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Healthy Computer Use Habits

If you’re a gamer, you’re probably no stranger to hours-long sessions at the keyboard. Office workers spend so much time in front of a computer, the mouse might seem like just another body part. We’ve become accustomed to extended screen time, but here’s the unfortunate truth: these computer habits are bad for our health. Since we’re all about making the most of your computing life, we think it’s high time to talk about healthy computer use!

Bad posture isn’t always something we think about as a serious issue, but it really can have a big effect on your health! You’ve probably noticed that bad posture can cause neck, shoulder, back, and wrist pain. But did you know that slouching, hunching, and slumping can also cause long-term damage to your skeletal system? Bad posture can contribute to skeletal misalignment, joint stress, osteoarthritis, and can even inhibit growth!

Are you sitting up a bit straighter in your chair, now? Good! Now that we know the dangers, let’s talk about healthy computing habits you can use for the long haul. To make sure your office work and epic gaming raids aren’t literally back-breaking, just remember two things: get your setup straight, and move! Sounds easy, right? Well, it is! But, like so many good habits, the hard part is in consistently doing the right things.

Now, let’s take a look at what healthy computing really looks like.

Set Things Straight with Good Posture

The most important part of healthy computing is maintaining good posture. “But,” you might say, “I’ve had bad posture for years, how am I supposed to know what good posture looks like?” Great question! The key to great posture is a number: 90. You want to keep most of your joints (except your wrists!) at 90° angles.

man sitting at computer with numbered points describing good posture

To get it right, you might need to make a couple of adjustments to your desk furniture. First, you’ll want to adjust your chair height (or use a footrest) until your knees can bend straight while your feet rest flat. You will also want to make sure the height of your keyboard and mouse are even with your elbows. Not only does this encourage good posture, it also protects your wrists from stressful angles. The final piece of this puzzle is the position of your computer’s monitor. Sitting down, the screen should be about 2-2.5 feet from your eyes, and the upper edge at or slightly below eye level. The distance helps protect your eyes from light strain, and the angle protects your neck from strain and allows for comfortable focus.

Make a Move with Stretches You Can Do at Your Desk

If you know you’ll be using the computer for a long time, be sure to give your heart and body a break every once in a while. Though a few jumping jacks and push-ups would be great, you don’t need to do any strenuous activity – just get up and walk around or do some light stretching. We recommend doing this as often as possible, but shoot for at least once every 20 minutes or so.

Light Exercises for Your Whole Body

  • Stand up and sit down without using your hands
  • Sit on an exercise ball instead of your chair
  • Shrug your shoulders, pause with your shoulders close to your ears for a second or two then release the tension and lower your shoulders
  • Twist your upper body from side-to-side – keep your back straight and hands on your hips
  • Sit down with your knees at a 90 degree angle then lift your shin and foot of one leg.– point your toes, hold for a second or two then lower your leg back down. Alternate each leg a few times.
  • Stretch your back with a “big hug”– basically hug yourself and breath in deep and out slowly
  • Raise your head and look up to release upper body – alternate with turning your head side-to-side
  • Substitute walks for email – don’t be lazy, go to the person
  • Don’t eat at your desk. Stand up and when having a snack or a short walk.

It’s also important to stretch your wrist, neck, and eye muscles frequently to prevent strain and long-term damage. Every few minutes or so, do a few head rolls and eye rolls while stretching your wrists. Here are a few great wrist stretches, if you aren’t sure what to do:

table of 3 wrist exercises with instructions

Get Comfy – Ergonomic Keyboards and Mice

While you may not realize it, typing and moving a computer mouse is a strenuous task and after time you may even start to feel pain in the hands or wrists. The most common types of injuries related to typing are carpal tunnel and tendinitis. To avoid suffering such ailments, your best option is to use an ergonomic keyboard.

An ergonomic keyboard is made by manufacturers to specifically fit the position of the wrists and hands while typing.  According to Ergonomics-Info.com, “instead of conforming your hands to the keyboard, the keyboard is conformed to the natural way your hands, fingers and wrist are positioned while sitting at the keyboard”.

There are many different styles of ergonomic keyboards, some have a curved structure, some have the left and right hand keys split down the middle, and most have the individual keys farther apart than standard keyboards so your hands can be more relaxed. Find the ergonomic keyboard that is most comfortable for you.

Using a computer mouse can also be painful at times, because the movement isn’t natural. Our hands aren’t built to be used independently of our arms. To help reduce pain in your wrists and hands, make sure you have plenty of space to move your mouse by sliding your forearm instead of just your wrist.

Just like keyboards come in ergonomic shapes and sizes, so do computer mice. The best ergonomic mouse styles are those that place your hand in a semi-vertical position – almost like you’re holding a glass. This prevents your wrist and forearm from being twisted at an unnatural angle. Again, find the ergonomic mouse that feels most comfortable to you.

It can be frustrating to step away from the keyboard at first, but your body will thank you! What do you think? What healthy computing tricks and tips do you use? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook and Twitter!

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