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Technology – How Computers are Quietly Destroying Your Health

Sitting at desk on computer affects your health

How much time should you spend working on computers without destroys your health? Did you know that using computers for longer durations inevitably leads to back strain, poor posture, and even poor eyesight?

Kevin Carneiro, a doctor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine, says that maintaining an incorrect posture and overusing computers causes physical problems that can escalate sore muscles, back strain, and stress injuries.

Computers and laptops are a vital part of our lives and play an active role in almost all of our professional and leisure activities. In case you belong specifically to computer-related professional fields, your work solely comprises hours spent hunched over laptops.

Today computers help you do things and earn a living without leaving your chair. With each passing day, all conventional means of acquiring or taking a transformative turn towards the digital world means more and more time for us to spend working on computers.

But then there are all these health issues arising from using computers for long periods. So how do we avoid the inevitable? How do we prevent getting the back pains in our late 20s that your grandmother probably got in her 60s? What should you do to help yourself?

How much time should you spend working on the computers before they destroy your health?

Although, if you go by the book, there are a few standards to follow.  The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 displays the number of breaks or length of breaks recommended.

These regulations suggest that breaks should be ‘periodically’ taken. This ‘period,’ however, lies in a grey area. They further indicate that each person’s work should be set up to include a mix of tasks. It should be a combination of both screen-based and some non-screen-based work.

This allows natural breaks from concentrating on the screen, sitting in the same position, or repetitive input work. However, not all of us have work environments that would exclusively implement short breaks or encourage us to get up from work now and then. Besides, the nature of your work varies; therefore, deliberate breaks must be introduced.

How often should you take a break before computers destroy your health?

From what we’ve gathered, you should take at least a minimum of 5 minutes break in every hour. Spend these few minutes away from the screen. It is vital to give your eyes rest. It is just as essential to make sure you change your posture, refocus your eyes, and, ideally, do some simple stretching exercises.

The maximum attention span for anything varies from 30 to 40 minutes. That is relevant withs screen-based work as well. The only drawback is that it is not just your focus we are talking about, but your body tension, posture, and eyes.

So it is beneficial for you to spend not more than 40 minutes in front of the computer and then take a 5 to 10 minutes break.

We all know that these are instincts. We all have been there where we have spent hours in front of a computer screen, wholeheartedly invested in trying to get our work done as soon as possible or reach that other level of some game.

What do we do when that wave of exhaustion washes over us? We get up. Walk around. Or even stretch in the seat we’re sitting in. If your eyes hurt, you close them and give them a time out as well.

We’re trying to get across that it is not very hard to take care of your health with screen-based work. All you need is a little dedication and lifestyle changes.

But before we guide you on how to improve your health and increase the quality of your work life, let’s give you a crash course on the effects prolonged screen time has on your body.

How do computers destroy your health?

Now two separate acts are going on when you sit in front of a computer for far too long. Prolonged screen exposure and prolonged sitting. Anything excessive is wrong for you. That’s a rule of thumb when it comes to your health. So understand that you have to keep in consideration both aspects of it affecting your health.

How computers destroy the health of your spine and back

Our bodies are designed to be upwards and moving. God created you to stand and walk. When we’re manually working and playing, our body is active. When we are seated, the body is in a state of resting.

An inactive lifestyle includes sitting at a desk for a significant chunk of the day. So, if your day comprises of getting to work by sitting in a car or bus, sitting several hours in front of the screen, getting back home seated, spending the rest of your day watching TV or surfing the Internet while seated, can you imagine the effect it’ll have on your body?

The seated position puts massive stress on your back muscles, neck, and spine. It’s even worse if you slouch. The back muscles become strained, and due to lack of movement, they may lose muscle strength. Over the years, it can lead to a weak back, frequent backaches, strain, and obesity.

How computers destroy the health of your eyes

If you sit for significant periods each day working or gaming on a computer, you may be at risk for developing physical strain and overuse injuries. That goes for your eyes too.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, signs and symptoms may include eye strain, including redness, a feeling of dryness and/or soreness, blurry vision, and headache.

Overexposure to screens can lead to poor eyesight as well.

Other ways computers destroy your health

Sitting at a desk can reduce a person’s daily energy expenditure. Yes, you’re working but typing and clicking. It does not qualify as ‘labor’ that your body considers work because its major muscle groups aren’t being utilized, and calorie burning is minimized.

Over an extended period, this can lead to weight gain and, in severe cases, obesity, that is if you refuse to work out.

Sitting at a desk all day can also impair the body’s ability to handle blood sugar. It can cause reduced sensitivity to the hormone insulin, which helps carry glucose from the blood into energy cells. Diabetes and obesity can further lead to many more diseases.

And how do computers destroy your mental health?

This is a less frequently discussed aspect, but exposure to screens and sitting in a place for long periods can have a drastic effect on your mental health as well. After a long day’s work, if you feel exhausted and tired, it can affect your mood and overall wellness.

Imagine feeling that way every day, and it affecting your mental health. Too much screen exposure can cause disorientation, headache, dizziness, and in some cases, even nausea. Studies have been conducted on teens and young adults, and they have found more instances of depression, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness among those with more significant screen time.

So, how do you prevent computers from destroying your health?

Even if your job requires you to sit at a desk and/or spend long hours working on a computer, there are things you can do to help avoid or prevent some of the health risks. We understand that it is your livelihood and its importance, but so is your health.

Make changes today – Take breaks.

Research has concluded that taking short breaks throughout the day can result in being more alert and relaxed. Like we said earlier, working long hours can lead to fatigue. That is bound to happen, but we suggest you take regular breaks to improve your work productivity and quality.

Set reminders for yourself on your phone or the computer itself to remind you to take a break. Before your body gives you the signals that it is tiring, set safe intervals to prevent that from happening; these breaks’ primary goal is to get up and hit the refresh button for yourself before your body demands that you take a break.

Start small – begin with the eyes.

If your back survives the onslaught of sitting for hours, your eyes don’t. They are among the first parts of your body to get tired, even when you don’t feel it yet. So when it comes to starting with making changes, start with your eyes.

Give the 20-20-20 rule a try. Every 20 minutes, look up from your screen at something about 20 feet away for about 20 seconds. This gives the muscles in your eyes a chance to relax.

Discipline yourself – Push yourself

Breaks will give you an enormous release of stress. The HSE suggests that short, frequent breaks are better than less frequent, longer breaks. That means that a 5-10 minute break after an hour of work is better than a 20-minute break every 3 hours.

We suggest you take this time to stand up, stretch, move around, shake your arms and legs, take a power walk around your office, or change positions to help avoid aches and pains and keep your mind focused and body energized.

You will have to push yourself to get up. Moreover, the law requires workers working for 6 hours or more to have a 20-minute break.

Fitness – its time you work out

If you want to be truly productive in your breaks, especially the longer ones, you can take up walking to the nearest café as a start. Going to the gym for a quick workout is an ideal lifestyle change as well. You can set up an exercise routine with a focus on your back and posterior muscles.

It will give you time to unwind and recover from your work but undo the strain caused by sitting for so long as well. If you successfully incorporate working out in the middle or end of your day, you’ll be doing your body a lot of good.

Accessorise – get aids to make your workstation comfortable.

There’s a reason why the corporate world is obsessed with office chairs. That’s where you spend most of your day at. So we suggest you invest in an ergonomic chair. Something that is the right height and supports your back in the right spots.

However, remember that no matter how expensive and comfortable your chair is, you will still have to get up and stretch or exercise to give your back a break. These office aids help lessen the stress caused by the workload but do not alleviate the problems initially.

You can also invest in a good laptop stand. According to SpineHealth, your laptop should be placed at an ideal height and angle for you to view your screen easily without you having to bend your back or neck. Your eyes should comfortably be aligned to the top third of your laptop screen. In short, your laptop should be elevated a few inches above your desk.

Endnote – self evaluates how computers destroy your health.

You may take painkillers for the back pain at the end of the day or get up every hour or two to stretch, but this is not a solution to your problem. You’re only trying to get comfortable with the symptoms. What you need to remain healthy is to make lifestyle changes.

What we suggested are necessary and straightforward changes that anyone trying to be healthy can start with. You don’t have to do all of them. Even a few, to begin with, will check the boxes. Take care of your health because it is the most indispensable thing in your life. 

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