Healthy bodies for constant computer-users
Whether you’re a writer, editor, proofreader, scribe or typist, if you work full-time sitting in a chair in front of a computer screen and you want to live a long life, you need to stick to four important rules:
- look after your posture,
- look after your eyes,
- take regular breaks, and
- use water, food and daily exercise to stay healthy.
Look after your posture
If you work in a profession where you’re constantly working on a computer and don’t have good posture, you’ll end up with chronic problems in your back, neck, shoulders, wrists, fingers and/or ankles.
You can keep your body relatively healthy by making sure that when typing, you:
- Sit with your back and neck relaxed but straight (with or without a backrest for support).
- Position your computer screen at such a height that you’re looking straight ahead (not tilting your head up or down).
- Position your chair at such a height that when typing, your elbows are level with your wrists.
- Use footrests or other tools to keep your feet at a height that makes sure your knees are level with your hips.
- Curve your fingers and relax them as you type. Use your finger tips (not the flats of your fingers) to strike the keys. Make sure the backs of your hands are level with your wrists by hovering your hands just above the keyboard, rather than resting them on the keyboard or desk.
- If your mouse-hand gets hand-strain, you can either change your mousing method (e.g. use the keys, a touch-pad or an ergonomic mouse).
- Some people choose different types of posture to work at a desk or computer; e.g. stand or use a kneeling stool rather than sitting on an office chair.
Look after your eyes
If you’re writing, editing, proofreading, typing or scribing, make sure your office is suitably lit. Your workplace needs to be bright enough that you can easily see what you need to (e.g. computer screen, documentation, whiteboard). But if the lighting is too bright or harsh it may give you eye strain.
The lighting of your computer screen needs to be adjusted to the best level of brightness for your particular eyes; or you can adjust your screen to a pastel colour instead of white. If you wear glasses, get anti-glare lenses; they make the computer screen easier on the eyes.
Take regular breaks
When you spend your days typing at the computer, it’s very important to take these regular breaks.
Every 10 minutes or so make sure you look away from the screen briefly – at the opposite wall, or outside the window – to stretch your focus. While you’re at it, stretch your neck, shoulders, arms; shake your hands. Just 15 seconds stretch of your eyes and body is enough to give them a micro-break.
After each hour working at the computer screen, make sure you take at least a five-minute break. Get up and move about, exercising not only your body but your eyes as well. Stretch and shake your hands gently; bend them backwards (the opposite of their position when typing). Gaze at an object at the other side of the room or better still, out the window at the trees or hills in the distance.
During the day, take different breaks to grab a cuppa, go to the toilet or go outside for a few breaths of fresh air. There’s nothing like oxygen to wake your brain up!
Water, food and exercise
No matter what type of work you do it’s important to remember to drink water during the day. The less water you drink, the lower your IQ falls and the harder it is to concentrate and comprehend. So drink water while you work and drink plenty of it. This is particularly important if:
- You’re working in an air-conditioned or heated office, or live in a very hot place (where you can become dehydrated without realising it)
- You’re heavily engrossed in your typing, writing or editing task (which tends to make you forget everything else, including the need to drink water).
When you are busy working, and especially if you are busy working alone at a computer in your home-based office, it’s easy to become so engrossed in your work that you forget to eat until you’re finished whatever task you’ve been working on. So you need to make sure your kitchen contains plenty of food that can be eaten quickly by a ravenous person.
By ‘food’, I don’t mean cake or biscuits, muffins or doughnuts, jellybeans or other sugary additives that don’t help your body or your brain.
By ‘food’ I mean that stuff that gives your mind and body what it needs. That is, energy, vitamins and protein. The food I keep in my kitchen for quick fixes during a busy work day are tomatoes and apples and cucumbers and almonds and cheese. Cold meatballs from the night before. Boiled eggs. A small tin of salmon can be wolfed down in a two-minute break. A sandwich can be whipped up in a minute and eaten in five or ten. Note: if you have special dietary requirements, eat what works for you.
If you eat real food instead of rubbish, you’ll work better, be much healthier and probably live longer.
In addition to exercising a little during your breaks during the day, you need at least 30 minutes of actual exercise every day to stay healthy.
Some people work out in gyms. Some people ride exercise bikes in their living rooms. Some people run or jog or swim or walk. I’m lucky enough to live in a rural town with a lovely bush reserve where I can take the dogs for a walk every morning, before work. Some people get just as much enjoyment out of walking through city streets. For some people, just 10 minutes of walking or other exercise will release their endorphins and make them unaccountably happier than they were. Others need to exercise for 30 minutes before the endorphins kick in and their mood lifts.
Having this 30-minute walk, run, jog or workout in your daily routine makes you happy, healthy and wise.
This article is based on my own experiences since 2002 when I started On Time Typing, a scribing and editing business.
For other articles about staying healthy at work, go to: Work-life balance.
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