While the modern day worker is usually no longer subjected to 10, 12, or 20 hour shifts, and can look forward to much more pleasant working conditions, modern office life has its own fair share of health and safety concerns. For example, sitting at a desk and staring at a computer screen all day, as most developers do, is not as back-breaking as hauling heavy loads or working in a factory, but the human body was not built to sit and stare at awkward angles all day. Our wrists are poorly designed for the angles forced on them by keyboards, and carpal tunnel develops. Computer screens cause eyestrain and dryness. Computer chairs cause back and neck pain. Is it any surprise that many developers go home and feel as if they were working in a factory?
Because modern employers recognize that happy, healthy employees are productive employees, there are a wide range of exercises you can do to keep you loose, limber, and energized. Many of them you can easily accomplish without leaving your chair or requiring a lot to space to jump and lunge, and best of all you won’t be disturbing any nearby co-workers.
Stretching is an easy way to take a quick break from work and pause to recognize any sore or tense spots. When you get really absorbed in a task, it can be easy to ignore the fact your neck hurts, you’re staring at your screen at an awkward angle, and that you’re slouching. Stretching helps you readjust and better yet, gives you the kind of 30 second pause you might need to break through writer’s block or a logical problem.
Stretch 1: intertwine your fingers and reach your arms towards the ceiling, palms up. Roll your neck. When you release, check your posture. I bet you’re sitting up straight now!
Stretch 2: Lift your legs out straight in front of you, flexing your feet and ankles.
Stretch 3: Lean left and right, hinging at the waist (as if you were trying to bring your head to your hip). Stretch your left hand above you as you lean right, and your right hand above you as you lean left – as long as you don’t feel like you’ll fall out of your chair.
Stretch 4: Keeping your lower body as still as possible, twist your upper body as far to the left as possible, then as far to the right as possible. Do not over-twist or force your upper body further than is comfortable using the table or arm of the chair. These stretches should energize, not hurt!
Avoiding Carpal Tunnel
As mentioned before, keyboards and computer mice hold our wrists at an awkward, upward angle, pinching important nerves and tendons between the bones of the hand. Symptoms start with numbness and tingling, and quickly move on to pain and the loss of mobility. Ergonomic keyboards and mice can only do so much – we have to stop and stretch periodically as well.
Stretch 1: Stop typing and give yourself a little hand massage. Whatever feels good – the moving your wrists out of the typing position is what is key.
Stretch 2: Roll your wrists clockwise and counterclockwise for a few revolutions.
Stretch 3: Go for a walk. This isn’t going to directly impact your wrists, but the break from typing is most important.
Other solutions: wrist braces to hold your wrist in a neutral position are helpful when breaks are impossible or you already have some nerve damage. A better chair or back brace to help posture will also help your wrists, believe it or not. If at all possible, trade tasks with another employee every week or two, to help the both of you avoid repetitive motion injuries.
Staring at a computer screen causes eye strain. This is a simple fact. No matter what kind of anti-glare coating, eye shade, or LED screen you have, eye strain will happen. The most common culprit – not blinking! Blinking is an involuntary reaction, on par with breathing or digestion. But something happens to human physiology when we are confronted with a shining monitor, and studies show our blinking rates can drop by half when staring at a screen! It is no wonder our eyes get tired and dry.
Exercise 1: This one is easy. Stick a bright post-it note on your screen, somewhere where you will be forced to see it all the time, and write “BLINK” on it in large, bold letters. Believe it or not, this will help.
Exercise 2: Clean your screen. A smudge-free screen will help your eyes, and the movement will help your sore muscles.
Exercise 3: Keep your monitor at eye level (even if this means propping it up on books or lowering your chair), at most a few inches below eye level. This will help your posture, too.
Exercise 4: Take a walk. That’s right! It’s good for your wrists and good for your eyes. Even if you just go get a sip of water once an hour, your eyes (and wrists, and back, and legs…) will thank you.
Get Up and Move!
Perhaps you have a hard time sitting still, or you would just like to get a little more exercise. Either way, there are certainly exercises you can do, even in a cubicle, to get you up and moving during the day.
Exercise 1: Get out of your chair and stretch. Interlacing your fingers and stretching your hands above your head (palms up), stretch up on your tip-toes, and then bend down to touch your toes. It gets the blood flowing.
Exercise 2: If you have the room, do some lunges. Place your hands on your hips and lunge forward with your right leg, bending your left leg 90°. Do not extend your knee past your ankle, as this can cause damage to your joints. In one swift motion, return to standing and repeat on the left side.
Exercise 3: This one requires less room. Stand up out of your chair and be sure to move it out of your way. Then slowly bend your knees and lower down, as if you were sitting in an invisible chair (remember, move your real chair, no cheating!). Again, be sure to keep your knee in line with your ankle to avoid injury. To make it harder, raise your arms over your head and try these squats.
Exercise 4: If you are blessed with a lot of office space, get down on the floor for some push ups and crunches. To avoid getting too sweaty work in sets of 10 or 20 a couple times a day.
Exercise 5: If you don’t want to wrinkle your work clothes, try working your abs with a “plank.” Support the weight of your body in a push-up position (knees up or down, with arms fully extended or on your elbows). Aim for holding a plank for 30 seconds (work up to it in 10 second intervals if needed), and work up to a minute or two. A yoga mat can store neatly in your office, in a drawer or closet, if you are really dedicated to office fitness!
The Easiest Exercise
If you don’t have the space for some of these moves, of if your office is very open and you feel embarrassed about sitting in an invisible chair in front of all your co-workers, there is one sure-fire way to help eye-strain, wrist fatigue, boredom, and writer’s block. Take a walk! Walk around the perimeter of the cubicles, walk around the building outside. Walk to get your lunch a block further away than usual. Walk down the stairs to use a further away printer. You don’t need any more equipment than just your two legs and comfortable shoes. Even if you can only leave your desk for quick 30-second bursts, it will add up over the course of the day.
Reference: Pinal Dave (http://blog.sqlauthority.com)