by Luisa Taliento
Too much sitting around is no good for anyone. But that’s not the end of the story. Working and studying from home over the past year have become a potential threat to our health. A study by the World Health Organization has shown that while we may feel more connected and productive at home than in the office or at school, we are nevertheless concerned about our physical and emotional wellbeing. Our eyesight, hearing, circulation and muscles are the main systems at risk, so here’s some advice to follow.
GIVE YOUR EYES A BREAK
Experts refer to it as computer vision syndrome, namely a group of vision-related, neurological and motor symptoms which between 70% and 90% of people who sit in front of a screen every day suffer from, and this percentage has risen due to the pandemic. One of the things you can do to protect your eyes is take a ten-minute break every hour you spend on the computer, looking at something else. Spending a lot of time in front of the screen could lead to your eyesight getting temporarily worse, especially as you become older. Computer-related headaches, on the other hand, are due to muscles being under constant tension to focus on a close object. The longer focus is maintained, the more eyes are strained. Using glasses is therefore essential if you need to correct your near vision. As we have said, taking a break from the computer is very important, as is having the right light that doesn’t force your pupils to have to continuously adapt.
PROTECT YOUR HEARING
We spend whole days talking to clients, colleagues, patients, students, teachers and friends. There are certain sounds which, even if not necessarily loud, can damage our hearing if we are subjected to them for long periods of time. To listen safely, you should follow a couple of simple rules. For instance, always set your computer or mobile phone at 60% of its maximum volume and don’t use it for more than 60 minutes at a time, taking a fifteen-minute break every hour. It is also a good idea to use external headphones: the sound produced by this kind of device, as long as it is not too loud, is gentler and less traumatic on the membrane of our eardrum than earphones or earbuds. Earbuds are also a breeding ground for germs and bacteria, which can cause infections of mainly the outer but sometimes the inner ear because we tend to throw them in our bags, backpacks and pockets, attracting dirt. So, in these Covid times, remember to sanitise your earbuds before using them and don’t lend them to others.
Our sedentary lifestyle, brought on by the health emergency, also poses a threat to our blood circulation. Tell-tale signs that something is wrong are spider veins or actual varicose veins. So doing leg exercises on a regular basis is extremely important. A 30-minute walk in the city or park every day or taking the stairs whenever you can is a good start. If, for work, family or health reasons, you don’t have time to exercise, try rocking backwards and forwards from your heels onto your toes or march on the spot, making sure you lift your knees up high so that your muscles contract and you get the “pump” action of the muscles in your legs to send your blood back to your heart. Don’t forget about the importance of your diet, eating food or taking supplements that protect the circulation, like horse chestnut and pineapple extracts, red vine, blueberry juice and citrus fruits. Creams and gradient compression stockings can also do their bit for healthy legs.
We’re not made for sitting still and even a correct posture can have a negative effect on us if maintained for hours and hours. One tip is to place something under your laptop so your eyes are perpendicular to the screen, which is the correct position for the cervical spine. Your mouse and keyboard should be lined up with the screen, if you work on a desktop, to prevent you having to continuously turn your head. They should also be positioned in such a way that both your forearms can rest on your desk, providing support for your upper limbs and relieving any tension in your shoulders. The height of your desk and chair are also important, so you don’t have to hunch too far forwards. Make sure you don’t forget to move, so stand up and walk around regularly.