Health and wellness priorities for 2022 gamers and desk workers depend on who you ask. From an environmental design perspective, the goal is to further human-computer-interaction (HCI). To power a multi-device computing state of near-virtual reality, humans are the batteries! From an esports perspective, healthy lifestyles and reduced sedentary times are the keys. Using those, tech becomes your slave instead of master!
In 2022, a good ergonomic chair remains an essential part of a healthy deskwork routine. But emerging technostress issues are taking precedence.
As people juggle more apps over more devices, new physical and mental problems have arisen. This has left corporate norms in (deserved) tatters.
When the lockdown era ended, the “Great Resignation” began. In 2021, 3% of the U.S. workforce quit their jobs (47 million people). Post-lockdown, companies aren’t luring people back with higher salaries. The perk of working remotely has also soured(1).
To bridge the distance gap, staff must juggle email, groupware, workflow, chat, and conferencing apps. Constant interruptions make focused work difficult. The proliferation of apps in play across multiple devices leads to three types(2) of technostress:
- Physical technostress: extended use of laptops, tablets, and smartphones increases the risks for musculoskeletal disorders.
- Techno-addiction: inability to disconnect from work. Techno-addicts compulsively perform work-related tasks outside of business hours.
- Mental technostress: cognitive overload comes from using too many complicated gadgets at once.
There are two ways to address technostress issues. The first is to wait for environmental designers to build your hamster cage of the future.
The second is to use existing esports methods to boost body and mind — while making technology your slave!
Institutions Ignore Wellness Factors
Here’s the esports technostress relief formula in one picture. This is Ninja, the world’s most-followed Twitch streamer. In this shot, he shows off his methods of success while at the computer.
The ergonomic chair supports dynamic neutral postures over long periods. That mitigates musculoskeletal technostress. Multiple screens address mental technostress by displaying more information at a healthy eye-view level.
When away from the computer, Ninja eats clean and works out four times per week. Because of his lifestyle + setup, he’s able to stream twelve hours per day — while managing stress and maintaining fitness!
Predictably, institutional attempts to address technostress have thus far been futile(2). Like many corporate-powered ‘studies’, most are neither anchored in any theoretical framework nor preventive. As well, effectiveness measurements are always highly anecdotal. For example, one of the latest Steelcase technostress solutions is a tent.
This concept has no theoretical framework: “Tents inherently make you feel comfortable and safe when you’re inside of them.” Effectiveness measurements will also be purely anecdotal. In fact, these sorts of sloppy solutions are consistent with previous institutional failures.
History Of Institutional Design Scams
Since the 1800s, workplace environment designers have been pumping out sloppy, ill-informed work. In fact, most back doctors have been making stuff up for over a century!
In both academic and corporate arenas, ergonomic history shows white elephants are often left unmentioned. Examples:
- Academic seating: when schooling became mandatory in the 1800s, back problems among children skyrocketed. Even so, academic seating standards haven’t changed in 150 years!
- Cheap chair back problems: knowledge about healthy sitting (and the need for ergonomic support) emerged in the 1970s. Even so, cheap office chairs remain ubiquitous for full-timers worldwide!
Life In The 4th Industrial Revolution
WEF Chair Klaus Schwab calls this era The Fourth Industrial Revolution. It’s an evolution of industrial processes achieved by increasing interconnectivity and automation. As it unfolds, it’s planned to blur the lines between digital, physical, and biological worlds(3).
The Handbook of Human Factors and Ergonomics documents the latest standards in workplace environment design. The previous 2012 edition focused on healthy sitting tactics; the 2021 edition reframes its agenda per the WEF vision.
Now the main focus is on a global shift from an industrial to an information-driven world. In this world, sensors, smartphones, and computers will place users in a perpetual state of near-virtual reality.
Then, modern ‘deskwork’ becomes focused on finding, using, sharing, and organizing digital information. A modern ergonomic workspace should help humans to manage information-intensive tasks across many devices.
This dystopian vision looks to merge human and machine into some kind of robo-slave! As such, the Handbook of Human Factors and Ergonomics ignores the human factors. In its 1603 pages, the word ‘sedentary’ is only mentioned six times!
That makes screen-based sedentary time the great white elephants of our time. Staring at a computer screen for long periods causes serious physical and mental technostress issues.
In contrast, thousands of streamers and esports players lead by example using actual human factors.
Healthy 2022 Desk Worker Blueprint
During the Great Resignation of 2021, millions quit their jobs en masse. Gallup researchers told Forbes it’s a management problem. Companies need “managers who care, who engage, and who give workers a sense of purpose.”
Fast Company says people are disillusioned with institutions because most modern ones lack moral standards! Meanwhile, studies out of the U. OF Cincinnati suggest a longstanding ignorance of genuine human wellness factors also plays a role.
Nonetheless, big institutions plow forward with plans to merge humans and machines. This plot ignores sedentary health risks with schemes to make people more immobile than ever!
Luckily, the pro esports industry has filled the gap. Years of esports performance optimization experiments have yielded a sensible, intuitive, human-oriented framework to smash technostress and thrive.
- Healthy lifestyle: ensure adequate rest, good nutrition, and sound sleep.
- Build an ergonomic workstation: a basic ergonomic chair, desk, mouse + keyboard kit, and external monitor cost under $400 combined.
- Healthy workstation usage: maintain neutral postures; take frequent breaks.
1. Good Quality Rest, Exercise, Nutrition
These days, it’s widely known that healthy, rested gamers perform best. That’s why many top teams work with nutritionists, mental coaches, and physical therapists. ChairsFX spoke to three who work with esports and traditional pro athletes.
Dr. Jordan Tsai works with Cloud9, TSM, Evil Geniuses, 100 Thieves, and other top teams. He’s also on Secretlab’s Ergonomics Advisory Board (and a Titan user himself). For a pro-tier deskwork routine, he feels a good chair is the least important factor.
Instead, “A regular range of motion exercises, strengthening, and stretching are all critical.” Dr. William Duncan works with both esports pros and traditional athletes. He says that whichever type of chair you use, exercise can mitigate potential harm.
Most elite esports programs push three factors to maintain physical health when away from the computer. Dr. Duncan explains the holy trinity:
- Adequate rest: If you’re resting well (quality of sleep over quantity of hours), you will be a healthier person. Mental health and processing ability will both improve. As a result, you will feel and interact better with people in both your digital and physical worlds.
- Good nutrition: Eating well counteracts things like excessive weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and certain cancers. All of these are also linked to sitting for extended periods.
- Regular exercise: To counteract sedentary effects, do 60-75 minutes of moderate-intensity daily exercise. This will boost your metabolism, immune system, digestive function and ultimately strengthen your heart and lungs.
2. Build a Healthy Ergonomic Workstation
Assuming you have your rest, exercise, and nutrition routines in check, a good ergonomic computing station comes next. A cheap and fully-compliant no-frills setup will cost less than $400 (assuming your employer provides the laptop).
A fully ergonomic chair serves as the centerpiece; the other pieces are complimentary. All of these pieces are available on Amazon. Prices are updated in real-time and may fluctuate:
- Chair: Modway Articulate ($150.99 on Amazon). Meets all ergonomic criteria to support healthy computing postures (review).
- Desk: the CubiCubi desk has a 47″ wide faux wood tabletop ($89.99 on Amazon). One of the most popular starter desks on Amazon (review).
- Computer monitor: Philips 24″ 1920 x 1080 full HD IPS screen ($109.99 on Amazon).
- Mouse & Keyboard set: Verbatim Slimline Wired Keyboard and Mouse Combo ($12.99 on Amazon).
This is just a starting point. Often, buying the cheapest gear may not be as practical as paying a bit extra.
The biggest upgrade from a bare-bones package to a pro setup is the chair. In 2022, the best premium ergonomic chairs cost between $550 and $1700. Meanwhile, instead of a cheap monitor, desk-mounted monitor arms make a massive difference — for less than $100.
For an ergonomic tour through starter and advanced setups, see this feature:
3. Use Your Workstation Wisely
Let’s assume you have your rest, exercise, and nutrition protocols sorted. On top of that, you’re also kitted out with a state-of-the-art ergonomic workstation. The final challenge is to use your tools correctly. There are three keys:
Develop the Habit of Sitting in Neutral Postures
Gaming chairs and ergonomic office chairs have the same purpose. Both come with adjustable features designed to support dynamic neutral sitting positions. In all types of ergonomic chairs, the default neutral position looks the same:
Sitting this way exerts minimal stress on the lower back, shoulders, and neck. That significantly reduces muscle strain(17). As a result, users can sit comfortably for longer periods without discomfort or back pain. Learn more in our step-by-step user guide:
Move Frequently While You Sit
A neutral position is a good default. However, sitting in any position for too long incites sedentary damage. As a result, you should also get into the habit of moving frequently while you sit. There are plenty of options.
As one example, all gaming chairs come standard with rocking and recline functionality. Every few minutes, angling the backrest back or forward will switch up your hip and spinal positions. As another example, add a footrest to work your calves while you sit.
Another option is to buy a gaming chair with a wide seat pan. For example, Secretlab Titan chairs are specifically designed to encourage movement while sitting.
Take Frequent Breaks
Adding frequent breaks between computing sessions yields many benefits. First, doing so helps to mitigate the ill effects of sedentary behavior. At the very least, get up and walk around every few minutes. That will keep muscles active and blood flows robust during a typical workday.
Second, time spent away from a task puts the brain into ‘diffuse mode’. Instead of collecting info, this relaxed state is when the brain processes information.
Specifically, fact-based memories are stored in the hippocampus(18). During downtime, that data goes to the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which has more storage space. It works like an email system: when the hippocampus is full, the brain needs downtime to process it. Until that happens, new information will bounce when trying to enter the hippocampus.
The next time you’re stuck on a task, test this concept. Step away from the task and give the brain time to solve it in diffuse mode. When you return to your desk and fire up your brain, the solution should appear. Learn more:
Sedentary Risks vs Active Benefits
Sedentary behaviors are on the rise worldwide. As an example, these statistics were compiled as part of a study on sedentary habits in South Korea: (5):
- South Koreans older than 19 average 8.3 sedentary hours per day.
- Americans spend 55% of their waking time (7.7 hours a day) engaged in sedentary behaviors.
- Europeans spend 40% of their leisure time (2.7 hours a day) watching TV.
- Only 8.9% of South Korean adults engage in less than 4 hours of sedentary behavior per day.
- 20.6% of South Korean adults are sedentary for more than 12 hours per day.
In most developed countries, sedentary trends are similar. For instance, University of North Carolina researchers looked at data collected since the 1960s on activity habits. Then, they projected those trends to 2030 (6).
In 1965 America, the prevalence of blue-collar industrial jobs encouraged a high level of physical activity. As factory jobs petered out, activity levels have steadily dropped.
Meanwhile, the Chinese are more active and less sedentary than Americans. Even so, trends are the same. Looking to the future, people around the world can expect to spend more time sitting at the expense of active times.
Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) puts out health guidelines every four years. Its 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines focused on the disease-prevention benefits of physical activity (7). The 2018 version focuses on wellness benefits. These include helping people sleep better, feel better, and perform daily tasks more easily. Its key guidelines:
- Children aged 3-5: should be physically active throughout the day. Caregivers should encourage play across a variety of physical activities.
- Children aged 6-17: 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day. Add muscle-strengthening activity 3 times weekly.
- Adults: on a daily basis, try to spend less time sitting. Add 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
By adhering to these guidelines, people of all ages can improve both their health and their productivity:
|Cognition||Improved functioning, attention, memory, and processing speed. Reduces dementia risks.||(Ages 6-13) Improved memory, processing speed, and academic performance.|
|Mood||Reduces depression risks||Reduces (non-disorder) short and long-term anxieties.|
|Physical Health||Risk reduction: all-cause mortality, diabetes, hypertension, anxiety, weight gain, bone health, depression.||Improved bone health, weight status, muscular fitness, and cognition.|
Sedentary Behavior Health Risks
ChairsFX asked Dr. William Duncan about sedentary habit health risks. His take:
“The most common health problem facing hardcore gamers/desk workers is sitting too much. We, as humans, are built and designed to stand upright. The cardiovascular and digestive systems are designed around being vertical.
The spine itself is meant to be vertical as well, supported by muscles, connective tissue, and the inherent shape & stability of the bones. But support by tissues requires energy — and the body’s primary goal is to conserve energy as best it can.
So when we sit for extended periods of time, the body will look for more energy-efficient means of support – a chair. While a chair can be extremely useful for short bouts of sitting, the extended time spent in a chair can create small changes in the body that have a large, long-lasting impact.”
Common Problems Caused By Sedentary Habits
If you suffer pain while working at a desk, you should fix the problem at its source. Failure to do so will likely see things get worse. Here are common early problems caused by excessive sedentary behavior:
- Wrist disorders: 4 million Americans suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Neck pain: the fourth-leading cause of disability in America.
- Shoulder pain: causes around 4.5 million USA doctor visits and $3 billion in associated health costs.
- Elbow and forearm pain: 1-3% of all Americans suffer from elbow tendonitis, aka tennis elbow.
- Low back disorders: 31 million Americans are suffering from low back pain at any given time.
Long-Term Risks Associated With Sedentary Habits
When left unchecked, these problems can manifest as serious long-term health problems. Examples:
- Obesity: waist circumference increases by 3.1 cm with a 10% increase in sedentary time. With more weight to carry, patients feel compelled to move even less (8).
- Diabetes: the prevalence of type 2 diabetes increases as sedentary time does. Adding regular exercise only slightly offsets this risk. Symptoms include tingling extremities, very dry skin, excessive urination, and blurry vision.
- Hypertension: sedentary behaviors reduce blood pressure. That alters cardiac output and total peripheral vascular resistance. Symptoms include severe headaches, an irregular heartbeat, nosebleeds, and fatigue.
- Cancer: prolonged sitting increases colorectal, endometrial, ovarian, and prostate cancer risks. It has also been reported to increase cancer mortality (mainly in women).
- Osteoporosis: sedentary behavior lowers the bone mineral density of the femur and hip sub-regions. As a result, bones become brittle and easy to break.
- Depression: mentally passive sedentary behaviors (like watching TV) increase depression risks.
Physical Decline through the Ages
In prehistoric times, humans were lean, fit, and athletic. Since then, global lifestyles have shifted from active to sedentary. As a result, around 50% of American adults (117 million people) now suffer from preventable chronic diseases (9).
These include coronary artery disease, strokes, diabetes, and some specific cancers. In the 1980s, these diseases were mainly occurring in high-income countries. By 2002, preventable chronic diseases were dominant sources of morbidity and mortality worldwide.
These changes happened across migrating global populations. That indicates the primary determinants are not genetic but environmental (10). Specifically, many epidemiological studies point to diet and lifestyle as key determinants of chronic diseases.
Looking at historical trends, we see technology as a common catalyst for increased sedentary behaviors:
Fitness Levels Before The Modern Era
In prehistoric times, human fitness was driven by the need to survive through hunting and gathering. Today, although no longer driven by subsistence, fitness remains essential to health and well-being. Here’s a quick look at fitness levels through history (11).
- Primitive Nomads (pre-10,000 B.C.): very high levels of fitness. Tribes often went on 1 to 2-day hunting/ gathering journeys. After successful excursions, groups would travel 6-20 miles to visit other tribes.
- Early Agriculturalists (10,000-8,000 B.C.): high levels of fitness. Animal and plant domestication reduced workloads and increased food supplies. People got a bit fatter and lazier.
- Ancient Greeks (2500-200 B.C.): high levels of fitness. The quest for physical perfection and the appreciation for beauty was unparalleled in history.
- American Colonial Period (1700-1776): high levels of fitness. Life revolved around plowing wilderness, hunting for food, and herding cattle.
- American Post-Civil War (1865-1900): low levels of fitness. Industrial life replaced an agricultural one as people transitioned to sedentary city living.
The gap between primitive and modern lifestyles is massive. According to this study, the modern American expends 65% less energy per day than a Paleolithic Stone Ager. To make up the difference, a 70 kg modern adult would need to walk 19 km per day (12 miles).
1990-present: Childhood Sloth & Obesity
Soon after personal computing emerged in the 1990s, childhood obesity levels skyrocketed (12). Even so, it was only recently that researchers began to link excessive computing with obesity. This CDC chart shows sharp upward trends for ages 6-11 and 12-19: prime computing age:
Add to this a recent study showing distinct patterns of change with age (13). As adolescents get older, physical activity levels drop while sedentary time goes up.
During childhood and adolescence, moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) plays an important health role. The World Health Organisation suggests an average of sixty minutes or more MVPA per day (14).
2007-2016: Increasing Computing Time
From 2007 to 2016, a study was conducted of 51,896 participants. It found total sitting time increased in both adolescents and adults (15):
- Adolescents: total sitting time increased from 7.0 to 8.2 hours per day.
- Young adults: sitting time increased from 5.5 to 6.5 hours per day.
- Older adults: 5.3 to 6.1 hours per day.
During the 2015-2016 phase, computer use outside school or work was also measured. Between 30% to 43% of the US population used a computer for 2 hours/ day or more; 13% to 25% used one for 3+ hours each day.
2020-present: Covid Lockdown Impact
A Canadian non-profit studied sedentary trends in Toronto during 2021 lockdowns. 61% reported spending more time in front of screens; 33% spent the same amount; 6% spent less (16).
Time spent watching TV during lockdowns went up among 63% of participants. Internet browsing went up among a similar percentage. However, less than 25% reported increased video gameplay during lockdowns.
In 2020, video gamers spend an average of six hours, 20 minutes each week playing games. This was an 11% decrease vs (pre-lockdown) 2019 (17). Compared to older ages, young people spend the most time gaming.
The world of tomorrow exists in somebody’s mind today. That vision is currently being worked out by institutional workplace designers worldwide. The Fourth Industrial Revolution will blur lines between the digital, physical, and biological worlds.
Those unprepared will get trapped by technologies into physical decline. Weak muscles, musculoskeletal disorders, depression, weight gain, and spinal disc degradation are some of the rewards.
Others can look to common sense to avoid this trap. They could also look to their esports and streaming heroes who show us how to do it. That will bring you back to common sense.
The biggest challenge facing gamers and computer users in 2022 is work-life balance. As retail, education, and leisure goes online, people have less incentive to move. With less movement, the body and mind break down.
The solution is to go with the flow in a smart, tactical manner:
- Lifestyle: adopt healthy fitness, nutrition, and rest routines.
- Ergonomics: get a good gaming chair and use it correctly.
- Smart work habits: move while you sit; take frequent breaks.
We’ve rendered the above points into a common-sense 6-step plan. Based on the 2022 desk worker challenges, it’s the perfect antidote to sedentary lifestyle risks:
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- ‘Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition’, ODPHP, 2018, https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf, (accessed 3 Jan. 2022).
- Genevieve N Healy et al., ‘Objectively measured sedentary time, physical activity, and metabolic risk: the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study’. Diabetes Care, 2008, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18000181/, (accessed 4 Jan. 2022).
- CDC, ‘Health and Economic Costs of Chronic Diseases’, 23 June, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/about/costs/index.htm, (accessed 5 Jan. 2022).
- Walter C. Willett, et al. ‘Prevention of Chronic Disease by Means of Diet and Lifestyle Changes (Chapter 44)’, Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries. 2nd edition, Oxford University Press, 2006. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK11795/ (accessed 2 Jan. 2022).
- Lance C. Dalleck, M.S. and Len Kravitz, Ph.D. ‘The History of Fitness’ University of New Mexico, https://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/history.html, (accessed 3 Jan. 2022).
- Cheryl D. Fryar et al., ‘Prevalence of Overweight, Obesity, and Severe Obesity Among Children and Adolescents Aged 2–19 Years: United States, 1963–1965 Through 2017–2018’. CDC, Division of Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. 2021 Jan 29, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/obesity-child-17-18/obesity-child.htm, (accessed 3 Jan. 2022).
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- Yang L, Cao C, Kantor ED, et al. Trends in Sedentary Behavior Among the US Population, 2001-2016. JAMA. 2019;321(16):1587–1597. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2731178 (accessed 2 Jan. 2022).
- ParticipACTION, ‘Report Card on Physical Activity For Adults’, 2021, https://www.participaction.com/en-ca/resources/adult-report-card, (accessed 3 Jan. 2022).
- Limelight Networks., ‘The State of Online Gaming 2020’. https://www.limelight.com/resources/white-paper/state-of-online-gaming-2020/, (accessed 3 Jan. 2022).