level so that you’re not craning your neck
- Regularly checking your posture to ensure you’re not hunching or slouching
- Keeping your desk and the area underneath clear so that you’re not sitting or looking at your screen at an angle. Make sure there’s room to stretch your less and do o regularly.
- Consider getting an ergonomic chair, and always ensure that your back meets the back of the chair and your lumbar region is supported (a cushion may help). Check that your knees are level with or slightly higher than your hips and that your feet can rest comfortably on the floor. Make sure, too, that the seat of your chair doesn’t dig in behind your knees and is deep enough to support most of your upper thigh (around three inches between the front edge of your seat and your calf is ideal).
Computer Vision Syndrome
If your time at your desk is spent staring at a screen, then you run the risk of suffering Computer Vision Syndrome, caused by the glare of the screen and the struggle your eyes endure as they try to readjust their focus as your gaze flicks over different objects and text on your screen.
This can strain your eye muscles and make your eyes feel dry and irritated. You can even experience blurred or double vision, headaches and neck pain.
Avoid CVS by:
- Using any inbuilt filters or apps which reduce glare or blue light
- Adjust the brightness and contrast settings on your monitor
- Every 20 minutes, look away from your screen and focus on an object around 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This is known as the 20/20/20 rule.
- Measure the distance between you and your screen. Monitors should ideally be 28 inches away.
These tips should help to make your working routine and environment healthier, so don’t ignore them!