When the year began, no one could have comprehended a scenario where they would be asked to work from home for a prolonged period. The average working-class person spent a good portion of their time and money battling traffic and as a result would arrive home exhausted, leaving next to no time for physical and mental well-being.
The lockdown in March to contain the COVID-19 virus threw this entire routine into a tailspin and forced us to adapt a new way of life, one which would give our bodies a new challenge in our attempts to stay healthy. Things have opened up a lot more now, but working from home has become a legitimate way of working that companies are now exploring as a long-term solution given how much they can save on office rentals and the associated utilities.
The demand for high-speed internet connections, subscriptions to OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime etc, ergonomic and comfortable office furniture were some of the industries that saw an explosion in demand. But for those who resorted to outdoor sports, gyms and fitness studios, the lockdown was a spanner in their fitness journeys while they faced new problems to their body and mind.
We spent more time sitting and having greater exposure to screens. But just how does this affect our health and what can we do to ensure that bodies are not negatively affected by them.
A Harvard Health article published in 2019 indicated that prolonged hours of sitting led to people facing increased risks of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The article indicated that sitting led to our largest muscles being relaxed. When this happens, they take up very little glucose from the blood and hence could lead to diabetes.
The catch lies here. Even if you are a reasonably active person, hours of sitting can see muscles such as the hip flexor and the hamstrings become tight. This causes a negative effect on our overall posture and can even make simple activities like walking a tough task.
Add this to our constant need to be connected to screens be it for work or leisure and this sees our bodies being put through a lot without the right amount of activity to counter the harmful effects of these changes in our lives. According to another Harvard Health article published in 2017, one of the most common side effects of excessive screen time is the dryness of the eyes. This is caused due to a lack of blinking. Blinking is a way for the eye to establish a tear film on the eye’s surface to protect it. The average blinking rate per minute for humans is 15 times and with increased screen time this can see a reduction to 7 minutes. This can lead to headaches and thus discourages us from doing anything else for the day.
The other side effect is prevalent especially when we use screens before we sleep. This affects the body’s recovery routine during sleep leading to tiredness the next day and as a result affecting our productivity.
There is enough research to show that simple techniques built into our work routines can counter the negative effects of both prolonged sitting and excessive screen time.
For instance, setting a timer to remind you to take a break from the screen and walking about the house ensures that your muscles are active while also giving your eyes the break it needs. One of the more popular ways is to work in a standing position while maintaining a 2 feet distance from the screen. Attaching a glare screen in front of our laptop or desktop screens also reduces the impact of the light from the screen and can protect our eyes.
The pandemic is not something that is going to go away soon and from the indications given by economies, work from home is set to be the new way of life and it is crucial that we give ample attention to our mental and physical health to enable us to live well and happily.