DeskActive DeskActive Team plus Health Assist
... and bend and stretch and hold and stretch
- Stretching muscles you never knew existed is, believe it or not, a great feeling; great to find software that is promoting healthy living
- Easy for the user to ignore the program when it activates
Employers genuinely interested in the health and comfort of their desk-based employees should take note of products, such as this one, that promote wellbeing.
Once you're shown how to do them, stretches and exercises — apart from a little initial pain — are really easy to do. Having the discipline to continue doing them on a daily basis is another thing altogether. This lack of motivation, or laziness — call it what you will — typically keeps your affected body part stiff or sore and your physio in a job.
With a fair chunk of today's working population confined to desks and not particularly physically active during their working day, the incidence of musculoskeletal disorders, such as back or neck pain or RSI, is increasing.
DeskActive is designed to be a proactive solution to help prevent office workers from suffering such injuries. In its simplest form, the software is a series of stretches and exercises designed to get you moving body parts and muscles that normally remain strained or dormant while at work. It targets organisations that are looking for occupational health and safety solutions and that seek to promote a corporate culture of wellness. Presently, the software is only being sold to organisations, but a retail version for home consumers will be available in August.
DeskActive's exercise programs are organised in groups, and users can chose (and change at any time once the software is installed) from a range of options such as 'Seated, Easy (Stretches Only)' or 'Seated and Standing, Hard (Stretches and Exercises)'. You can also specify which areas of the body you want targeted in Special Focus Sessions. For example, Back; Fingers and Wrists; Neck; Lower Limb Circulation; or Shoulders. All up, DeskActive comprises about 300 stretches and exercises.
One of the key features of the corporate edition is connectivity to DeskActive's servers. Although the client is installed on a user's PC, the exercises undertaken are reported back to the servers, which then collate that information into charts. There is also an email interface that allows users to request changes to their exercise regime. That input is registered by DeskActive and as a result it can modify what stretches it serves you. If you find one stretch particularly taxing, you can have it removed from your exercise program.
You can set the frequency of your exercise sessions by time and days of the week. Alternatively you can set it up by regular intervals, with the default being every three hours. The Options tab also has related features such as the Micro Pause: brief rest breaks that comprise an exercise or two and last for 30 seconds. Bullet Breaks are seconds-long, text-based health reminders. For example, tips on how to sit properly in your chair or information about 'The Feng Shui Method of Injury Prevention: keep an uncluttered desk'. The software can also be set to activate after a certain number of keys have been struck on the keyboard or after a certain amount of mouse movement has been reached. You set the numbers.
With all the prompts set, DeskActive pops out of your system tray into a full-fledged app. The exercises are displayed in both a text and visual (animated) form, and you can chose to have either Sam or Sarah instruct you. The visual exercises also have a preview mode so you can see what you are supposed to be doing before you begin. A voice tells you when to start and stop. This is helpful but you need to have your speakers on — neck exercises with headphones on just wont work — which means you may disturb others around you. In the animations, DeskActive also highlights which part of the body you should feel stretching. The software also offers text-based tips as you go conduct your stretch/exercises. But this is pointless if said stretch/exercise requires you to look away from the screen.
We installed DeskActive on a Pentium 4 2.8GHZ with 528MB of RAM. Admittedly the system is several years old and cluttered with a variety of software, but we found that it struggled when DeskActive was prompted into action. About a minute before it kicked in the mouse started to jump around and the system slowed. When the application finally launched, the system returned to normal.
DeskActive's strength is that it is so easy to follow and it is in some ways like a whip, kicking you into action. This is essential if you want to improve your wellbeing. The negative is that you can always close down the application when it does launch.
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