May I introduce you to my new friends:
That’s an exercise ball on the left, a yoga mat on the right and in the centre: a dyno-cushion or as I like to call it: my pancake. I also now keep a ball and a pancake at the office as well.
For over two months I have been suffering from a bad back that was brought about by having a desk job and playing a lot of videogames. Last month I began physio treatment for this bad back, which had been working up to being less than awesome for several years and was finally pushed over the tipping point when I did some heavy lifting. GP said my back was bad, but when I finally got in front of a physiotherapist she was all like, “Your back is really bad.”
So now I do a set regime of pilates exercises and stretches, everyday, to help re-mobilise and re-strengthen my back plus make the front of my body do more of the work. (My lower back was supporting my whole upper body and front, which is a bad thing.) I also use the ball and cushion during the day in my rest breaks.
That’s right: rest breaks.
I know it feels like you have to be at your desk all the time when you work from a computer, but you don’t have to be . It’s unhealthy to be. And if you’re a worker in the UK whose job requires you to use a computer for prolonged periods of time: then you have a right to take short breaks away from it in order to reduce injury (like the back trouble I’m having or stuff like RSI (repetitive strain injury)).*
Saved by tech
In order to stop me from being on my computer all the time, I’ve installed Workrave, a free program for Windows and Linux users. You can customise it to tell you when you should have micro breaks (just step away from your PC for a moment) and rest breaks (get up, move around, make a cup of tea/coffee, etc).
Currently, I am looking for something I could run on my Android phone to tell me to have breaks when gaming. Any suggestions would be most welcome, as using my phone’s timer is too fiddly.
* I would like to point out that I was aware of my rights at my day job, but didn’t realise how few breaks I use to take away from my computer.
EDIT: Julian Benson has also pointed out another risk of not getting away from your machine on a frequent basis: you increase your risk of deep vein thrombosis, as sadly documented in this PCGamesN article by Paul Dean.