As the story of the tragic death of gamer Chris Staniforth, 20, who would play his console for up to 12 hours at a time, starts to circulate, the importance of correct posture and taking regular short breaks to move around is thrown into stark relief.
Chris Staniforth died in May from deep vein thrombosis (DVT) believed to have been brought on by his marathon gaming sessions. The coroner said a clot formed in Chris’ left calf before moving to his lungs. Once there, it caused a fatal blockage, known as a pulmonary embolism.
Whilst most people don’t go in for such high levels of computer game playing, plenty of us spend long periods every day using computers at home or work.
Chris’ father said: “After my research I saw there was no difference to Chris sitting at a desk on his Xbox and someone on a long-haul flight. Sitting still is literally the danger zone. Chris loved to play and would stay up all night. Millions of people worldwide are playing these games for hours, and there is a risk.”
But the exposure to the risk of DVT that ultimately ended Chris’ life is not something that is unusual or unique. With millions of people now working for prolonged periods in front of computers and also continuing their work, social networking or playing games at home, it is easy to see how many people could unknowingly be putting themselves at risk.
In the workplace there are recommendations in place from the HSE about ensuring computer workers take regular short breaks from their computers (which are also proven to improve productivity), but no regulations to enforce this. Even the advice on what constitutes a “regular short break” isn’t clear, although a 5-10 min break from the computer every hour is the most common advice. A break doesn’t have to be a complete break from work – it could be doing some other task, provided it means getting uo from your desk and moving around.
So employees must make sure they protect themselves at work by remembering to take these breaks, regardless of the pressure to be seen to be working hard and for long hours. Good hydration in the office is also essential for concentration and health.
People should also remember to apply the same principles when using a computer or games console at home. PostureMinder is award-winning software that can help by automatically reminding you when you need to take breaks, and also includes a hydration tool and micro-break reminders. It also helps computer users improve their posture to protect against back pain, neck pain, RSI and other computer-related health problems.