“Am I sitting comfortably?" It's a question that is really only the starting point, but if the answer to that is no, then you should certainly look to address the situation.

The next time you sit down at your computer, genuinely ask yourself the following question. Not for the benefit of me or anyone else, just for your own health and comfort. Ask “Am I sitting comfortably?" It's a question that is really only the starting point, but if the answer to that is no, then you should certainly look to address the situation. Actually, consider your body for a bit and any aches and pains. Could any of them be improved by a change in your PC use? You might occasionally spend more time sitting at a computer than you intend, and you might not necessarily be comfortable doing so. Stick with me then, because in this feature we'll look at ways to improve any issues stemming from poor computer use and, ideally, how to stop more occurring.

How much is too much?

Well, spending rather more time at a computer than you do, say, in bed is probably too much. And some people probably do just that. After all, how many of us really get the much quoted "eight hours sleep" per night? I agree the science suggesting how much sleep we need might not be bullet-proof, but it's unlikely to be particularly beneficial to us to spend as much or more time hunched over a keyboard than lay in a relaxed state.

Description: Made from a few bits of Ikea furniture
Made from a few bits of Ikea furniture

I've been guilty of it; spending an eight hour day at a keyboard with little breaks, I'd head home, eat and fire up the home PC for a few more hours. It's a very easy thing to do, even if you do have noble intentions, and it's one of a few reasons as to why I quit MMORPGs. Now I work at home, I could quite easily spend much of my day in front of my PC, and I possibly do spend rather too long there.

We should all take a break from our screens for ten minutes of every hour sat at one. You should also know that if your employer requires you to work with a VDU (Visual Display Unit), you are entitled to regular breaks. You could also be entitled to a free eye test, so do check. There's no legal limit to how long you should work at a computer or similar device, but the HSE (Health & Safety Executive) suggests regular short breaks are advisory Should you work continuously at such a device, then the HSE advises that “longer breaks from your workstation should be introduced".

Eyes are one thing, and you might want to consider spending less time at a computer. However, it seems most of us need to be there at some point. So how do we protect ourselves?

Get up, stand up

Sitting isn't for everyone. Type 'standup desk' or 'standing desk' into your search engine of choice and allow a moment for the possibility of quite a work and lifestyle change.

Description: http://assets.inhabitat.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/1/files/2010/07/sit-to-walk-station-desk-treadmill-6.jpg

'standup desk'

Sure, your legs and feet might ache for a while (advocates recommend taking 'sitting breaks'), but most users believe that in the long term, standing desks can help reduce back pain, improve stability and build leg strength. Plus standing seems to be the perfect antidote to heightened fears about the hazards of sitting.

Inhuman pose?

Some say the human body isn't meant for chairs. This perceived wisdom often arises and may or may not be true. The thing is, chairs don't seem to be going anywhere, and the majority of us will tend to see quite a lot of them in our day-to-day lives. Indiscriminately during a working or resting day many of us sit for hours on end. That is unless you're particularly active in either.

In a recent article in the Boston Globe entitled 'Down With Chairs', Colin McSwiggen - who clearly isn't exactly pro seating - states that chairs are "here for the foreseeable future, and designers are going to keep making chairs as long as there is demand for them". However, the claims by some designers about their products seem genuine enough, and some chairs are more accommodating than others. Anyway, if you really want to break the mold, get a stand-up desk (see box out).

Description: Herman Miller Mira chair
Herman Miller Mira chair

Like any product that you will need to get along famously with to justify its purchase, testing out a new chair is essential if you're going to spend big. A friend assures me that Herman Miller chairs, which can cost from a few hundred pounds to just over $1857, are worth the money, but if you do have such amounts to spend, then you can be pretty sure that you'll want a test-sit first. Herman Miller does at least talk a good philosophy; flex zones, ergonomic support and a human-centered design are the selling points (though I doubt Mr McSwiggen would be seduced). The Herman Miller's Mira range should also, apparently, support your back, keep it aligned but allow what the company calls "micro movements". That's any natural movements during your working day.

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