The Dangers of Sitting: Ergonomics for Poker Players

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It’s no great secret in this day and age that too many of us are spending far too much time sat in front of a screen of some sort and doing very little physical exercise. As poker players we are more likely to be guilty of this than most other demographics. The dangers are extensive, and, to be frank, not to be taken lightly. As well as being aware of any problems we can develop, there are also some tweaks we can make to protect ourselves from ill health and premature aging, as well as streamlining our preparation for playing our A-game.

Ergonomics is the study of efficiency in the work place Here we will take a brief look at the subject in order to be better informed for the future.

 

Sitting for Too Long

The statement “Healthy body, healthy mind” is where our interest begins with this topic. This article is not a complete review of general ergonomics, but rather to inform the reader about some of the dangers of spending too long sat in front of their computer. The health issues we face from living our lives in this way also impact on our mind. If you’re dealing with extreme stress after sitting with a bad back for 14 hours, how can you expect to perform at the peak of your potential?

Modern studies have repeatedly shown that sitting for too many hours each day is so bad for your cardiovascular system that even following the recommended guideline of 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day is not enough to undo all the negative effects. Regardless of what your exercise program is, if you sit for too many hours in one day your heart and blood vessels will suffer.

Your muscular-skeletal system is not immune from inactivity either. By sitting all day, your posterior chain muscles will atrophy and become weak. Those players who forgo any kind of resistance training will quickly find themselves with permanently bad posture. When you then can’t even sit in a correct upright position, your energy reserves will be drained much faster than otherwise. Again, this will impact on your performance as a poker player.

It’s not only your physical body that suffers from inactivity, it is now shown through peer reviewed studies that your mental health will suffer too. Anxiety and depression are found at a significantly higher rate in those who live sedentary lifestyles as opposed to those who partake in regular physical activity. An additional component to this issue, that is highly relevant to poker players, is the concept of social withdrawal. The poker community is full of grinders who think because they have the physical stamina to play all day every day they’re not doing themselves any harm. Keeping your mind in its best possible shape is more complex than most people think. Living a balanced life is almost always going to yield the best possible results.

 

What Should We Be Doing?

These three areas are all working against us in our quest for perfection as poker players. Even if you are so determined to become the best poker player you can possibly be that you’re willing to sacrifice your health, you must understand that past a certain point you will be hindering your progress anyway.

Just think for a minute, how hard you have worked in the past to identify a leak, and then put in the hours to understand how to avoid it. The profit gains you can expect from this effort is microscopic compared to how much you are potentially giving up in expected value when you’re playing sessions longer than you have the stamina for. Maybe you have let your physical conditioning slide so much that you even find it difficult to concentrate fully for any length of time.

Simply put: It’s ridiculous to expend so much effort on becoming a better poker player when you’re giving away so much profit in an easily preventable way.

Let’s look over some of the factors we can influence

 

Standing Desks:  These are becoming increasingly popular. This is an obvious way to decrease your sitting hours each day that will allow you to remain just productive as before. Maintaining good posture throughout the day will hold off tiredness and symptoms of stress. A huge bonus for some people is burning more calories each day.

Your Gaming Chair: It’s not practical to suggest that we stand up for all of our waking hours, but when we do sit down it should be in as perfect a position as possible. The choice is almost infinite when it comes to picking your new chair, but there are a few points we need to be aware of.

The perfect position for playing your sessions begins with your chair. Your feet should be placed flat on the floor, and your knees should be bent at 90 degrees.

The backrest should give your lower back enough support so that you feel no pressure, and nor do you feel any effort to maintain an upright posture. It’s important that you test a new chair before buying one so that you can check the natural curve of your spine fits in a comfortable manner.

Armrests are an important feature that help your shoulders and upper back stay relaxed. Many poker players will be so active that they don’t have time to sit back and utilise them, but for those who play less tables they are a big help.

The swivel can help your workflow by allowing free movement during non-playing hours on the computer.

All these points add up, and the more you pay attention to them the better your results will be.

Desk: Ideally you would have a height-adjustable desk that allows you to double its use as a standing desk, while also being able to set it at the perfect level for sitting.

The keyboard should be at a height so your arms are stretched out close to perpendicular to the floor. This position is the easiest to maintain comfort over long periods.

The top of the monitor should be sat at around eye level, or even slightly below, to reduce stress on the neck muscles. Having it set too high will lead to the “vulture neck” problem which quickly accumulates stress. Eye distance to the screen should be around 0.5 -1m.

Third Party Software/Hotkeys: With it being the norm to play so many hands per hour today, it’s inexcusable to not take advantage of packages such as Table Ninja to make your decision inputs as effortless as possible. Every little helps, and all these extra seconds spent doing something the long way are taken away from time that could be spent thinking.

Gaming Mouse: Computer mice are so cheap these days that if you’re serious about poker you should be taking advantage of a mouse with plenty of extra buttons to streamline your play. If for some portion of your session you can play one-handed, that means your other arm can relax on your armrest slowing down the accumulation of tiredness and stress.

Looking After Your Eyes: As well as being the windows to your soul, your eyes are one of the main factors in how fast you get tired during sessions. Having your eyes darting around to follow your action is incredibly tiring. If at all possible when playing, every now and then you should try and find a few seconds to gaze out of a window to relax your eye muscles.

Those of you who need eye correction should be aware of that fact that while contact lenses are convenient, they make close up work up more tiring than when wearing glasses. The glass prisms give your eyes assistance when focussing at short distances. One option is to wear a weak pair of reading glasses – around +0.50 – +1.00 – to reduce eye pressure while you have your contacts in.

Eye strain is a quick way to make yourself stressed. Don’t ruin your session by pushing yourself harder than you can cope with, just so you can get the hours in.

Regular Breaks: Killing a session early for some people is out of the question. But there’s a lot of benefit to be had for taking just five minutes every half hour or so.

A good analogy is to think of stress as being like cement in the body. It builds up and stays wet for a short period. In this state you can use a multitude of techniques to eradicate it and return to feeling fresh. However, once you push on and allow the cement to become hard, it then takes a lot more effort to remove. Stress is cumulative, and so this problem will increase day after day.

Techniques such as yoga and tai chi can work wonders in a short space of time. Even some basic stretching will help. There’s plenty of choice.

 

Final Thoughts

None of the information above is ground-breaking, yet poker players have been ignoring it as long as online poker has been around. Being able to keep yourself feeling fresh and relaxed is a guaranteed way to improve your results and to keep your motivation high. There’s nothing worse than feeling tired and stressed when you’re facing a full day’s grind. It’s a certainty that you won’t play your best.

If you want to do justice for all the work you put, in then think through this information carefully and consider making a few changes.

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