Most young and middle-aged people nowadays are working in offices equipped with computers and laptops. These people spend a tremendous amount of time on their computers. And many people have either a laptop or a PC, or even both, at home. So once they leave work, they come home and relax in front of the monitor – watching movies, listening to music or just socializing via Facebook or other social networks.
The average citizen of any developed country spends up to 10 hours per day on the computer. And it’s the body and internal organs that have to pay for such lifestyle. For example, sitting too long at a computer can provoke the development of various cardiac problems.
Take a break and turn your attention to how you sit. Are your shoulders raised? Do you feel any tension in the neck and sub-occipital muscles? Is your head leaning forward or bent aside? Is your back bowed? If any of the above applies to you, then bear in mind that long-term sitting in such positions causes stagnation in the system of the vertebral arteries, disturbance of the blood supply to the brain and consequently leads to:
- increased fatigability;
- decrease in memory;
- increased blood pressure;
- false angina – pains in the heart due to prolonged compression of the intercostal nerves;
- arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) due to the overstimulation of the nerve cell clusters located along the spinal cord.
Recently, a study was conducted in Canada involving about 17,000 people being followed for 12 years in order to examine the relationship between sedentary behaviors (including television viewing and using computers) and mortality. The results were grievous – increased sitting time is directly related to all-cause and cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality. Moreover, even those individuals who met physical activity recommendations, but spent more time sitting, had increased risk of mortality versus those sitting for less spaces of time.
Another population-based UK research was carried out involving about 4,500 people. The researchers examined the relationships of the recreational sitting with cardiovascular disease risk and mortality. The results showed that people who spent over 4 hours per day watching TV or using computers had 125% increase in cardiovascular disease events than those doing it for less than 2 hours per day. The study also revealed that even exercises during other hours of the day could not reverse the damage caused by prolonged sitting. So, to reduce the negative effects of prolonged sitting, it is essential to break up the time you spend sitting with periodic exercises.
How to avoid the negative effects of sitting at the computer?
There are two main rules to follow when you sit at a computer:
- change your body position as often as possible;
- control your muscle tension.
For these purposes set up a reminder on your computer for it to send you a signal every 15 minutes to check your sitting posture – whether or not your back is strained, shoulders are raised and hands are tired. And do the following:
- move in your chair, change your body position – it will remove the tension form the muscles that fixed your sitting posture, improve their blood supply and increase blood oxygenation;
- shake your hands and rotate your wrists, clench-unclench your fingers – it will help you prevent the progression of repetitive strain injury;
- shrug your shoulders – it will remove the tension from your shoulder girdle, activate the blood flow in the vertebral arteries and stimulate the nerve plexuses in the back of the head.
Also, it is important that when sitting you must try to keep your back straight, do not tilt your head forward or crane your neck when bending towards the computer.
Here are some tips that can help you reduce your sitting time at the computer:
- Drink more water – going to the water cooler and to the toilet will help your break up the time your spend sitting;
- Keep your waste bin away from your desk so you have to get up every time you want to use it;
- If possible, use height-adjustable desk so you could work sitting and standing;
- When it’s time for lunch, go out and have it outdoors or in a café; do not eat at your desk;
- Stand during phone calls and use headsets during teleconferences so you could stand anytime you need.
- Instead of writing an email or phoning your colleague walk to his or her desk;
- At home, while watching a movie on your PC or laptop, do your household chores (like ironing or folding clothes).
Another issue that still raises a lot of concerns when talking about the health effects of computers is computer radiation. There is a great deal of vagueness, inaccuracy and even myths on this subject. In general, the consensus among scientists is that modern computers and laptops are produced in compliance with the safety requirements of the control authorities; thus, they do not present any hazard to individuals.
But, like any electronic device, computers do emit electromagnetic fields. Monitors alone produce the following types of radiation:
- non-ionizing radiation;
- very low frequency radiation;
- extremely low frequency radiation;
- infrared radiation;
- visible light.
Also, those devices that use CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors also emit small amounts of ionizing (X-ray) radiation. The available scientific information cannot prove any health risks from the exposure to the EMF associated with the use of computer monitors. But, to be on the safe side, it’s worth following these two main rules:
- try to decrease the amount of time spent in front of your computer – take breaks whenever possible, go for a stroll around the office or go outdoors instead of checking the latest updates on YouTube;
- increase the distance between your computer and your body – the more distance between you and your computer, the weaker the EMF. Sit at least 30 cm away from your monitor. The same rule works for your laptop, in spite of the name this type of device bears, keep it off your lap!
- Sitting time and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Katzmarzyk PT, Church TS, Craig CL, Bouchard C http://revdesportiva.pt/files/form_cont/Sitting_Time_and_Mortality_from_All_Causes.pdf
- Screen-Based Entertainment Time, All-Cause Mortality, and Cardiovascular Events. Emmanuel Stamatakis, Mark Hamer, David W. Dunstan https://www.academia.edu/6791208/
- Sitting less for adults. Heart Foundation. http://www.heartfoundation..au/SiteCollectionDocuments/HW-PA-SittingLess-Adults.pdf
- Radiation From Computer Monitors. https://ehs.mit.edu/site/content/radiation-computer-monitors
- Computer/VDT Screens. http://hps.org/publicinformation/ate/faqs/computervdtscreen.html
- Exposure to Electromagnetic Fields From Laptop Use of “Laptop” Computers. C. V. Bellieni, I. Pinto, A. Bogi, N. Zoppetti, D. Andreuccetti, G. Buonocore. http://www.bcna.ca/files_3/documents/LaptopsandEMFs.pdf