Sitting fit

The problems that can come from sitting at a PC all day - such as the onset of repetitive strain injury (RSI) - are not to be sniffed at. WINDOWS explains how you can surf, type and search the web pain-free.

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By  Matthew Wade Published  March 2, 2008

The problems that can come from sitting at a PC all day - such as the onset of repetitive strain injury (RSI) - are not to be sniffed at.

WINDOWS explains how you can surf, type and search the web pain-free.

If you sit in a bad posture and carry out repetitive movements - such as typing or moving a mouse around - for long periods of time, then scientific research suggests that you may well end up experiencing neck, limb or back pain (or indeed all three).

These conditions are collectively referred to as RSI, AKA overuse syndromes.

According to the US organisation, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 34% of all lost-workday injury and illness in the States is due to RSI-related problems.

An amazing statistic when you think about it, but at the same time a believable one when you consider how long many of us sit - such as those in hard-working, long-hour America - spend sat at our desks.

And whilst we can't offer you advice on how to persuade your boss to change your working hours, we can give you some tips that various RSI bodies and scientific research groups reckon will help minimise the negative effects of being PC-plugged. Let's get started.

Do sit properly

Slouching will get you nowhere, as slumping at your desk puts unnecessary strain on your neck and shoulders, and the surrounding muscles and tendons. So...

• Don't slouch.

• Keep your back straight and upright (slightly reclining your chair can help with this, as can keeping your feet flat on the floor).

• Your arms should be in a natural position (no more than a 90-degree angle between upper arm and forearm and flatten your keyboard to make sure your wrists lie straight).

Don't hammer away

Gripping the mouse hard and typing heavily put unnecessary strain on your muscles. Breathe deep and try to adopt a Muhammad Ali-style 'float like a butterfly' approach to your typing.

Do blow it up

Give your eyes and your posture a boost by increasing your monitor's resolution. This will ensure you don't strain your eyes, and that you don't hunch over in order to sit closer to your screen.

To change the resolution, go to your PC's desktop, right-click and choose Properties, then head for the Settings tab and try out the various configurations until you find a view that's comfortable.

Do take regular breaks

Yes everyone says it, and yes it is important.

RSI EXPLAINED

RSI ailments come about from structural changes to muscle fibers and an accompanying decrease in blood flow to the affected area (such as the hand or arm).

The immobile tissue in question, and the inflammation surrounding it, effectively compress the nerve.

This in turn can cause numbness or tingling, which sometimes leads to eventual weakness if the nerve is severely damaged.

The most common RSI injuries are tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). The latter accounts for more than 41% of all repetitive motion disorders in the USA.

Women between the ages of 40 and 60 are most at risk from RSI.


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