28 Oct The Gamer’s Guide to Ergonomics: Your Posture, Chair, Desk, Fingers and everything Else
Finally, an article about Ergonomics and Posture. I have spent many hours working directly with not only the stereotypical desk-employee but professional gamers on managing their environment along with helping them understand the principles of posture to stay healthy and continue to work/game, respectively. While I do preach the importance of ergonomics and posture, it is important to realize that the combination of the two is only one part of the whole picture of eSports health. I discuss the 5 realms of health all throughout the blog, but! just for review they are…
- Lifestyle Management (Prevention/Behavior)
- Physical Conditioning
- Cognitive Competency or Mindset
- Injury Management
Why Ergonomics and PostureActually, before I get started – we should talk about why I have an article that discusses both ergonomics and posture. It is important to realize that ergonomics and posture are intimately related. To put it as simply as possible, ergonomics is about creating an environment that helps us assume the most optimal postures. In these positions, our bodies are subject to the least amount of stress and our muscles are able to work at maximal efficiency (as little work as possible to maintain an upright position). And while our environment can dictate how we are sitting as gamers, it is just as important for us to actively assume the proper posture to minimize risk of injury, pain, stiffness and overall poor health. In its simplest form, Posture is the arrangement of our body parts in relation to each other in the various positions and movements that we assume during the day. It is in this article that I want to share with you simple ways to understand proper posture. Realize however while it is easy for me to just tell you what the correct posture is and how to assume it, it’s another thing for you to actually consistently achieve those positions. The way to make sure you actually have better posture is…
To have a plan!After learning about the components of correct posture, I’ll share an easy plan to work toward better posture 🙂 Okay, let’s get it started with….
Ergonomics for the PC GamerErgonomics is a study of how well we humans fit into the various environments that we work/game in. There is a science to altering your gaming environment to minimize stress on your body, and while there are really detailed scientific explanations I can provide, I’d rather provide you guys with simple tips and ways to manage each component of your gaming setups For gamers, there are 3 essential components within the eSports environment.
Monitor Height and TiltRecommendation: When you are sitting upright, your eyes (horizontal eye level) should meet slightly above or at the upper 1/4th of the monitor. If possible, the monitor should also be slightly tilted back. This adjustment is to ensure that you are limiting movement of your neck to look at the various things on your monitor, but more specifically, that you’re not using your upper neck to looking up. Our eyes direct neck movement and thus by setting up your monitor slightly below the horizontal eye level with a slight backwards tilt, you are limiting the need to use your neck to look up. Optimal viewing angles have been shown to be between 20-50 degrees from various studies. The placement of the monitor as suggested allows the most active areas of the monitor to be least visually straining. If it is too high, we often find ourselves gaming with our with a slight upward tilt of our neck. Monitors set too low will often cause the dreaded forward head posture.
Monitor DistanceRecommendation: 1-arm’s length away ± the length of your hand. While there is an extensive amount of research and suggestions regarding how far the monitor should be placed from your eyes, I want to give you guys a practical way to set up the distance of your monitor. One thing we have to realize with regards to this is that everyone is different. Our eyes have the ability to both accommodate (changing the shape of the lens within the eye to focus on objects at various distances) and converge (looking inwards toward the nose with closer objects). It has been shown that convergence contributes more to eye strain, meaning that in GENERAL, farther is better. Obviously a distance where you can barely see characters or details on the screen is not recommended, but we should have a minimum distance that the monitor is set This is how the 1-arm rule became popular, it gave us a quick way to avoid overconvergence. I agree with the use of this and want to use it as a baseline for how far you should place your monitor. The 1-arm rule states that you place your monitor 1 arms length extended in front of you (in an upright seated position). A nice caveat to add to this is that you place it should start at that DISTANCE. Everyones eyes are different. The lenses work unique to us and thus we accommodate and converge better at specific distances. So.. It’s important for us to Adjust it based on your own comfort after it is already 1-arm’s length away. The monitor should be 1-arm’s length away +/- the length of your hand. Move it within that range to your comfort.From there, you can adjust your in-game, windows/mac resolution to improve visibility and readability, respectively.
KeyboardAh our prized LED mechanical keyboards with the customized WASD keys. Peripherals always seem to be a big topic of conversation when it comes down to ergonomics, reasonably so as they are the main tools we utilize to game! And while I believe considering ergonomics for both our keyboards and the mouse is important, it truly comes down to preference and understanding the tradeoff. There is a performance tradeoff that should be considered when discussing ergonomics and in the end, it is how we position ourselves with both the keyboard and the mouse. Again when considering ergonomics of our peripherals, it is crucial to understand that it is the position the tool is placing us in. Ergonomic Keyboards place our wrists in a neutral position (the position in which there is the least amount of stress at the joints and supporting tissues) however are known to have slower response times and less durability.
Neutral Positioning/Palm Grip of the Wrist (Left), Extended position/Claw Grip of the Wrist (Right). Modifying your own positioning to the neutral grip is ideal, however behavior
should be considered more important than position.Response times are crucial in eSports performance and thus there is the preference for the straight mechanical keyboard, which typically places our wrist in extension (slightly bent towards the ceiling). Increased wrist extension leads to reduced time to fatigue (higher risk of repetitive strain injury) due to poor mechanical advantage. Again, this is where it positions us, but we can modify our own wrist and hand positions to maintain the neutral positioning and thus achieve the same effect an ergonomic keyboard provides. Thus the performance tradeoff for use of an ergonomic keyboard is reduced risk for injury for the slower response times. As mentioned above however, you can nullify this tradeoff by understanding neutral positioning and modifying your position to achieve it. What about for the different types of mice out there? It is the same story. Different mice often lead to different types of grip which can also vary the amount of physical stress on your hands, wrists, forearms (listed in highest to lowest risk of injury):