Problem Solving Stretches: More productivity, less pain using your laptop

  • Five quick fixes to improve posture and productivity, while using your laptop: 1.) Set the laptop on a desk, table or other flat surface where you can slide your seat in close with elbows in at your sides. 2.) Sit with a rolled towel, pillow or other low back support so shoulders are over hips. 3.) Prop the laptop on a stack of books to bring the screen up to eye level and 4.) attach a separate keyboard so you can type with elbows in at your sides. 5.) Finally, take a break every 25 minutes. Get up and stretch, refocus, then get back to work. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Ginny Hamilton demonstrates a stretch. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Ginny Hamilton demonstrates a stretch. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Using laptops literally in our laps promotes pain over productivity. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Ginny Hamilton demonstrates a stretch. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Ginny Hamilton demonstrates a stretch. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

For the Gazette
Published: 2/11/2020 9:03:30 AM

Most of us are guilty of having bad posture at least some of the time, especially while using laptop computers. We know we should pay attention to posture to avoid aches and pains. But too often, convenience wins over comfort.

When you treat your laptop literally, holding it in your lap, your body curves forward in a C shape. If you were standing in this posture, you’d be staring at your belly button! This position compresses your chest, limits your breathing, and affects your mental alertness. Thankfully, there are some simple, cheap and quick fixes to improve posture and productivity while using your laptop.

First, if you’re going to be using your laptop for 20 minutes or more, take the time to set up on a table, your desk or even the kitchen counter. While better than on your lap, you’d still need to hunch forward to see the screen. Here’s a simple and cheap solution — books. Alas, gone are the days of thick yellow phone books, but a couple of cookbooks or that big old fashioned dictionary will do the job. Stack the books to bring your gaze even with the center of the screen, whatever that height is for you.

Raising the laptop screen, however, brings your keyboard up, too. To type on the laptop keyboard at this height, you’d have to extend your arms in front of you Frankenstein style, which quickly creates its own strain on your neck and shoulders.

The solution? Attach a keyboard. You may have old keyboards sitting around at home. If not — you’re better at de-cluttering than I am — and you can buy a wired keyboard online for about $10 or spend a bit more for a wireless model. Either way, positioning the keyboard where you can type with elbows in at your sides is your goal. Scoot your chair in close enough that you can type with elbows in and screen at eye level.

The other place wanting some support will likely be your low back. No need to buy a fancy lumbar support pillow. Instead, roll up a hand towel and secure it with rubber bands. Place the roll behind you at belt level so you can lean back with shoulders over hips, increasing your comfort while you sit.

The final component of comfortable laptop use is how long you sit there. Even in this healthy, supported seated posture, if you stay too long, your muscles will get stiff and sore. Productivity experts suggest we work in 25-minute time increments to keep our brains on task. Taking a break after 25 minutes works great for our bodies, too. Which reminds me, how are you doing on your resolution to stretch regularly? Take five to get up and stretch — less pain, more productivity!

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