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Computers and your health

A few simple exercises and tips on placement can keep the strains of prolonged computer use from leading to chronic pains later in life

Computers and your health

How many hours a day do you spend in front of the computer?

If it's more than four, beware of the impact it can have on your body.

Ideally, you shouldn't spend more than four hours at a stretch on the computer. But in reality some jobs require up to seven or eight hours - or even more - a day in front of a screen.

Using a computer has negative impacts on your health.

Staring at computer screens for long hours makes your eyes tired and dry. The tiredness is caused by the overuse of the eye muscles, inadequate light in the computer room and reflections on the computer screen.

The eye dryness occurs because computer users blink less while working. Besides which, dry air in air-conditioned rooms and heat from the computer make these eye conditions worse.

It's been noted that people who wear contact lenses tend to experience more negative effects on their eyes from computer use.

To avoid adverse effects you should rest your eyes for 10 to 15 minutes every hour that you work on a computer.

A simple suggestion is to change activities.

For example, walk away from the computer, turn to look at some plants and trees, simply close your eyes and put a wet towel over them or do an eye exercise by rolling your eyes around and gently pressing your hands on the eye sockets.

It's also a good idea to put a couple of small plants near your desk to rest your eyes upon and help you relax. This also increases oxygen levels and cleanses the dust and pollution from the air.

The screen should ideally be placed below eye level. It is better for the eyes to look down at a computer than up. The computer screen should be kept between 50 and 70 centimetres away from you, and you should use dark text on a light screen.

Working at a computer for long hours can also lead to muscular and joint tiredness and eventually to chronic pains. Every single body part from head to toe is affected by computer use.

Imagine the effects of doing the same physical activity for long hours for months or years on end. When you work on the computer you don't seem to move much and it feels as though you use only a few parts of your body, such as the fingers, hands and arms.

However, it affects the rest of your body, too, including the feet, legs, knees, bottom, back, shoulders, neck and head.

The repetitive and heavy use of muscles limits your blood circulation and can lead to soreness, swelling and pain. Muscle aches can start to occur when you're in your late 20s or early 30s.

Change positions often and stretch your muscles. Take a break from the computer for 10 to 15 minute every hour. Go get some juice, listen to easy-listening music or meditate during the break.

Be sure you sit properly to avoid muscle aches and pains.

You should sit with your bottom on the inner part of the chair towards the back, keep your back straight and lean gently on the back of the chair, which should not be too hard or soft but support your spine.

Your arms and wrists should be at a 90-degree position relative to the keyboard. A small foot support will help carry your weight instead of putting it all on your two feet while sitting and reduce the pressure on your thighs and calves.

Your chair should be 40 to 45cm high, the desk should be 75cm high and your computer keyboard should be 65cm from the ground.

Sources: Sasitorn Taptagaporn of the Bureau of Occupational and Environmental Diseases, Department of Disease Control; Susapda magazine; and Matichon newspaper

By Rojana Manowalailao

The Nation


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