Healthier computer use

Andrew Stucken / 26 March 2013

Spending lengthy spells at your computer could mean you are gradually storing up health problems. Postural, visual, joint and other issues can arise or grow worse from incorrect computer use – but a few simple steps can considerably reduce the risks.

Are you sitting comfortably?

Posture Most basically, ensure your chair is directly in line with the monitor and your feet flat in the floor. Make sure your lower back is supported – better chairs give lumbar support - and remember to sit up straight. Aim to have your shoulders and hands in a straight line. Keep your forearms parallel and level with the desk.

Touch typists are at an advantage as they will be able to keep their gaze fixed on the screen without continually looking down at the keyboard. If you are wondering which new skill to learn, this could be worth remembering.

Chair You should consider your seating carefully. An orthopaedic computer chair will give optimum comfort and support, but cost hundreds of pounds new. Even a standard office computer chair on casters however, at under £50, will still be a big improvement on one of your dining room chairs.

Screen stars

Monitor Consider the screen size. A larger, good quality monitor should reduce eye strain, but you can still take measures without spending money. Ensure the screen is tilted slightly forward, with no redirected glare, and the top of the screen slightly below eye level. Help your eye muscles by regularly focussing on something other than the screen.

Many monitors now have an inbuilt anti-glare screen fitted, but if your monitor is several years old - and especially if you are still using an old-fashioned CRT model – you should consider using an anti-glare screen. They clip over the screen, and apparently cut out over 90 per cent of radiation and protect your eyes from reflected light.

Monitor arms are becoming increasingly popular, allowing you to readily tilt and position your monitor exactly as you wish.

Mouse nous and striking the right key

Mouse and keyboard Small improvements add up. A mouse pad with wrist support filled with a special gel will be £10 well spent, especially if sensitive wrists and hands are an issue. Elongated wrist supports are available to place along the bottom of the keyboard.

When buying a new mouse, choose one with a scroll wheel – it enables you to scroll the cursor up and down the page without moving the mouse. If hand and wrist issues are present, take a look at ergonomic mice – there are various designs, all aimed at increasing your comfort.

Similarly with ergonomic keyboards – and whatever keyboard you use, you should keep it clean - inexpensive cleaning kits are readily available at many stationers and computer shops. If mouse and keyboard use are a problem per se there are alternatives. Voice recognition software allows you to use your voice to input data and command what the computer does.

If you use a laptop for extended periods, some of the hazards described here are increased. Plug in a mouse and keyboard to make yourself more comfortable.

Take a break

Whichever type of system you use, take regular breaks – stretch and walk around as often as every half hour.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.