For most office workers, being glued to their desks while typing away at their computers for an average of 8 hours a day is already a part of their normal routine. However, sitting at the computer all day may not exactly be good for the body, as it can bring about backaches due to poor posture and eye strain, among other effects. On the other hand, being in a desk job does not have to be an ordeal for your health. If you’re one of those people who have to be at a desk all day long, there are some simple steps that you can follow in order to improve your posture and keep your health in check.
Part 1 of 4: Correct Posture
Observe the proper sitting posture in a good chair that is designed for desk work. Your back should be straight, your shoulders back, and the top of your monitor should be level with your eyes. If you have to look down or up, then you need to adjust the height of your screen. Also, make sure that your wrists do not lie on the keyboard or on the mouse pad (unless you have a pad with a wrist rest). This will help prevent the onset of carpal tunnel syndrome (compression of the wrist that can result in pain, loss of feeling and weakness). Keep your legs bent at the knees so that the knees are only slightly higher than your hips. Feet should be flat on the floor or on a step stool of some sort.
Part 2 of 4: Easy Exercises
Do simple stretching exercises. Stretch your arms, legs, neck and torso while sitting. This will help prevent you from feeling stiff.
- Neck: To stretch your neck, slowly flex your head forward and backward, side to side and look right and left. This can be done almost any time to lessen tension and strain. Never roll your head around your neck––this could cause damage to the joints of the neck.
- Shoulders: Roll your shoulders forward around 10 times, then backward. This helps release the tension off your shoulders.
- Arms and shoulders: A good stretch for your arms and shoulders is to brace your hands on the edge your desk, each about a shoulder width away from your body. Twist your hands in so they point toward your body and lean forward, hunching your shoulders. Take this a step further and push your shoulders and elbows closer to the desk.
- Wrists: Roll your wrists regularly, around every hour or so. Roll the wrists 10 times clockwise, then 10 times counterclockwise. This will help minimize the potential for getting carpal tunnel syndrome if you spend a lot of time typing.
- Ankles: Roll your ankles regularly. As with your wrists, roll the ankles in a clockwise motion three times, then counterclockwise. This helps improve blood circulation, and prevents that tingling feeling you can get when blood circulation is cut off, also known as “pins and needles”.
- Chest: Notice if you tend to hunch in front of the keyboard. To counter that, perform the following exercise: Open your arms wide as if you were going to hug someone, rotate your wrists externally (thumbs going up and back) and pull your shoulders back. This stretch is moving your body the opposite way to being hunched and you should feel a good stretch across your upper chest.
- Abdomen: Contract your abdominal and gluteal muscles, hold them there for a few seconds, then release. Repeat this every few minutes all day long while you’re working at your desk. You can also perform kegels (pelvic floor exercises) while sitting.
- Calves: Stretch your calves. While sitting, lift up your legs on the balls of your feet and set them down. Repeat until your legs are comfortably tired. Repeat about 10 minutes later, and continue doing this routine for about an hour or so. This will exercise your calves, and will help prevent blood clots from developing in your legs. Blood clots are very common among middle-aged computer users.
Do exercises with the help of a few tools. The following tools may be helpful:
- Acquire a hand gripper. These are cheap, small and light, easily kept tucked in a desk drawer. When you have to read something either on the screen or on paper, you probably won’t be needing to use your hands very often, so use this opportunity squeeze your gripper. It is an excellent forearm workout.
- Acquire an elastic band. This is also cheap, small and light. Use it to do the actions mentioned above (such as, when stretching your arms, do it by pulling apart the elastic band). This will stretch and work the muscles slightly.
- Invest in a large size stability ball or stability ball-style desk chair. Sit on it with your back straight and abs firm. You will burn calories stabilizing your core and body on the ball. While an actual stability ball is more effective, the chair is usually a more viable option to use in an office environment. While sitting or talking on the phone, you can bounce or do basic toning exercises. Use the actual ball form in moderation when typing, as this is probably not the most supportive seating to prevent carpal tunnel and tendinitis.
- Relax forearm muscles with a squash ball. This exercise will help relax the muscles in your forearm that tense while doing computer work and that, at worst, remain tense and lead to RSI if not exercised regularly.
- Stretch your left arm so that it’s straight and pointing at the floor, about 45 degrees to your body.
- With your right hand, roll a squash ball (the harder the ball the better) around the muscles on the top of your left forearm.
Part 3 of 4: Taking Breaks
Stand up every half hour to walk around a bit. This will ensure continuous blood circulation in your arms and legs, and will keep them from getting too strained. Take walks to the water station to refill your glass. If you can afford to take longer breaks, take a short walk outside your building, and use the stairs instead of the elevator to go down. Aside from giving your legs and heart a good workout, you can take in some fresh air as well.
Focus as far as possible. To avoid eye strain while working at a computer, set up your monitor as far as possible. Otherwise, give your eyes often break by looking around at something distant to prevent irritation and short-sightedness.
Take advantage of the downtime created by rebooting or large file downloads. Get up and take short walks around your floor. If you can find the space to do it and do not have many co-workers around who would be bothered, try something more ambitious such as doing a few push-ups, sit-ups, and/or jumping jacks.
Part 4 of 4: Other Good Habits
Take a few deep breaths. To work your abdominal muscles, hold your stomach for a few seconds when breathing in, then release when breathing out. If possible, get some fresh air in your lungs by taking a walk outside, as mentioned in a previous step.
Have a bottle of water by your side and make a habit of drinking plenty of water through out the day. If you do this consistently, you will begin to feel more alert. Take trips to the water refilling station to refill your jug or glass, so that you can also walk around and exercise your legs at the same time.
- Don’t sit still. As long you keep moving, you will be helping to keep yourself in better shape. Constant movement will burn calories and contribute to cardiovascular health. Fidgeting is a good way to keep moving, even something such as tapping your foot. However, be mindful of your co-workers, and don’t make too much noise––whatever way you fidget, the repetitive noises may bother other people.
- If you’re all alone, try shutting off the computer for a bit and exercise. If you’re on a cell phone call, get up and do stretches, or leg lifts––anything to keep moving during down time away from the desk.
- Set your chair back rest at an angle larger than 90°.
- You can hold your legs up underneath your desk to exercise abdominal muscles and leg muscles.
- If you’re a runner or jogger, you can sit on the floor and stretch as you use the computer. It will save you time too if you have to do both anyway.
- Try exercises that combine opposing muscle groups (flexors and extensors, for example, biceps and triceps) to get a good workout. Clasp your hands together with palms facing each other. Pull up with one hand while pushing down with the other.
- Try not to squint when reading something on the screen, as squinting can be bad for your eyes. Most computers have an option to increase font size. If you press Ctrl and +, the font size will increase, so you don’t have to strain your eyes as much. Pressing Ctrl and – will make the font smaller, and pressing Ctrl and 0 will put the font back to normal. Even if you have 20/20 vision, it doesn’t hurt to try to keep it.
- Consider using Break Pal or similar “office gym” software programs. For example, Break Pal is a useful website that will remind you to exercise and guide you through a variety of desk exercises. Other users will even keep an eye on you and encourage you. Software that forces you to take breaks and shows exercise tips can also be handy and you might be able to convince your employer to have this fitted to all computers in the workplace.
- Make music while working to provoke body movement and relieve stress. A smaller instrument will be more convenient.
- Don’t neglect the health of your eyes! It is detrimental to your eyesight to focus at one thing for long periods of time (such as your monitor), so take breaks to look out the window and focus at something at a further distance away to maintain good ocular health. Consider purchasing an LCD screen, which is easier on the eyes. If you’re at your computer for long periods of time, optometrists recommend following the “20-20-20” rule––for every 20 minutes spent focusing on your computer screen, spend 20 seconds focusing on something else 20 feet (6 meters) away.
- When muscles remain stationary, circulation decreases, muscles tire, and tasks become more uncomfortable to perform.
- Incorrect computer posture habits combined with long-term stationary sitting may cause medical problems known as cumulative trauma disorder (CTD) or repetitive stress injury (RSI).
- Your body needs more exercise than just what you do at the computer, so be careful not to think that exercise at the computer is enough. While exercising at your computer is helpful, keep in mind that it is not a substitute for going to the gym or observing a regular exercise program.
Things You’ll Need
- Exercise gear such as elastic bands, hand grippers, squeeze balls
- Stability ball or chair
Sources and Citations
- ? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carpal_tunnel_syndrome