Never before has the human race had so much knowledge (and cat pictures) at our fingertips? But there is a downside to the ubiquitous internet, and that is the impact on our health.
The Sedentary Lifestyle
Perhaps the single most obvious way the rise of the internet and the virtual world has altered everyday life for so many people is through our increasingly sedentary lifestyle. While it’s possible to listen to a podcast on the go, most online work and leisure occur standing, sitting, and often for prolonged periods.
It’s worth remembering this is just an advance in the office culture that has already led to more sedentary time at work. Still, one of the big differences is that this carries over into leisure time (through social media, gaming, shopping, and so on). In short, we are spending more time than ever sitting still for a long time, and that’s not how our bodies were designed to function over a day.
Luckily, there are a couple of quick fixes that can break things up a little, though these are easier done if working from home than in a traditional office environment. Stretching every half hour or so is a good idea, and even better is going for a short walk if this is possible.
Just moving around helps to get the blood to flow and, at the same time, gives your joints a little movement and your eyes a rest. If you cannot leave your seat due to time pressure, then an alternative for the eyes is to spend some time once or twice an hour deliberately staring out of the window rather than locked onto your computer screen.
Most Frequent Sources of Screen Time
Screen staring can become a serious problem for work, which can also apply to leisure activities, whether watching TV, playing video games, or betting online. The huge amount of flexibility the online world gives us can be a good thing, but it’s also important to create positive habits for both physical and mental health.
And we all know how hugely we can be affected by these online entertainment platforms if not informed well. One thing that can be done to alleviate the problem of screen staring is to use the 20-20-20 rule. This means that every 20 minutes, it’s a good idea to spend 20 seconds staring at something 20 feet away. Doing this is a simple and easy way to cut down on eye problems caused by the prolonged use of various electronic devices.
The Rise of eSports, Stress, and Insomnia
Playing video games for a living has long been a dream for many people, and nowadays, this is popular through eSports. This competitive, professional fusion of videogames and sport has grown dramatically in recent years, aided significantly by the pandemic lockdowns that caused regular sports substantial disruption but left esports (being designed to be played remotely by nature) almost untouched. However, there are also areas of health concern around this new sporting category, including stress and insomnia.
eSports has seen a surge in viewership over recent years thanks to both organic growth and the black swan of COVID-19 disrupting traditional sports. Likewise, the iGaming industry has never been more popular, and this plethora of places to play can create the dilemma of option paralysis.
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Insomnia and Gaming Performance
Pro gamers necessarily spend a long time playing video games, which brings with it the common internet health hazards related to spending a long time sat down in one position (particularly for the back and fingers/wrist). In addition to these commonplace health concerns, there are also some particular to esports, which are more on the sports psychology side.
Just as in traditional sports, high-pressure moments are frequent in esports, which means that, for players, handling that high-stress situation (in the full view of live audiences) is a major challenge. Because the majority of esports, particularly those at the top end, are team games, this also means a failure can lead to defeat not only for the individual but for their team as well.
One of the biggest potential consequences of this sort of stress can be insomnia. Lack of sleep can dramatically decrease a player’s performance during the day. And one unique aspect of esports which makes this worse than regular sport is the lack of an off-season, meaning there’s no natural break for several months to rest and reset one’s mental state.
Waking Routine and Fitness
Another way to combat the sloth-like lifestyle the virtual universe is almost designed to encourage is by having a routine. This starts with getting up at the same time each day and can be great for ensuring you have regular little breaks (perhaps starting with some yoga/stretching, then a short walk an hour later, then going to make yourself lunch, and so on). While it might seem odd to shun the flexibility of working online by imposing a routine, the routine can, if you work from home, be tailored to precisely suit your own circumstances. Improving cardiovascular fitness is something that’s a good thing in and of itself and that most people in the modern world could benefit from. Depending on circumstances and preference, this can be lighter (jogging or a gentle swim) or more intensive (pushing yourself running or cycling, including at home on an exercise bike).
Not only is this better for your body, but exercise is also good for your mental health. And sometimes, it’s nice to have an activity that does not require a patch, an update, someone to get back to you, or anything like that. All you need is motivation; once a habit is formed, it can become part of your daily routine.
Man is the Measure
Man is the measure, to quote The Machine Stops (a before-its-time novella by EM Forster that was released in 1909). This pre-WWI story predicted instant messaging, a global computer/machine, and the risk of a sedentary lifestyle that was increasingly separated from the real world.
One of the most important parts is a reminder that while technology is powerful, the measure of all things is the person, and sometimes it’s good to unhook ourselves from screens and technology and just enjoy some fresh air while we stretch our legs.
The virtual world has unlocked vast potential for us all, but it is not without health risks, whether used for social or professional purposes. Sometimes, it’s good to get away and return to the real world, and exercise is always a good idea.