Feeling healthy and energized while sitting at a computer begins with the right kind of chair and desk. Consider these just as important to your photography as your camera and lenses. You may not be able to buy top-of-the-line, ergonomically optimized furniture, but don’t buy the cheapest either.
Even the best chair and desk can’t overcome poor sitting posture. Keep your back straight, shoulders back, and the top of your monitor level with your eyes. The more your must look down or up at the monitor, the greater risk for neck strain. It’s best when your wrists are elevated above the keyboard or mouse pad, although a pad with a wrist rest is helpful. You’re less likely to suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, which could make it impossible to use your computer for some time. Bend your legs at the knees, keeping them at a slightly higher level than your hips. Place your feet, so they are flat on the floor. You may also find a footrest to be helpful.
Approximately once an hour, or at least twice during a four-hour period, perform a number of easy stretching exercises that will reduce any stiffness in your arms, legs, neck and torso.
Neck: The proper neck-stretching exercise is a slow flexing of your head forwards and backwards, side to side and then your head to the right and left. Don’t roll your head at the neck, as this may damage neck joints.
Shoulders: Hunch your shoulders forwards and then backwards approximately 10 times, stretching the muscles in your shoulders and upper back.
Arms and shoulders: Two exercises are good for these parts of your body. First, brace your hands on the edge your desk at approximately shoulder width. Twist your hands towards each other and your body. Then, lean forwards, hunching your shoulders. Second, while in this position, push your shoulders and elbows closer to the desk.
Wrists: Rolling your wrists regularly will also help prevent the possibility of carpal tunnel syndrome. Do 10 rotations clockwise and 10 counterclockwise.
Ankles: Roll your ankles similarly to your wrists; however, you only need 3 rotations in each direction. With your feet and lower legs farthest from your heart, this exercise will make sure the blood circulates fully.
Chest: Hunching over the keyboard is bad for shoulders, back and upper chest. If you find yourself in this position too often, then open your arms wide as if you were about to hug someone, rotate your wrists externally (thumbs up and back) and pull your shoulders back. Your body will be forced to move in the opposite direction of that hunching position and stretch your upper chest.
Abdomen: It’s easy to work your abdominal and gluteal muscles while sitting. Simply clench them and hold for a few seconds, and then release. Try to do these exercises 5 to 10 times per hour.
Calves: Stretching your calf muscles will also help to keep the blood flowing to your lower extremities. More importantly, it reduces the possibility of developing blood clots, which becomes more likely as you age. Remember, your feet should be flat on the floor. From this position, lift your thighs, so only the balls of your feet are touching the floor, and then return to the flatfoot position. Do enough reps until your legs feel a bit tired. Try to do this exercise approximately every 10 minutes within an hour.
A very important exercise is to stand and walk every half hour. Not only is this an excellent method for keeping the blood circulating throughout your body, but also it will help to keep your spine aligned and properly positioned. Use this as an opportunity to complete another task. If time permits, then walk for a few minutes outside or purposely climb a set of stairs.
A major complaint of many people who spend hours at a computer is eyestrain, which can cause headaches. Approximately twice an hour, “unlock” your eyes from the screen and let them wander to other objects in the room. Closing your eyes or covering them with your hands is another technique. Some people’s eyes are susceptible to the dry air in an air-conditioned or heated space. If you’re one, then an application of eye drops occasionally will keep your peepers moistened.
Just because you have large files to upload or Photoshop must work through a long process is no reason to slump in front of your computer while you wait. Use that time, instead, to leave your desk and participate in a few calisthenics, such as push-ups, sit-ups and jumping jacks.
Add variety to your exercises with the use of a hand-and-finger squeeze, elastic band and stability ball.
A hand-and-finger squeeze is a simple, inexpensive device that allows you to close and relax your fingers and hand against a tensioner. Use it whenever you’re waiting for file uploads or while reading onscreen content. It will help you develop stronger forearms too.
An elastic exercise band is also a low-cost solution. You can use it with some of the exercises in this article, especially those for your arms. For example, hold it behind your head with both hands and pull from your shoulders.
A stability ball is useful, but for doing occasional exercises to tone your core. It’s not recommended for long hours of typing or mouse use.
As you might remember, humans need oxygen and the fresher the air the better. Taking deep breaths will exercise your abdominal muscles as you inhale, hold, and then exhale just as deeply. When you take that walk outside, use this exercise to force fresh air into your lungs and remove stale air.
Although many of us grab a cup of coffee or cola drink as a companion to our computer work, a bottle of water is actually better. Your organs will appreciate it and it maximizes your alertness. Whenever you need a refill, you’ll also have the opportunity to stand, improve circulation and keep your spine well aligned.
Much of the time, photography is not only a creative opportunity, but also a healthy activity. You walk through your neighborhood or a local park looking for subject matter, chasing your children or pets to capture a precious portrait or even working in a studio or shooting a wedding, as a professional, with plenty of moving and bending.
Your photography hobby or career may also include many hours chained to your computer, editing images and/or operating your business. Sitting for hours, even in the best of chairs, may lead to aching hands, arms, shoulders, back and hips; eyestrain; and other unhealthy habits.
Try to add these 9 exercise tips among your many computer-based photography tasks, so you’ll be more productive, longer, and be ready for other activities after sitting for so much time.
A final tip: Even though your photography shoots and assignments may result in considerable exercise, you can also improve your health by adding many of the tips above to your photography sessions. If you're a professional with a crew and/or models, then give them an occasional break and exercise together for a few minutes.
Image credit: agencyby / 123RF Stock Photo
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