Nov 23, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

Studying online has its fair share of perks, like flexibility, cost, and scheduling. But what about health? Can it be a healthy choice, too? Absolutely. You just have to know how.

It's not complicated, either. To maximize your full potential, start with how you sit and take it from there. Ready? Get ready to get and stay healthy while studying online!

Let's take a closer look at six tips to stay healthy while studying online.

1. Sit properly in front of your computer

Ergonomics matter. It matters how you sit and what you sit on. Why? It's all about posture. Turns out posture can make or break your fitness. Poor sitting can cause rounded shoulders, a pot belly, headaches, muscle fatigue, back and neck problems, wrist issues, and eye strain (see #5).

What should you do? Sit right! What does that mean? You should pull up close to your keyboard and situate it directly in front of your body.

FIgure out what section of the keyboard you use most often and readjust. Tilt you keyboard height so that your shoulders are relaxed, your elbows are slightly bent, and your wrists and hands are straight.

Work on keeping your back straight and your shoulders back, with your knees at a 90-degree angle. Your knees should be slightly lower than your hips and both feet should be flat on the floor. 

Another pro tip? Avoid sitting for longer than 30 minutes at a time (see #2).

Need help? Get a good chair or standing desk.

2. Get out at least once a day

Ideally, you are getting up every 30 minutes (see #1), and getting outside for some fresh air at least once a day. 

If you have a great chair or standing desk that you enjoy, it can be hard to leave it. 

Leave it. Set a timer for every hour and step outside, even if it's to walk around your house or building or cafe, or wherever you're working. 

If it's pouring or snowing or bitterly cold? Do it anyway, even for a minute or two. Then you can get right back to work.

3. Use the flexibility to your advantage

Schedule a workout! Since you are studying online, you can use that flexible course schedule to your advantage. Make your schedule accommodate your workout, whatever it is, every day. We suggest morning is the best time.

When you get up, get those workout clothes on and get to it!

If that doesn't work, pick another time of day that does. Lunch is a favorite time, as is the end of your workday. 

4. Eat right and get rid of unhealthy snacks

Keep healthy snacks on hand. Fill your pantry with brainfood: nuts, raisins, cheeses, fruit, and veggies.

If you don't have unhealthy snacks on hand, you won't eat them.

Why does this matter? Because the old adage, "you are what you eat" holds true a lot of the time. Why be double-stuffed Oreos when you can be a fruit salad?

If you don't want to think of it that way, try this: protein equals brain power. Now sally forth and eat well!

5. Limit eye strain

Your eyes get tired after hours of staring at a screen. Take breaks for your eyes and adjust your screen settings to minimize glare.

Another trick? Use the right lighting. Harsh interior lights don't help out eye strain.  Avoid working directly under overhead fluorescents and aim for indirect incandescent or halogen lights instead.

If you don't have the option, at a minimum, turn off harsh overhead lighting. 

6. Stretch

During those breaks every half hour or so, stand up, move around, and do some stretching. Need some guidance? Get yourself a pack of yoga cards that focus on the muscles in your arms, neck, shoulders, and back. Get your "om" on and get stretching.

Why? Stretching reduces tension and muscle fatigue. And it just feels so good!

Learn more about studying online. 

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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