Online students have many advantages. They can control when, where, and how they study in ways that on-ground students cannot. While such convenience is a primary attraction of online learning, students should safeguard health and wellness to encourage good academic performance, longevity and personal happiness.
The phrase “sitting is the new smoking” is prevalent in corporate life, with many companies encouraging employees to take frequent short breaks, work while standing, optimize their work environment and engage in a variety of wellness activities. Unfortunately, many college students are at risk for sedentary-related health illnesses. It is especially easy for online students to be more sedentary than on-ground students, as they don’t need to navigate the campus daily, walk far for lunch, wait in lines for any reason or hike the stairs in large academic buildings and dorms.
Experts cite an optimum time of 10 hours per week per online class, and more than 10 hours for each online graduate course . For the typical full-time online student, that can add up to 40 to 50 hours per week of intensive seated screen time.
Common ailments associated with extended computer use include musculoskeletal problems, repetitive stress injury, vision problems, headaches, obesity and stress disorders. In order to remain physically and mentally healthy, prospective online students should consider their work environment and actively aim to reduce any technology-induced health risks. Below are five recommendations to minimize health risks as an online student.
1. Make sure you have a comfortable workspace: An ergonomically correct chair can adjust to fit your body perfectly. Experts say the correct posture is 90-90-90 – the angle of your back and thighs should be 90 degrees, the angle of your thighs and legs should be 90 degrees, and the angle between your legs and feet should be 90 degrees. While such chairs are expensive, it’s worth it if it avoids years of pain, needed chiropractic care, pain medication and eventually surgery.
Students can avoid developing carpal tunnel syndrome or other repetitive stress injurues by taking quick health breaks every 30 minutes that include stretching the neck, back, legs, shoulders, ankles and wrists. Some people favor a standing desk. This can be a healthy alternative to sitting if approached properly, intermittently and with excellent posture.
2. Limit screen time before bedtime: Experts say there is significant correlation between screen time and sleep disorders. Never work in bed, and avoid intensive computer work directly before going to bed.
3. Avoid isolation: It is easy for online students to become socially isolated. It is important to human happiness to have authentic and meaningful friendships and relationships with others beyond virtual relationships in online classes and on social media.