More and more doctors recommend that you use the Wii gaming console as a tool for physical exercise and up keep of a healthy lifestyle.Does this idea have merits? I’m not so sure.In many homes today, computers and televisions are used as the parents babysitter and lifesaver. When kids get bored, it is just too easy to tell them to go watch TV or play on the computer.On the other hand, many parents are becoming aware of the physical deterioration caused by prolonged sitting in front of a computer or television and their conscience is working overtime!However, recently it seemed a solution to this quandary has been found. Parents talk about it enthusiastically – “I bought the kids a Wii console and we are really pleased, it’s a win win situation – the kids are absorbed into this new activity and are busy and quiet, plus they’re actually physically active in a way even doctors recommend”.I, for one, did not buy my children the Wii, and surprisingly, they’ve never asked me to do so.The truth to be told is that my children love real life activity, like riding a bike outside, playing tennis on a real tennis court, they enjoy basketball and soccer, playing catch with their friends… generally, they prefer being outside rather than inside the house.In my opinion, children playing Wii get too used to the convenience of home, to the sweetened drinks and sweets accompanying play time. They lose the ability to orient themselves in space, they lose range of motion, physical interaction and physical contact gained in playing with other children. They miss out on learning and improving the different timing perception of ball delivery, kick, and body balance acquired when playing outside, and suffer a loss of the sensory capability acquired outside the home. Yes, even the ability of dealing with the elements and some inclement weather is lost to them.
I agree that there are some health benefits to playing Wii but they can not be at all compared favorably to games held in the open, fresh air outside. In fact, the most dangerous thing is that those games become a permanent substitute for real life active games and supply us parents with the illusion that we can, in good conscience, allow our children to sit at the computer again.
Studies show that prolonged use of a laptop can cause serious orthopedic problems at the shoulders and neck, pain and inflammation of the wrists and back, as well as increasing the risk of testicular cancer and fertility problems (when the computer is placed on the knees – a very common habit).
But wait! Before you dump your laptop into the trash, here are some Do’s and Don’t rules that will enable you to use your laptop and remain healthy.
Updated global data show that about a third of all computer users have a laptop. Laptops may look friendly and inviting, but in fact they have become a first-rate ergonomic hazard. Dalit Ben-Tovim, an ergonomic consultant and trainer, who specializes in creating and adapting working environments for better health and safety, offers a variety of tips for using your laptop safely.
Why is the laptop so damaging?
Structure – The laptop’s structure does not allow for a separate adjustment of the keyboard and screen. As a result, if the screen is adjusted to the desired height – and the recommendation is for the upper limit of the screen to be at eye level – we will find ourselves with the keyboard at a position that is destructive for the hands and wrists. On the other hand, placing the laptop for convenient typing will create strain and damage the eyes and the neck muscles.
Mouse – the integrated mouse or touchpad is another ergonomic nightmare we should be aware of. The posture required when working with a touchpad creates a constant, incremental tension on the hand tendons and in the shoulder, with devastating results.
Posture – prolonged usage of a laptop, coupled with an incorrect sitting posture, with no support of complementary ergonomic accessories, could lead to serious orthopedic problems in the neck and shoulder belt, pain and inflammation of the wrists and back aches. In addition to all the problems mentioned, the infamous warming of the laptops has already been proven to increase the risk of testicular cancer and fertility problems.
Not all is negative. It is possible and even recommended to use a laptop safely, if you adopt the correct habits that will prevent damages.
Tips for casual/infrequent users:
Those who do not use a laptop as a main working tool, but occasionally find themselves using a laptop, would do well to adopt a few rules:
- Try to find a comfortable chair, one that enables you to lean back comfortably. Remember that the head and the neck are supported by large muscles. You need to protect the hand muscles, which are more sensitive. Place the laptop on your legs, with the hands in a relaxed posture, neither bent nor stretched.
- Keep your shoulders relaxed.
- Tilt and adjust the screen to allow for a minimal neck tilt.
- Use a laptop ventilation tray to prevent heating.
- Carry as few additional peripherals as possible, keeping the laptop’s weight minimal.
- Use a backpack with wide shoulder straps to carry the laptop.
Tips for heavy users:
- Place your laptop on the table so that its upper edge is at your eye level. There are several laptop stands designed specifically for this purpose, try to add a forearm support board.
- Use an external keyboard and position it directly in front of you, at a convenient height allowing your hands to rest at a neutral posture – neither bent nor stretched.
- Connect an external mouse and place it at your side at a height that keeps your hand relaxed and at a neutral posture.
- The keyboard and the mouse can be connected directly to the laptop or through a docking station.
- Place the screen at a straight arm length away from you. Nevertheless, you should take into consideration the screen size, in order to allow for effortless reading.
- Minimize any sources of reflected screen glare.
Tips for all users
Besides the mobility and convenience, using laptops carries many health hazards which users are not aware of. We have divided our recommendations into different types of users, but our most important recommendation is: Listen to your body! Pain is a sure sign that you should stop your work to stretch, change your posture, relax and rest your eyes and hands.
Integrate physical activity in your life. An hour of aerobic exercise once a day will work wonders for your painful back and stiff neck.
What turns a computer mouse into an “ergonomic” accessory?
What are the criteria for an ergonomic mouse?
When purchasing a new mouse, how can we be certain that the mouse touted to be ergonomic does indeed comply with ergonomic criteria?
Does any mice manufacturer have the right to attach the word “ergonomic” to their products?
And is an ergonomic mouse really better than a regular mouse? That is, would an ergonomic mouse helps in preventing carpal tunnel syndrome and inflammations of the wrist?
And last but not least, given the huge assortment of ergonomic mouse devices on the market, how do we know which would be the best and the most appropriate for us?
In order to solve some of these questions, we would first need to determine what exactly is an ergonomic mouse, and what functions are not included in the ergonomic definition.
You might be surprised to know, but the design process of any product involves certain ergonomic considerations.
That being so, basically any product can be called “ergonomic”.
Confused? So am I, but the answer is simple – ergonomic means “suited to the user”. That’s right – Suited to You. That’s the greatest secret of ergonomics.
For example: a small handed girl working with an ergonomic mouse significantly big for her hand or a large man working with a smallish ergonomic mouse will feel very uncomfortable, even though they’re using a mouse that supposedly is ergonomic. An accountant using an extremely narrow or cluttered desk, who chooses to use a large mouse that can hardly be moved on such a desk, will also feel discomfort.
The obvious conclusion is: the mouse should be chosen first and foremost according to body size, work needs and desk format.
Having chosen the ergonomic mouse that fits us we have to ask – would that mouse itself prevent wrist pain?
The answer depends on how we sit and the posture of our hand on the desk.
For example: if we sit too low in respect to our desk, we will not be able to place our hand correctly on the desk, and no ergonomic mouse can or will help us. Or if due to the table structure or the multitude of devices placed on the desk (laptop, telephone, folders… you name it) there is not enough free space to place our wrist, we will not be able to achieve the correct hand posture to benefit from the ergonomic mouse.
So, we understood that we need to choose a mouse that is appropriate to our structure and needs, and have arranged our sitting position and desk to enable us to create the right arm and hand position. The question still remains: Should we buy a mouse defined as ergonomic or can we be satisfied with a simple mouse?
The answer is not that simple. Our best advice would be to try out several mouse devices for a period of time, to feel if there’s any change. I believe some of the ergonomic mouse devices sold today have a structure that definitely lessens the pressure on the hand. Those are worth trying first.