To be more healthy at the Computer

 



What to do to be more healthy and time-efficient when working extensively at the computer:

Whether holding an IT seat at an incumbent software corporation, working from home as a blogger, or as a researcher writing up for the next publication, most of us have experienced the aches of a sedentary working environment.

As a very health-conscious scientist, I was merely researching on what to consider when wanting to spend another day in front of the screen, before going from back pain to being a hunchback or from needing glassed to needing an eye operation. Consider following measures on two very important aspects:

 


Positioning and Pacing :

So science says you should get up every now and then. And this is about every 20 minutes after sitting (O’Sullivan et al. 2002). My previous – tiny- post mentioned the benefits of general physical activity on a daily basis. That is, contracting muscles, increasing blood flow, and increasing the intake of oxygen are very basic steps to prevent long-term damage to body and mind. So the best thing to do is to get up, go and get some fresh air and stretch a little every 20 minutes, this does even improve your engagement and concentration thereinafter (Griswold, 2012). This can be partially achieved by inhaling slower and deeper from time to time. Or try more agile things to sit on such a swopper, a Classic Balance Ball® Chair, or just a gymnastic ball. You may also want to try getting standing station/desk if that should fit you better. The idea is that u may be more inclined to move being solely on your feet rather than leaning your back, sitting on your buttocks and resting your feet – the state of resting on a chair. However, the same thoughts count for either: Sway standing and slump sitting will both affect the activation – or rather the lack of – certain muscles (i.e. lumbopelvic stabilising musculature) that prevail when a healthy optimally aligned, erect postures is adopted (O’Sullivan et al., 2002). So whether standing or sitting, a straight back, 90-degrees elbow towards the keyboard and looking at the screen in a straight horizontal line (to a few inches lower) is probably best. Branded wearable wrist bands such as the Fitbit, Jawbone UP or Misfit models, may help remind you of, or keep track of idle and active periods so you may macing effectively; and linked with a smartphone this becomes a powerful fitness and well-being coach. Give it a try if you feel it would be of help.



Sensing light and Reading :

A lot of strain to being long hours in front of a screen is also caused by a number of factors that involve our visual sensory organs. Here are some tips:

Blink often, roll your eyes and look away from the screen once in a while. As the focus and the position of the eye changes the optical muscles can relax. This is, as with limbs, something you should do regularly.

Use computer in an adequately lit room. Overhead light, sunlight and screen light, find a suitable average that is comfortable; and sometimes what is required to see what needs to be seen maybe just half the light. Fluorescent lighting in the room can be appropriate during day time, but see they don’t hit you or your screen directly. Avoid glare at any point, it is a strain to filter through ‘additional information’. You may want adjust your screen brightness to a smiler intensity and brightness to that of your environment. The app f.lux can be downloaded for free is a simple programme that adjusts the colour temperature of the computer to simulate day and night time lighting. F.Lux, and similar apps, dim the screen and give it a orange touch (i.e. longer wavelength hues at around 2500K) based on your location/timezone, not only for long-term viewing comfort, but also taking into account the time of the day so it reflects a healthy sleeping and waking pattern. While ‘bright’, blue light at 6500K is linked with enhanced cognitive performance (i.e. positively relates to alertness) (Chellappa, 2011), it also causes the suppression of Melatonin (the sleep-promoting hormone) (Chan, 2014), which correlates with diseases such as cancer (Wood et al., 2013). Light is also not only sensed by our eyes, but also by our largest organ: the skin. Hence, both skin and eyes sensing fluorescent or too bright light in the evening or during the night gives the body the impression it is in fact day.



There are ways to ease reading or writing: Use bigger fonts, higher contrast backgrounds to write on, and use the reader function of your browser or the page itself.

And I can’t emphasise the need for keeping your body hydrated. High levels of brain activity and stress at work requires you to drink lots of water (and/or other healthy fluid substances like a glass of fresh juice). The best thing probably to do is to keep your own mug or glass and jug always at your working station; get them filled right before you start your endless marathon.

Last but not least, be social a few times a day. You are not alone in this. And a little break once in a while chatting with a friend is not harmful. And if your boss may think otherwise, suggest him or her what it mean to be efficient at work. Don’t get fired though.

My general base for benchmarking is as always: “What would be the reality if I’d have lived 1000s of years ago”? Move a lot and dimmed light in the evening seems reasonable. Mingling, taking a break and quenching your thirst ought to be done anyway. Maybe, do not sit at a computer all day long. Get up say “hi” to your neighbour and enjoy life people.


 

Sources:

Chang, A.-M., Aeschbach, D., Duffy, J. F., & Czeisler, C. A. (2014). Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(4), 201418490. http://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1418490112

Chellappa, S. L., Steiner, R., Blattner, P., Oelhafen, P., Götz, T., & Cajochen, C. (2011). Non-visual effects of light on melatonin, alertness and cognitive performance: can blue-enriched light keep us alert? PloS One, 6(1), e16429. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0016429

Dunstan, D. W., Kingwell, B. A., Larsen, R., Healy, G. N., Cerin, E., Hamilton, M. T., … Owen, N. (2012). Breaking up prolonged sitting reduces postprandial glucose and insulin responses. Diabetes Care, 35(5), 976–83. http://doi.org/10.2337/dc11-1931

Griswold, A. (2012). To Work Better, Just Get Up From Your Desk. Retrieved March 26, 2015, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/alisongriswold/2012/06/12/to-work-better-just-get-up-from-your-desk/

O’Sullivan, P. B., Grahamslaw, K. M., Kendell, M., Lapenskie, S. C., Möller, N. E., & Richards, K. V. (2002). The effect of different standing and sitting postures on trunk muscle activity in a pain-free population. Spine, 27(11), 1238–1244. http://doi.org/10.1097/00007632-200206010-00019

Wood, B., Rea, M. S., Plitnick, B., & Figueiro, M. G. (2013). Light level and duration of exposure determine the impact of self-luminous tablets on melatonin suppression. Applied Ergonomics, 44(2), 237–40. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.apergo.2012.07.008

Physical Activity & Well-Being

There is no doubt that physical activities form part of our daily lives. Whether we rush for an escalator or climb the staircase on our daily route to school or work, or occasionally meet up with a colleague for a jog, planned physical activities contribute to more than just physical well-being.  A scheduled ‘plan’ for exercise and physical activity (especially outdoors) may help not only to coordinate our daily routines, but also, contrary to popular belief, energizes and enables us to accomplish (even) more within a given time. Regard it as a time-off, a break to supply the brain with oxygen it so desperately needs during a busy period, and to circulate the body’s blood in order to feel revitalized. So, physical activities can reduce work-related stress if it’s scheduled in a timely manner, as well as help us be more efficient throughout the whole day, leaving us with more spare time for relaxation and enabling us to master the work-life balance.

Fun Climbing at Barnard Castle by Alex Mattakathu

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