Five Ergonomic Adjustments You Need to Make Right Now

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You spend a third of your life trapped inside your office, and it’s not just making you prone to carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica, and several other crippling ailments — it’s stiffening your muscles and joints, keeping you from playing the sports you love. But short of becoming a traffic cop, there are a number of simple tweaks you can implement that will make a huge difference. We tapped Cornell professor of ergonomics Alan Hedge to show us how.

Turn Down the Lights
Most high-powered lights found in offices reflect off your screen and cause glare, straining your eyes. Reduce overhead lighting in your office (tell HR it’s bad for you) and use lamps that allow you to put light where you need it (as when you’re reading).

Lower your Desk
Most desks are about 29 inches high, but your keyboard should be at 24 to 25 inches. Typing at the wrong height can lead to wrist and elbow injuries like tendinitis and carpal tunnel. You can adjust the height and tilt with a keyboard tray.

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Pimp your Monitor
To reduce eye strain, the top of your monitor should be just above eye level, about an arm’s length away, and the brightness should be set to what feels "most comfortable," says Hedge. Look for adjustable monitor arms so you don’t have to ruin your desktop’s aesthetic with a stack of hardbacks.

Don't Tilt Your Keyboard
"You know those little tabs on the bottom of your keyboard that tilt it toward you? Break them off," Hedge says. Angling your board toward you bends your wrists back, which can lead to joint and soft-tissue injuries such as tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Add a Footrest
A chair that supports your lumbar region — the five lowest vertebrae in your spine — is crucial to prevent sciatica. You’ll also want a reclining back and seat that’s adjustable. (A seat edge that hits you in the calves can lead to circulation problems.) Finally, add an angled footrest so you’ll sit back and take advantage of the support.

Desk Exercises
As you sit, your body atrophies. Reverse that by doing these exercises at least twice a day.

  • Shoulders: Shrug both shoulders. Hold three seconds. Repeat five to 10 times.
  • Neck: Tilt head to one side. Hold 15 seconds. Repeat three times each way.
  • Lower back: Cross legs. Pull the top leg in for 10 seconds. Repeat three times a side.
  • Glutes: Squat from a seated position to a standing position 15 to 20 times.
  • Abs: Standing straight up, flex your abs. Hold for 10 seconds 20 times.

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