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How bad is it to sit in front of a computer screen for hours each day?

Sitting still and not moving for hours -- something that can easily happen in front of the computer -- can put you at risk of blood clots in your lower extremities. Also, being sedentary and sitting still also means you’re not burning off any of the excess calories you are probably consuming. Here are some basic tips to help you to achieve a healthier high-tech habit:
  • Take a blink break: look away from the screen every 20 minutes and gaze into the distance for about 30 seconds. Periodically check the brightness of the lighting in the room, especially as the day progresses into late afternoon and evening.
  • Make sure your monitor is about 14 inches away from your eyes and that your chair has a comfortable back rest for support. Stand up every 30 minutes and walk around, rolling your shoulders and stretching your arms. Do some knee raises to encourage circulation.
  • Keep your mouse, desk surface, keyboard and monitor clean. Pathogens can easily grow on these surfaces. It’s especially important to disinfect these areas if you are sharing the system with others.
  • Keep your laptop off your lap; the heat that emanates from a laptop can, in rare cases, cause skin burns. 
  • When you take a break, clean off the keyboard and desk surface areas, which notoriously harbor germs.
Jane Milliff
Physical Therapy

Sitting all day is hazardous to your health. When you realize just how hazardous, you’ll be jumping out of your chair at the slightest excuse. Good idea. Looking at 8,800 men and women (average age 53) over six years, researchers found that for every hour of TV viewing, risk for death due to cardiovascular disease increased 18%. For those who watched TV more than four hours daily, risk of death was 80% higher than for those watching fewer than two hours daily. Sitting for 8 hours has been linked to 65% more fatigue, and a greater incidence of diabetes, heart disease, musculoskeletal pain, and overall de-conditioning.

Most of our work force is glued to keyboards and our bodies are simply not designed for it. We are meant to move. Unfortunately, exercising for an hour after work does not counteract being planted on your fanny for the previous eight. Whether sitting in a car or at a desk, you need to change position throughout the day, especially if you have neck and back pain. Set a timer on your computer as a reminder to take regular standing breaks. Take stairs rather than elevators or hold “walking meetings” to sneak in a bit of exercise during an otherwise sedentary day. 

While you are seated, tap your toes, squeeze your knees together, or tighten your buttocks muscles to lift you in your seat. Occasionally, pinch shoulder blades together. Any engagement of muscles that increases blood flow and adds to postural awareness is beneficial. 

Remember, your body is made to move. So use these strategies to move into excellent overall health.

Robert Abel Jr
Ophthalmology
Computer vision syndrome refers to eyestrain resulting from long-term computer use. Although this condition doesn't have serious or long-term consequences, it is disruptive and unpleasant. Besides being uncomfortable, CVS might lead to general fatigue and an inability to concentrate. Constant close work with a computer or blackberry may cause progressive near sightedness. In the last 25 years, the incidence of near sighted adults has gone from 25% to 42%.
Eyestrain causes sore or burning eyes, a sore neck, blurred vision, wet or dry eyes, headache, and sensitivity to light. Working at a computer might also produce color afterimages when looking away from a monitor or disrupt the ability to shift focus between a monitor and paper documents. Using proper lighting can be an excellent way to minimize the effects of computer vision syndrome. When using a computer, try to dim the ambient lighting to about half of what is normal for an office. You may want to use less bulbs or bulbs at a lower wattage for this effect. Also, try to position your monitor so that any exposed windows are at a right angle to the computer screen.
Another way to minimize eye strain from the computer is to take a series of short, fiveminute breaks throughout your workday. Stand up, stretch, and focus on things other than your computer screen. These breaks tend to improve overall productivity, so you likely won't be losing any work time. While working, try to blink frequently to rewet the eyes. About every twenty minutes, blink slowly about ten times, which should help to provide needed moisture. Also, practice some simple exercises that will help the eye relax and easily refocus. Every so often, look away from the computer screen and gaze at something far away in your field of vision. Or, alternate between focusing on a close object and then a distant object for about ten seconds each, which will help condition the eyes to refocus effectively.
Integrative Health Solution:
Have an eye exam to make sure you wear the correct glasses. Avoid staring during close work and take periodic breaks every 20 to 30 minutes. Make sure Omega 3 fatty acids are in your daily vitamin regimen and diet.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.