No doubt you have heard, or read, this advice often; during the course of the average workday you need to take regular breaks from your computer. Why? Because if you ask an increasing number of medical experts they will tell you that extended sitting is basically the ‘new smoking’. In other words, it’s terrible for your health but it’s also often a hard habit to break, especially if your job basically revolves around a computer, which is the case for many of us. But healthy breaks are a must.
How bad can extended sitting be for your overall health? Migraines, chronic neck and/or back pain, declining eyesight and even scarier conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes have all been linked by researchers to too many hours spent hunched over a computer screen. So, they say, no matter how busy you are, or how many deadlines you have to meet by 5pm taking proper, healthy breaks are a must.
However, this is of course easier said than done, when you have a boss who frowns on the idea or you have a project that must be completed before you can leave the office for the day to head to that networking event or out to dinner with your equally on the go friends.
To help solve the problem, you’ll find that there are a growing number of smartphone apps that claim to be able to help. And many can. However, for most of us when we are trying to concentrate on work ignoring our phone is something we deliberately do, rendering such apps fairly useless.
Your computer screen however is a different matter. That is your main focus so it’s hard to look away (thus why you skip those breaks in the first place) It’s for this reason that these three simple, free Chrome browser extensions are potentially far more useful and likely to be far more effective.
Micro Breaks lives in your browser (once installed) as a little green person in the corner of your screen. When the icon ‘jumps for joy’ it is time to follow a preset action that will help you have a better day and remain healthier overall. It reminds of more than just when it’s time to get up and stretch though. It also prompts users to take ‘eye breaks’ to prevent eye strain and headaches and offers guided breathing exercises that can be completed at your desk to help reduce stress.
The break timetable is controlled by the user and can be adjusted at any time but for those not sure what optimal break timing really is, there is a built in guide to help you set the interface up the right way.
Break Timer offers much of the same functionality as Micro Breaks but with one significant difference. While your busy brain may be able to subconsciously ignore a little blinking icon it’s much harder to ignore the huge green screen that will pop up at break times that is a part of the Break Timer functionality. A small pop up box will offer a ‘one minute warning’ that your break screen is about to take over and when it does it’s obviously hard to ignore. Of course you can turn it off, and you can postpone a break if you are truly too busy, but if you are serious about improving your health by taking proper breaks and just need a little extra helping hand to do so this simple extension is extremely helpful.
To be honest using the Healthy Browsing extension is a little (or maybe a lot) like having a nagging, but well meaning mother sitting next to you. Not only will it remind you to take regular breaks both with sound and visuals but it can also be set to prod you to drink that water you are supposed to to remain properly hydrated (another important workday must) and will also prompt you to check your posture about once every 20 minutes as well.