Mirror Magazine
4th June 2000

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Working-out at work?

Many of us now spend hours a day working at a computer keyboard, and often suffer the consequences. Answer these questions to find out how you can help your body cope.

The extent to which computers have taken over in the office, has brought with it a host of often invisible problems. While many of us have a positive attitude to our computers, because they save so much time and make tasks so much easier, they dictate a work-style which is definitely unhelpful to the human body. So many of us come in to work, sit down at our desks and stay there for the rest of the day. If this sounds like you, it is time you put some movement back into your office life.

The human body was designed to move, and we spend too much time sitting at our desks and not enough time moving around. Staying in your comfortable office chair for hours on end, in the same position, leads to your muscles getting stiff, and to increased fatigue and lowered productivity.

To get your blood flowing again and your muscles stretched, there are a few exercises that will help you feel refreshed and invigorated. You should try these at least once in the morning and again in the afternoon, and you should get up from your desk and stretch your legs at least once every hour.

1. How many hours a day do you use a computer at work ?

a. at least ten

b. around five

c. about an hour, sometimes not at all

2. Do you also use a PC at home?

a. not very often

b. yes, regularly each evening

c. occasionally for an hour or so

3. Do you have good equipment at work?

a. no, the working conditions are cramped and unsatisfactory

b. yes, our needs and requests are taken seriously

c. reasonable, with some problems

4. Have you suffered from problems related to unsuitable equipment?

a. yes, I get terrible back ache

b. sometimes my shoulders hurt

c. no, I don't sit at a computer long enough

5. Do you take regular breaks ?

a. yes, I get up every half an hour, and go for a walk every hour or so

b. no, I like to get as much done as possible in one session

c. when I feel stiff I stand up for a couple of minutes

6. Do you do exercises to combat fatigue and stiffness?

a. no, I would feel silly

b. yes, I do a few simple stretching exercises regularly

c. occasionally, if I feel really stiff

7. Do you exercise outside the office?

a. yes, I walk to work and play sports every evening

b. no, I like to sit and rest when I get home

c. most weekends I do some gardening

8. Have you experimented with different equipment?

a. no, we can't change anything at work

b. yes, a new chair completely cured my back problems

c. the new keyboard I tried didn't make much difference

9. What do you think would help reduce your fatigue?

a. having the problems taken seriously at work

b. taking more frequent breaks

c. using the computer less

10. How do you feel at the end of a working day?

a. stiff, aching and exhausted

b. rather tired and in need of some exercise

c. fairly tired but not stiff or fatigued

66-100 : You sound as though you are well aware of the hazards of working long hours at a computer. You make sure that your equipment is suitable for your needs, and you take regular breaks from sitting and typing. You are sensible about doing simple exercises to combat stiffness and fatigue, and you make sure you take exercise outside work to counteract the effects of sedentary, concentrated work.

35-65: Like many people today, you have to spend increasingly long hours sitting at a computer keyboard, and you are aware of the problems this can bring. However, because you feel a little diffident about asking for improved equipment, and are self conscious about taking exercise in public, you are probably suffering from some of the stress-related injuries that can result from overuse of certain parts of the body. You need to take this seriously, or it could lead to permanent problems.

0-34: You are really asking for trouble if you carry on overtaxing your body in this way. You definitely need to get moving, both in and out of the office, and to find ways to decrease the strain you are putting on your hands, back, shoulders and neck. No job is worth ruining your health for.

Ask others in the office if they have problems, and try approaching management for help as a group. It is in your company's interests to help you avoid permanent injury.

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