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Most people don't realize the impact computers have on their health. Your eyes dry out from staring at the bright screen; the muscles of your hands, arms, and neck stiffen due to extensive use of the mouse and keyboard. All of this can lead to some serious problems in the long term.
It can be stressful, isolating, and can even lead to depression and anxiety. You're compromising your health.
It doesn't have to be that way!
Thankfully, there are some power tips and dynamic exercises you can implement to stay healthy. But first, let's take a look at the full impact computers have on your health so we can better understand how the exercises will benefit you.
Your Eyes are the Biggest Victim
Eyestrain occurs anytime we look at something for too long. Be it driving, reading or looking at a computer screen or even the TV. But there's something about looking at a computer screen that causes more issues, as you constantly need to focus on texts, images, and videos which results in eyestrain.
In 2015 the Department of Ophthalmology at Chettinad Hospital and Research Institute conducted a survey of 300 patients who were randomly selected from various IT companies. They found that these patients had ocular complaints in descending order such as eye strain (69%), headache (56%), dryness (49%), irritation (47%), burning sensation (41%), blurred vision (39%), itching (32%), watering (29%), redness (21%), and double vision (16%). None of that sounds very good, does it?
Fortunately, eyestrain rarely results in a permanent disease. It's simply a short-term condition which is an irritant throughout your day.
The Impact of Computer on Your Overall Health
We've all heard that when taking long flights, we should get up and move to stretch and get our blood flowing. Whether you are sitting in front of the computer, the TV, or reading a book, sitting for long stretches of time is generally not good for your health. Sitting in one constant position affects your blood circulation, and your back experiences severe stress. Most people also tend to develop bad sitting habits. We've all been there. It's easy to develop bad posture from anything you do habitually, whether it's sitting, standing, or walking. But this can cause shoulder, back, and neck pain which often results in tension headaches. A great article by Dr. Prakesh et al concluded that the widespread usage of computers has given rise to a number of musculoskeletal disorders. The authors feel a strong need for further studies, as most specialists are not even aware of these issues.
The Impact of Keyboard on Your Wrists
The repetition involved in your day job, like typing, often causes repetitive strain injury which affects your hand muscles and leads to a permanent disease called Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). CTS is a common condition that causes pain, numbness, or a dull ache in the fingers and wrists. In most of the cases, CTS can be treated, but not always. The worst case scenario can be surgery, but even non-surgical treatments like wrist splints and corticosteroid injections are annoying. Typically, the best way to prevent CTS is to simply take breaks from your work. It's as easy as that!
The Little Known Shortcuts You Can Implement to Improve Your Health
There's no magic bullet to avoid health issues. But with proper exercises, timely breaks and a healthy diet you can kill most of the symptoms.
Here're some great ways experts suggest that'll help you stay healthy and in shape at work.
1) Say no to high-calorie food
It's so tempting when you see your coworker having candies at their desk. While working you're likely to feel hungry and those candies can add a few hundred calories to your diet if you're not careful. Take a break, walk around, breathe fresh air, and skip the candy to stay healthy. But if you're feeling hungry eat some fruits like cherries or grapes. These types of sweet fruit help to curb the craving for candy, and at the same time, you're choosing the much healthier option.
2) Drink an adequate amount of water
It's so easy to forget to drink water. Just plain water. The simple truth is that simply drinking water can solve most health and even concentration issues. Drinking an adequate amount of water - 8 to 10 glasses a day - is very important to stay healthy and maintain your fitness. It helps keep you hydrated, so your mind is on full alert, and it helps cleanse your body at the same time. To help keep track of your drinking, set an alarm (maybe a quiet one so you don't disturb your coworkers) to remind you to take a sip or refill your bottle. Or, get a few coworkers together and set your timers to synch up!
Another thing you can do is eat fruits like orange, grapefruit, grape, watermelon, and apple. All of these fruits are a great source of water. They have the added bonus of helping those cravings for candies your coworkers are sure to have on their desk.
3) Take a break and walk around whenever possible
One of the most important things you can do to stay healthy is to exercise. You don't need to train for a marathon, but walking is a great exercise that helps keep your muscles healthy. Not only does it burn up a few calories but it also helps de-stress and refresh your body.
One of the best times to walk around is during your lunch. It's a perfect time to refresh your body by eating healthy food and then going for a quick walk to de-stress. It also helps to clear your mind and allows you to focus on the work you'll need to complete after your break. If you're social, it can be both fun and beneficial to find a partner on whom you can depend on daily. This partner needs to be someone who can drag you from your chair- even if you claim to busy.
Another great and simple idea is to park your car a little farther than you normally do, so you have a short walk to do before and after work. If you're not in a hurry, avoid going by elevator and instead use the stairs. These are such small changes, but will affect your life and health in a big way.
4) Eat a balanced healthy diet
Making sure you're eating a healthy diet is as important as exercising. If you exercise daily but are eating not so healthy food then you may as well not exercise. They go hand in hand, but the good thing is that when you eat properly, you have more energy to exercise, and when you exercise more, you have a better mindset. It's a great cycle to be part of.
The main issue most people have is they eat more than their body needs which, of course, results in weight gain. One of the best ways to avoid these problems is to eat a healthy, balanced diet. If you're still struggling, consider going to a dietician or nutrition expert who can recommend the best food for you to stay healthy. Remember that what may work for your friends and family may not be the best for your body. To give an example of how far off some people are, a recent study conducted by the Indian Market Research Bureau showed that 9 out of 10 people ate an inadequate amount of protein due to an increase in convenience foods which are high in sugars and carbs. Another study showed that 50% of the Indian population suffers from anemia, iron deficiency (which can be caused by not drinking enough water).
Another golden rule is to chew your food 32 times. Speed eating is found to be the biggest contributor to unhealthy weight gain. When you eat quickly, your brain has less time to receive signals from the stomach that it's full. By chewing your food 32 times, you're giving your brain enough time to realize you don't need anymore food.
5) Vacations can help you stay healthy
Every one of us wants to hear this one, and it's true! Tell your boss. It's very beneficial to get away for a long vacation that will help you recharge your 'batteries'. Stress slowly impairs your immune system and increases the risk of disease and thankfully, vacations are a simple cure for stress.
Vacations help reduce stress and get your mind off work, especially when you're having a conflict with your boss, co-worker, or with a project. It allows you the time to focus on yourself when normally you're the last person you think about. So make sure you take full advantage of your holidays.
6) Avoid long stretches of work
Working for long periods of time, while productive in the short term, affects your personal life and relationships and can cause burnout. Your entire immune system can be compromised by working too much.
Fortunately, the Pomodoro Technique can help you stay healthy. The Pomodoro technique is an effective way to get your task done in short bursts, while taking frequent breaks to help you maintain your health and in the long run, your productivity actually increases! It's a win for everyone.
Here's how to get started in Pomodoro in 5 easy steps:
- Choose a task to be accomplished.
- Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer).
- Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
- Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
- After every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break of 15-20 minutes.
You can also use apps like Pomodairo, Tomato Timer or Focus Booster to achieve better productivity while completing your tasks. This way you'll get more productive without compromising your health.
7) Invest in a standing desk
Sitting too much is a serious issue, as we've already discussed. Sitting constantly can not only affect your muscles but makes you more vulnerable to diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Some studies even concluded that sitting all day results in obesity and weight gain.
A standing desk can solve your problem. The standing desk is a popular choice among office workers, as it allows them to comfortably work while standing. This increases your physical activity and also your brain gets active which we already know is a good thing!
8) Follow the 20/20/20 rule to avoid eyestrain
When you're sitting in front of a computer for too long, your eyes are prone to eyestrain and other major eye issues. That's where the 20/20/20 rule comes in. This rule is promoted by optometrists worldwide, so it's something to add to your schedule at work. The rule suggests that after every 20 minutes, focus on an object which is 20 feet away (6 meters) for 20 seconds. I know, I know. It's hard to remember to do that every 20 minutes. You've already set a timer to remind you to drink water, so make that timer go off every 20 minutes. Not only are you relaxing your eyes, you're drinking water to stay healthy too. You can also use tools like EVO or EyeLeo to remind you.
9) Install f.lux to naturally relax your eyes
Computer screens are designed to work during the day. But at 9PM, 10PM or 3AM your bright screen is impacting your eyes. That's where f.lux comes in.
Flux is a powerful app for your computer which automatically adjusts your display color to the time of the day. When the sun sets, f.lux makes your computer look like your indoor lights. In the morning, it makes things look like sunlight again. I personally use f.lux to reduce eyestrain and dryness.
10) Self-massage your back, shoulders, and neck
Most people suffer from tension in their necks and shoulders at some time in their lives, which is hardly surprising if you consider the job the neck has to do! It has quite a bit of weight to hold up...not that I'm implying anything. Poor posture, bad working positions, and carrying heavy bags all make the problem worse. However, you can ease the pain with a remedy literally at your fingertips.
- Hold your left hand up, palm facing outward. Using your right hand, pull the fingers back toward your wrist until you feel a stretch, and hold that position for 5 seconds. Repeat the stretch on your right hand.
- Press the palms of your hands together at chest height. Lower them towards your lap until you feel the stretch in your wrists. Hold for 5 seconds.
- Spread your fingers wide for 5 seconds.
- On your left hand, gently pull the thumb back toward your wrist until you feel the stretch. Hold it for 5 seconds, and then repeat the move on your right hand.
- Curl your fingers into a fist: Start with your pinky finger, and gradually fold the remaining four fingers into a fist. Then curl your wrists inward until you feel the stretch, and hold it for 5 seconds.
- Massage the inside and outside of each hand, and then gently shake them out.
11) Get an ergonomic office chair
Sitting is a position that adds stress to your spine is the main reason behind your back problems. To avoid developing or compounding back problems, it is important to have an ergonomic chair that supports the lower back and encourages good posture. If you've decided to forego the standing desk, remember that although sitting requires less physical effort than standing or walking, it puts a lot of stress on the lumbar area. Combined effects of a sedentary lifestyle and a job that requires sitting can lead to many health problems. The selection of a suitable chair is a critical step in preventing health problems for people working in a sitting position.
A well-designed chair allows the user to sit in a balanced position. Buying an ergonomic chair is a good beginning but it must be combined with proper posture to maximize the benefits!
The following features are very important to consider when looking for an ergonomic chair:
- Seat height - should be easily adjustable.
- Seat width and depth - should have enough width and depth to support any user comfortably.
- Lumbar support - lower back support is very crucial.
- Backrest - should be adjustable in both vertical and backward/forward directions.
- Arm rests - should be adjustable.
- Swivel - any ergonomic chair should rotate easily.
- Stability - a five-star base is recommended for most working environments.
- Seat material - the material on the seat and back should have enough padding to be comfortable to sit on for extended periods of time.
12) Follow the Seven-Eight-Ten technique to get an instant energy-burst
Last but not least:
It's common for you to feel tired in your office, mainly because you're (hopefully) putting hard work and energy into that job. But as soon as you're exhausted your productivity goes down, despite the amount of coffee you may drink. The best cure to this problem is the Seven-Eight-Ten technique, a breathing technique utilized by musicians who play wind instruments. When they do this specific warm up exercise it not only improves their breathing capacity but the extra oxygen it generates through their system literally wakes them up!
So if you're feeling exhausted at the office, forget about the coffee or energy drink, and try out this technique to pump yourself.
- Keep your eyes open and stare at one spot in front of you.
- Now slowly inhale for a total of seven seconds. Count the seconds in your head.
- Now hold that breath for a total of eight seconds. Count the seconds in your head.
- Lastly, slowly exhale for a total of ten seconds. Count the seconds in your head.
Now repeat the same exercise 3 times, and you'll feel an extra burst of energy and mental clarity!
The Recommended Cure (And Why It Works)
While everyone wants a magic bullet to dramatically improve our health, I'm afraid there isn't one.
If you start implementing these small changes in your work life, you'll find yourself getting healthier and it'll be easier to complete your tasks and be more productive at work. Your personal life and relationships will also drastically improve.
But for that, you need to start.
Remember just BABY STEPS.
Start with one technique at a time, make it your habit, then move to another.