By Ashley Andrews
Design has always been about human beings, aesthetic appeal and purpose. A door to a building is a chosen height. A bicycle holds, generally, the weight of a human being. A pen’s dimensions are ergonomic. They are designed to be comfortable and useful.
Still, the word ergonomic was not very popular when many standard designs were developed. A bicycle is not particularly ergonomic, but the ram’s horn bicycle handle design seen on racing bikes in modern times is an ergonomic development, allowing the rider several options leaning forward that help reduce strain on their back.
Modern designers cannot claim to have invented ergonomics, which is the art of designing items with people in mind. But modern times have pushed ergonomics forward. Thanks to someone looking out for my lower spine, the handle to my snow shovel is now shaped like the letter Z. That changes the center of gravity for the load, now easier to lift. It shortens the distance between user and the shovel’s scoop, now easier to push.
Modern times can also not lay claim to a national obsession with health, but there seemed to be a national turning point in the 1970s, when the popularity of jogging soared. While it seems a losing battle for the country as a whole, suddenly everybody wanted to be thin.
In the meantime, work has become a physical health game changer. Sitting down for hours squinting at a computer may lack the risks of construction work or working the crab harvest in the Bering Strait, but repeating the same physical task day after day can cripple a pinkie. If you want healthy eyes, back, hands, circulation, feet, legs, and some control over you waste-line, then you can’t overlook the potential damage that can be done by modern jobs. In so many words, logging for a living or fishing for crab in the Arctic kills a few, while working at a computer cripples many.
So, without further introduction, let’s look at a few ergonomic options and health tips for surviving life in an office.
The ergonomic keyboard
The standard keyboard, which requires two hands side by side, has been replaced over the years by the curved, ergonomic keyboard that allows the hands to stay further apart. On these keyboards, the hands point outward, slightly, working a keyboard that looks split down the middle.
When I see these keyboards, I often ask if the user likes them. I have never been told anything except how wonderful they are.
The ergonomic chair
There are a variety of ergonomics chairs, which are designed to prevent your posture from going into a comfortable slump and staying there all day. One variety includes a mesh netting for a back. Many involve forcing the person using them to kneel, rather than sit.
No chair at all
Here’s another option: No chair at all. There are many varieties of desks, but certainly the smart money is on a desk that raises and lowers, allowing the user to stand if they prefer to do that. These desks are great for for posture and circulation, standing on a hard floor for too long can be tough on the feet. Expert advice on this novel approach can be found at healthydesks.com, which says that the benefits of a standing desk include a decreased risk of heart attack, reduced risk of diabetes, and improved circulation that prevents the development of blood clots or thrombosis.
Like any health option, a little research goes a long way. How healthy is a standing desk for someone very young or very old might be a question to ask a physician.
Standing or sitting for hours (but especially sitting) require the person to move around frequently. Almost any task allows for small breaks throughout the day and get on a treadmill for five or ten minutes, climb a set of stairs or at least walk the length of an office corridor as frequently as possible.
The yoga mat
If you don’t have time or the facility for a cardio workout, it might be reasonable to find a place to stretch every hour or so and if it’s not possible to lie down to stretch, there are many yoga exercises that can be done from either a standing or a sitting position.
Eyes and ears
If you look up homeopathic eye care, you will find many hints and simple exercises on keeping your eyes healthy if your job requires staring at a computer screen all day. Eyes do you muscles to focus, so the standard advise is to simply look into the distance once in a while. Look out the window frequently if you have that option and focus no something far away.
It’s not news that working in loud environments can damage your years. There are many varieties of ear plugs and mufflers on the market to block out some of the more damaging decibels.
Hands and feet
Muscles require workouts. Those squeeze toys and spring loaded gadgets to work he muscles in your hands (and arms) are a lot better than nothing. For feet, a simple dowel placed under your desk to roll back and forth with your foot relieve stress and keep your circulation going.