Staring at a computer all day with hands resting on a keyboard and bottom glued to a chair was likely not evolution’s intention. Yet so many of us find ourselves in this position, whether professionally or personally. Thus, I am going to merge my two lives, that of health promoter and that of writer, and discuss the edge-of-your seat topic of desk ergonomics.
The human body is made for motion. Sitting too long at a computer strains muscles and ligaments, leading to neck, shoulder, back, wrist and knee pain, and can even contribute to a pinched nerve or herniated disc. Furthermore, staring at a screen all day causes eye strain, leading to blurred vision and headaches.
And what about those charming headlines that spout “desk jobs can kill you” or “sitting too long hastens your death” or “desk work makes you fat”? Those are real killjoys.
So what can you do to prevent these undesirable outcomes?
Ergonomics refers to designing workplaces that minimize operator discomfort. To ensure your little corner of the writing world is Homo sapiens-friendly, here are some tips.
- Your computer should be on a flat surface in front of you, slightly below eye level. In other words, don’t tap on your lap. In fact, health care providers are seeing increased numbers of thigh rashes due to the heat of a laptop when the device is used literally.
- Your weight should be evenly distributed in a good chair with lumbar support, your posture straight, and feet touching the ground.
- Wrists should be in a straight, natural position to avoid carpel tunnel syndrome or tendinitis.
To see the above in pictorial form, check out this link from the Mayo Clinic. Or, if you have absolutely no other obligations in life, visit the more reading-intensive site of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
And most importantly, we need to get up and move. Aside from the musculoskeletal reasons on which I previously pontificated, sitting too long increases our risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, even if we exercise regularly. Well that stinks.
Recommendations for how often we should get off our behinds vary from every 15 to 60 minutes, but personally, I try to get up and move at least every 60 minutes. A run up the stairs and some back stretches here, a few jumping jacks and some yoga moves there.
For a nice list of desk stretching exercises, click this link from WebMD.
And with that, I have exceeded my computer time and am overdue for a movement break. I just need to keep it out of the kitchen…
Photo credit: Microsoft Clip Art