“I’ve been playing games ever since I was a small child (see my introduction post for more details on that charming story) and over the course of years have battled a variety of ailments related to my love of video games and the many hours of computer usage that come along with it. I distinctly remember playing one Flash game where I was a little Wizard and had to shoot fireballs to fight off my foes. This game involved a lot of clicking and moving the mouse and was my first exposure to a game that was actually quite trying on my hands and wrists.
I clicked furiously so many times that I actually ended up straining my hand and wrist and had to take a break from it for a few days in order for it to heal. The interval during which I couldn’t play and complete the game was painful in its own right as it was such a compelling game and ever since then I have been quite careful with regards to how things are set up to and have managed to avoid any more serious injuries.
So, with that preamble in mind, let’s discuss maintaining your health while gaming (especially if you game 6+ hours a day on a regular basis). Playing on the computer is definitely less physically exerting than playing a sport or doing a workout but it does still take its toll on your body. I’ve assembled a list of 10 tips (everyone loves lists) to minimize its effect on the areas that are most affected by regular, extensive computer use (bear in mind, some of these are applicable for office workers as well!).
1. Set up your space in an ergonomic fashion to avoid multiplying the negative effect of the position you are holding for so many hours.
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- Try to ensure that your monitor is at least 20 inches away from you.
- Adjust the monitor so that your eyes are at a point about 3 inches from the top of it.
- Place your keyboard and mouse in a position so that you have a 90 degree angle where your elbow and forearm meet.
- Keep your mouse close enough to your keyboard that you don’t have to reach out for it.
This article from WikiHow gives a good, in-depth run down of how your space should be set up ideally (should you want even more detail).
Note: As pointed out by Arm, there are inconsistencies between my bullet point list and the video. The article on Wikihow recommends that your monitor be set so that the centre is at eye level but, based on the follow-up research I’ve done, it is ideal that your eyes be level at a point about 3 inches from the top of the monitor.
2. Stretch your hands and wrists (see this Day9 video for some nice direction on how to do that effectively)
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When using the computer for long periods you put a long of pressure on your hands and wrists (especially if your set up isn’t entirely ideal). Stretch those areas out to avoid injuries (and preserve your dexterity)!
3. Reset your neck to it’s ideal position and get rid of that hunchback look!
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It feels really strange doing these neck exercises but they actually work. If you’ve ever worked in an office environment you’ll have seen the effect of slouching one’s neck forward for so many years. Should you wish to avoid becoming a hunchback take care to preserve an ergonomic workspace and do these exercises regularly to avoid a deterioration of your alignment.
4. Keep hydrated.
A pretty easy indicator of whether you’ve been drinking enough water is whether your urine is clear or not. If you do have clear urine then you’re all good to go. The darker it is the more severely dehydrated you are. If you ever see a reddish brown colour (this has happened to me once and is quite alarming) then you’re at danger of suffering from dehydration and need to drink some water immediately.
What works for me quite well is just keeping a big glass of water by my computer and filling it back up whenever I go to get food or take a break from using the computer for a while.
5. Give your eyes a break. Look 20 feet away, every 20 minutes, for 20 seconds.
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Out of everything that could potentially affected by my frequent computer use I am most worried about my eyes. A wrist you can let rest and stretch out and usually rehabilitate. Your neck can be corrected to return from a hunchback state. Muscles can be loosened and habits can be reformed. But your eyes are something else. You mess your eyes up and you’re stuck with glasses for the rest of your life (unless you get surgery or something). Now, don’t get me wrong, glasses can give you some interesting options in terms of attire but asides from that there aren’t really too many other benefits to having to wear them. So, don’t mess this up. Keep your eyes in good shape!
[Y]our eyes are something else. You mess your eyes up and you’re stuck with glasses for the rest of your life…
Other than looking away for 20 feet every 20 minutes for 20 seconds you should:
- Try to have natural lighting
- Keep your monitor 20+ inches away
If you’re interested in getting the getting the glasses mentioned in the video there is the name brand Gunnar and some generic glasses (purport to fulfill the same purpose but less expensive) that you can check out (I tried to find the best prices in both categories). Gunnar Glasses for Graphic Designers, for Gamers and the generic brand option (Clearoptix).
Check out CNET’s accompanying post on reducing eyestrain for more details.
That’s all for now. Check back on Wednesday for 5 more tips! Keep healthy and keep on gaming! Have a pezant day.
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