How much time should you spend working on computers without destroying 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 the Chapel Hill School of Medicine, says that maintaining an incorrect posture and overusing computers causes physical problems that can escalate sore muscles and back strain and stress injuries.
Computers and laptops are a vital part of our lives and play an active role in almost all our professional and leisure activities.
If you belong to computer-related professional fields, your work solely comprises hours 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 toward the digital world mean 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 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 or length of breaks recommended.
These regulations suggest 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, you must introduce deliberate breaks.
How often should you take a break before computers destroy your health?
From what we’ve gathered, take at least 5-minute breaks every hour. Spend these few minutes away from the screen. It is vital to give your eyes rest. It is 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 for 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 to spend not over 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 getting our work done as soon as possible or reaching that other level of some game.
So 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.
We’re trying to understand that it is not very hard to care for your health with screen-based work. All you need is a little dedication and lifestyle changes.
But before we guide you on improving your health and increasing your work-life quality, 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 too long. Prolonged screen exposure and prolonged sitting. Anything excessive is wrong for you. That’s a rule of thumb for your health. So understand that you must consider both aspects of it affecting your health.
How computers destroy the health of your spine and back
God created our bodies 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 getting to work by sitting in a car or bus, sitting several hours in front of the screen, getting back home seated, or spending the rest of your day watching TV or surfing the Internet while seated, it can you imagine the effect it’ll have on your body?
The seated position stresses your back muscles, neck, and spine. It’s even worse if you slouch. The back muscles become strained and may lose muscle strength because of a lack of movement. Over the years, it can lead to a weak back, frequent backaches, strain, and obesity.
How computers destroy the health of your eyes
Sitting for significant periods each day working or gaming on a computer may risk 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, redness, a feeling of dryness and 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’ your body considers work because its major muscle groups aren’t being used, and you minimize calorie burning.
However, over an extended period, this can lead to weight gain and, in severe cases, obesity if you refuse to work out.
Sitting at a desk all day can 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 drastically affect your mental health. For example, a long day’s work can affect your mood and overall wellness if you feel exhausted.
Imagine feeling that way every day, and it affects your mental health. Too much screen exposure can cause disorientation, headache, dizziness, and even nausea.
In addition, studies have been conducted on teens and young adults and 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 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 your livelihood is essential, but so is your health.
Make changes today–Take breaks
Research has concluded that taking brief breaks can be more alert and relaxed throughout the day. As we said earlier, working long hours can lead to fatigue. That is bound to happen, but we suggest 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 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, for 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. Also, 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.
For example, 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. Push yourself to get up. The law requires workers working 6 hours or more to have a 20-minute break.
Fitness–it’s 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 and after that, going to the gym for a quick workout is an ideal lifestyle change. You can set up an exercise routine focusing on your back and posterior muscles. It will give you time to unwind and recover from your work but also undo the strain caused by sitting for so long. If you successfully incorporate working out in the middle or end of your day, you’ll be doing your body good.
Accessories–get aids to make your workstation comfortable
There’s a reason 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 ease the problems initially.
You can also invest in a good laptop stand. According to SpineHealth, place your laptop at an ideal height and angle to view your screen easily without bending your back or neck.
In addition, you should comfortably align your eyes to the top third of your laptop screen. In short, elevate your laptop a few inches above your desk.
Endnote – self evaluates how computers destroy your health
You may take painkillers for the back pain 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.
We suggested 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 vital thing in your life.