Sitting at a Computer All Day? Health Risks and Mitigations

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Consider the challenges our bodies face when interacting with the tools of the cyber business world on a day to day basis. With care and attention to the impact of our computer working on our bodies, and minimise the impact on our health, enjoying a successful and productive career: Prevention is better than cure.

Eyestrain

Whilst using computers, we stare at screens and our natural blinking rate is reduced. Long periods of staring tire your eye muscles and they become painful, to the detriment of your eyesight. Squinting at a screen in a poorly lit environment is not ideal and eye-strain can cause headaches. Eye problems include irritation, redness, stinging, itching, gravelly sensations, blurred or double vision. You may also experience temporary myopia i.e. you can’t see distant objects clearly after computer use.

Taking simple practical steps can minimise eyestrain:

  • Reduce monitor glare by fitting a screen filter
  • Reduce environmental glare through the use of blinds on windows.
  • Use an anti-reflective and non-flickering monitor screen
  • Take regular breaks (10 minutes every hour) from your computer
  • Look away from your monitor at regular intervals
  • Exercise your eye muscles regularly re-focussing on distant or closer objects.

Posture problems and Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)

Adopting a poor/awkward posture whilst at your computer leads many users to experience back problems. Additionally, the impact of RSI should not be underestimated. RSI damages fingers, wrists and other parts of your body, due to repeated movements over long periods of time whilst using your computer.

To reduce risk of these injuries:

  • Use a fully adjustable, ergonomic chair and a footrest
  • Your chair shouUld support your back immediately in the curved lumbar area
  • Tilting computer screens avoid awkward body movements
  • Use a wrist rests to elevate your wrists when typing or mousing.
  • Sit with your body in a relaxed and neutral position
  • Don’t adopt a 90-degree upright posture, adopt a reclined posture of 100-110 degrees
  • Position your monitor correctly at arm’s length: further away if it’s a larger monitor
  • When looking straight ahead your eyes should be focussed 2-3 inches below the top of the monitor

Hypertension

Extended periods of sitting combined with high stress workloads are a classic recipe for High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) problems and complications. Hypertension and heart disease remain among the top killers of those under 60.

Other health problems

Your mental well-being can be impacted by all day computer working. Your work involves high levels of visual concentration and dexterous movements which in human activity terms aren’t “natural” thus can be stressful. Hardware/software constraints may delay completion of an activity contrary to your normal working pace, and lack of workload control adds to the stress. Take on the guidance above and take regular breaks from the computer. Type with a light touch, avoiding excessive or prolonged mouse grasping and if possible use technology up to the task.

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