Log Into Life: Top 9 Tips To Fight Computer Fatigue & Protect Your Health

Did you know that your sedentary lifestyle could be killing you from the inside out? Ryan has already presented a case on potential health risks from sitting too long, and for those of us who work with computers or spend all of our free time on our desktops, those health risks are all too real: obesity, diabetes, cancer, etc. Take charge of your health before it takes a permanent turn for the worst.

If you don’t think you’re at risk, or if you think you’re young enough that none of this matters yet, I would ask that you reconsider. Even if you don’t work eight hours in front of a computer every day, playing Diablo 3 or Call of Duty for hours at a time is just as detrimental. And we’re not just talking about long-term health damage – improper computer usage can drain your energy, strain your eyes, and fog up your brain.

Are you at risk? Check these tips and examine yourself for areas where you might not be as pristine as you first thought. Your body and mind will thank you.

Proper Workstation Setup

There’s a lot of freedom that you can enjoy when setting up your workstation (or gamestation, if that’s the main purpose for your computer). With that said, there are two main factors that you want to consider in your layout and both are related to posture. Improper posture puts undue stress on parts of your body, resulting in faster exhaustion, strained muscles, or even injury.

computer fatigue posture   Log Into Life: Top 9 Tips To Fight Computer Fatigue & Protect Your Health

Tip #1: Correct sitting posture. As it turns out, sitting up straight is not the best position for your spine – the best angle is somewhere between 120 and 135 degrees. You want your shoulders to always remain relaxed; your forearms and your hands should form a straight line; your feet should be flat on the floor; and the top of your monitor should be at eye-level. All of this leads to the least amount of stress on your body.

Tip #2: Use a standing desk. Here at MakeUseOf, we’ve spoken a lot on the merits of the standing desk so I won’t delve into that. Suffice it to say that standing helps improve your overall posture, increases your stamina over time, and works as a reminder to take frequent breaks. Dave has written a great guide on building a cheap standing desk from scratch and Tina has compiled a great list of standing desk designs.

Minimize Eye Strain

When it comes to computer-related fatigue, one of the biggest culprits often gets forgotten: your eyes. Back pain and sore muscles are easy to notice, but we tend to overlook the fact that our eyes are tired, blurry, and dry — and that impacts the rest of your mood and energy more than you think it would.

computer fatigue eyes   Log Into Life: Top 9 Tips To Fight Computer Fatigue & Protect Your Health

Tip #3: Correct ambient lighting. The first thing you want to do is make sure that your ambient light isn’t very bright at all. Harsh fluorescent overhead lights and bright sunlight will cause your eyes to strain as they try to read the screen. If possible, use shades and curtains to dampen any bright sources of light, and replace fluorescent bulbs with incandescent or halogen lighting.

Tip #4: Optimize screen settings. Your screen’s brightness should match that of your ambient lighting. One way to test: if looking at a blank white screen feels like you’re looking into a light bulb, it’s too bright. On the other hand, if it feels drab and gray, then your brightness is probably too low. Fortunately, there are a few helpful apps and programs for screen-related eye strain.

Tip #5: Blink regularly. Computer screens have a way of stealing all of our attention, and that means that we’re often so engrossed in what we’re doing that we forget to blink. This causes our eyes to dry out, which can lead to itchy eyeballs, blurry vision, exhaustion, or in rare cases, eye damage, so try to blink regularly. If you need dry eye relief, be sure to use eye drops that are meant for lubrication, NOT red eyes. Don’t forget to consult a doctor if you feel any debilitating effects. 

Take Frequent Breaks

Perhaps the greatest problem is that we forget that we’re on the computer. Four hours can fly by in the blink of an eye and suddenly our bodies are worn out, our minds are deflated, and we just have no energy to do anything else… so we stay on the computer even longer. The absolutely best way to minimize health risks from computer usage is to take regular breaks.

computer fatigue relax   Log Into Life: Top 9 Tips To Fight Computer Fatigue & Protect Your Health

Tip #6: Get your blood flowing. As mentioned before, the best thing for your body is to get it moving. Circulating your blood is essential for improved physical health and energy. Every once in a while – preferably at least once every hour – get up from your desk and shake your limbs about. If possible, go for a walk, even if it’s only to the restroom.

Tip #7: Refresh your mental clarity. If you can, try to break your attention away from the computer every twenty to thirty minutes. Strike up a conversation with a friend or coworker – five minutes is more than long enough. Look out the window and enjoy the scenery. Or even close your eyes for a few minutes (but don’t fall asleep!). This helps prevent your mind from feeling like it’s sloshing through mud.

Tip #8: Use the Pomodoro technique. For those of you that have a hard time remembering to take breaks, the Pomodoro technique is exactly what you need. It’s a system of interweaving short breaks with longer periods of work and, as a bonus, it’s been known to have a dramatic impact on productivity. There are plenty of Pomodoro technique apps and programs for you, too.

Tip #9: Learn to relax. Taking a break isn’t really taking a break if you’re still caught up on whatever it is from which you’re taking a break. Sometimes the best thing to do is just sit back and relax – no, really relax. Ease the tension and clear your mind. Tina has compiled a whole bunch of tools to aid you in relaxation.

Conclusion

That’s a lot of information to digest, especially if you haven’t been doing any of the listed tips. It will be overwhelming if you try to completely revamp your lifestyle overnight, so I recommend picking two or three things from the list that you aren’t already doing and try to apply them over the next few weeks. Once those become habits, you can pick a few more from the list, rinse, and repeat.

What other tips and tools do you know for fighting computer fatigue and maintaining good health? Please share them with us in the comments!

Image Credits: Proper Posture via BBC, Eye Strain Via Shutterstock, Relaxed Worker Via Shutterstock

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22 Comments -

Zoltan

https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/computerworkstations/positions.html

They may be just a tiny bit better informed and dont always agree with you.

Joel Lee

I would advise you to look at your link again: “These four reference postures are examples of body posture changes that all provide neutral positioning for the body.” They actually do agree with me. Specifically, look at the one labelled “Reclined Sitting.”

kneekoo

About tip #8: Workrave is excellent for taking breaks from the PC. Check http://www.workrave.org/documentation/leaflet/ – it’s a free open-source software working on PCs with Windows or Linux that not only helps you take breaks from your PC but if you also switch between computers it will know your schedule on any computer and advise you accordingly.

The one thing I found great about Workrave was the exercises for the rest breaks. Just awesome. :)
Check it out: http://www.workrave.org/media/base/img/screenshots/exercises.gif

Using such software takes a bit of ambition because if you’re not so much inclined to getting more healthy habits in front of the PC you might find such software annoying. But as I started using it when I felt be back hurt/burning, had headaches and eye fatigue (a lot of PC hours a day), the exercises actually helped me get back in shape and lose about all the negative effects I felt before.

By the way, the GIF I linked above doesn’t include all the exercises. They help the eyes, the neck, spine, joints and some muscles. You should try it for a week and make an article about it. I’m pretty much sure you’ll be impressed. :)

Joel Lee

Reminder programs are a great way to remember to breaks. I used something similar when I used to have strained eyes (had to remember to look away from the screen every 20 minutes) but Workrave seems to be a great option. Thanks!

Pooky J

That cat looks like mine though LOL

Saikat B

I can personally attest to the benefits of using a simple timer to take breaks and walking away from the computer to do some physical activity for five minutes. 25 minutes seems to be the optimum time often advocated.

Joel Lee

Maybe it has something to do with the Internet age and the trend in decreased attention spans, but yeah, working in bursts of 15-25 minutes has been the most beneficial for me, too!

GF

Programmers can/must do something for us.

For many years users of computer deal with a bright white screen. Doctors say that bright white doesn’t damage our eyes, but I don’t feel easy about it, as that bright white seems to pierce the eyes.
I have seen some programs and websites showing a black background and I have appreciated it. It seems really harmless.
When will the damn Bright-White-Piercing-Screen Era finish?

Andrei

Have you heard about F.lux?

Joel Lee

I always second any mention of F.lux. It’s a beautiful program and can really save your eyes!

Joel Lee

If it feels like you’re looking into a lightbulb when you look at your screen, your brightness and contrast need to be adjusted. If the ambient lighting is bright, the screen should be bright. If the ambient lighting is more mellow, your screen should be dimmer to match. If it ever feels “too bright,” it most likely is!

GF

Once on our monitors there were rotating knobs. Changing brightness and contrast was quick, straight, convenient. It was a pleasure to adjust our monitors.
Then some idiots decided to “modernize” monitors, so they created OSD commands. So today to change brightness and contrast it’s necessary to navigate through some menus and to press several keys. I deeply dislike such stupid complication. That’s why I look for alternatives.

Kcalpesh A

Good one!! Good to know the chair I use while working is the correct one :-)

fady

I am addicted to sitting in front of a computer for long periods and now suffer from pain in the back and neck.
Are you sure that the proper and correct sitting posture is as you mentioned in tip #1 ?!!.
Most of the articles and blogs talking about that is different than yours.
please check these links:
http://www.wikihow.com/Sit-at-a-Computer
http://www.torontochiropractor.ca/sitting-at-work.htm
http://www.posturite.co.uk/art-of-sitting

regards.

Joel Lee

The Posturite link agrees that the angled slouch is acceptable as long as it is done correctly. Check the “Correct Slouch” section in the link you provided. The Toronto link doesn’t mention a slouch, but as I mentioned, it’s a recent “discovery” so perhaps the website itself is just outdated (at the latest, it’s dated 2011). And I do not trust WikiHow as a valid source for anything!

fady

I don’t think the “Correct Slouch” figure which attached at the link ” http://www.posturite.co.uk/art-of-sitting ” is effective without a support for the head , where it should be your neck to be in normal straight position with your spine (check the figure of step7 at the WikiHow site:http://www.wikihow.com/Sit-at-a-Computer).
But as I see from the attached figure of your article that your neck has a forward angle with the spine which lead to feel a stress and tension at the back of your head and then a headache (I already tried it and felt as mentioned).

Henryk K

Perhaps I am a peculiar shape but I have found that the 90 degree posture has been the most comfortable for me for the past 37 years! I have found that it is important to have the table and chair at exactly the right height and the monitor angled correctly and at the right distance. The 120-135 degree position may be muscularly neutral but the overrelaxed position has had an overrelaxed effect on my concentration! Regular breaks – vital – and obviously not just for computer work…

Joel Lee

If whatever you’re doing is causing no pain or discomfort, then perhaps there’s no harm in continuing to do it your way.

Mike

I’m a programmer of 7 years and found myself addicted to sitting for longer and longer periods as my skills improved. I now have a vertically extending desk which is superb – my time split between sitting and standing is now pretty much 50% – I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Joel Lee

Wow, a desk that can switch between standing and sitting would be AWESOME. Was it expensive? Did you make it yourself? I’m now piqued on it.

Mike

Hi Joel, I didn’t make it myself although I did choose the self assembly option as I only ordered the frame and attached it to an existing desktop. It operates on a pull out panel with separate buttons for rise and fall. As I remember it cost ÂŁ550 ex VAT – but it is german made and very well engineered.

Doug

I learned the importance of correct sitting posture the hard way. I always though I needed to be sitting at a 90-degree angle. As a result of doing that for up to 16 hours a day for 10 years, I am now disabled with back, hip, and thigh pain and I walk with a cane.

This is no joke! This injury caused by sitting at the computer has aged me quickly and greatly reduced my quality of life. I attribute it all to the computer. My work is 100% computer based, plus I write as a hobby.

Here’s the anatomical problem: There is a muscle that goes from the top of the thigh, over the hip, into the lower back. When you sit down it shrinks in length. Do that long enough, as I did, and it will shrink permanently. You will find standing up very painful. You will have acute pain in your thigh, hip, and lower back.

For me here are the partial solutions. I say “partial” because my problem has become chronic and acute even after taking these counter measures.

1) I sit at a 135-degree angle, but with my feet straight out on a foot stool.

2) . . . with support behind the neck.

3) Use a kitchen timer to work for a maximum of 30 to 60 minutes.

4) Use the timer for a 15-minute break after each hour. Use 5 minutes of your break for exercise. Use the other 10 minutes for productive nonsitting activities.

5) Build muscle at the gym, targeting the whole body. I feel much better the day after going to the gym. I’m in my 60s.

6) Get an hour a day of outdoor exercise on non-gym days.

7) If you spend many hours in low light to protect your eyes, make sure you get adequate exposure to light outdoors. I don’t think it’s healthy to spend 8 to 16 hours a day in low light.

Since going on a 60/15 alternating schedule I’ve been able to increase my work and nonwork productivity and my attitude. My work seems much less tedious when I break it up into segments. I get more other tasks done as well.