Dealing with Deskitis

You’d think nothing could be less risky than sitting at a desk and working at a computer all day. Web workers do face health challenges though. Whether it’s eye strain, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or the steady emergence of love handles to tote your disappearing six pack these maladies can collectively be called ‘deskitis.’ With a few simple solutions, however, deskitis doesn’t have to be an affliction of the mobile digerati.

Eye strain isn’t extremely serious and won’t cause long term damage. However it can be a big, disruptive, pain. It’s caused when the eye becomes fatigued by staring at something for too long. The results are blurry vision, headaches, and an increased sensitivity to light. Ophthalmologists recommend that for every 20 minutes that you stare at a screen make a point to focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Breaking the monotony of focus will help keep your eyes fresh. If you keep forgetting to take an ‘eye break’ check out these applications that will remind you on a schedule of your choosing.

Last week Mike helped soothe fears about the scarily named deep vein thrombosis (DVT). However, cases of this dangerous health problem do occur. Movement every half hour helps greatly. Chris previously posted some great stretching exercises that you can try. If you feel self conscious about contorting at your local coffee shop then try this: slowly roll onto the balls of your feet, hold for several counts, and (in a controlled manner) return your foot to the floor. Do this for ten minutes or until tired and you’ll get a bit of circulation going in your calf.

Finally, but not surprisingly, there are numerous websites that offer to help with the weight gain that can accompany a desk job. While computer professionals may be unintentionally living the Hacker’s Diet – losing weight through stress and poor nutrition – that’s not a foundation for long term health. Much of weight loss has to do with motivation and there are a number of sites that have adopted “web 2.0” style communities to provide motivation with a dose of companionship. WeightLossWars.com allows you to compete with a group of your choosing. Traineo.com is similar, allowing up to four friends or family members to receive progress emails. Nike has even build an entire online community around its co-branded iPod pedometer.

Web worker or not, deskitis does not have to be a given of modern culture. Ailments like eye strain, DVT, and weight gain can be avoided or managed. These are a few quick suggestions but there are many more. What do you do during your day to cope?

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