There’s an old joke that goes something like this – If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself. I’m sure there are a lot of guys my age who can relate. All those “little” injuries I suffered back in the day – the busted shoulder, the dislocated knee, the groin injury, the slipped disc ….., bother me every day.
Until a year ago or so, I exacerbated all those old injuries by bad computing habits – the type of habits that virtually all computer users have, including:
Slouching, rather than sitting upright (This used to be my favorite position).
Barely moving (except for hands and eyes).
Incorrect screen height and positioning.
Poor keyboard placement.
NOT taking breaks away from the keyboard. (I was totally guilty of this one).
In July of last year, I discovered a neat little freebie application – Workrave – an application that’s designed to prevent computer users from developing, or aggravating, occupational diseases such as carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive strain injuries (my problem), or myopia.
Since I installed this application, I’ve used it religiously to force myself to take micro-pauses, and longer rest breaks. The most important break being – walking away from the computer at regular intervals.
I have to admit, that while I haven’t had to deal with the back problem that was the catalyst for me in installing this application – I still creak a little, early in the morning.
One of the more impressive features of this application is a set of onscreen exercises that you can use to help you heal injuries, or as in my case, to help me get all the kinks out of my muscles.
Miss Workrave, illustrating just two of the exercises.She’ll expect you to join in.
Application setup goes relatively smoothly since the user interface is “follow the bouncing ball” simple.
You can enable/disable each timer, modify the time between breaks, and set the break durations from within the Preference menu.
While taking this screen capture, as you can see, I was prompted to take a micro- break as per my schedule.
The application can keep track of your computer activity and breaks.
Bonus: By using Workrave’s built-in networking feature, you give everyone on the network an opportunity to relax, or exercise on a scheduled basis. A neat feature, I thought.
Normal – “Normal” mode is for normal usage. It will prompt you to break and, if so configured, force you to take the break.
Quiet – “Quiet” mode is pretty much like normal mode, in that it will still register your activity, and notice that you need to take a break, but it will not actually prompt you to take one, nor block you from using the computer. This is typically used when you want to show something on your computer to someone else. You are using the computer doing the explaining and the showing, but you do not want to be interrupted by breaks.
Suspended – In “Suspended” mode, Workrave no longer records your activity. This is typically used when someone else is using your computer for a brief time. In these cases, you may not want to quit Workrave, and you also don’t want the activity recorded, because it isn’t yours, and hence you will not need to take any “overdue” breaks. When someone else is using the computer for a longer time, it is best to quit Workrave altogether.
If you want to prevent injury, or other unpleasant consequences from too much time on the computer, or you need a reminder to take a break for any reason, Workrave could be just the right tool to help you do this.
I will say, it took some time to get the idea into my head that I had to become more responsive to the aches and pains, and other unpleasant consequences from too much time on the computer. I finally accepted the idea that a reminder program might be part of the solution and, as it turned out, Workrave was the right tool.
System requirements: Windows or GNU/Linux.
Download at: Workrave
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