Give Your Home a Healthy, Room-by-Room Makeover

Did you know that your dirty clothes could be causing your back pain?

That’s right, says ergonomics expert Alan Hedge, of Cornell University, if you’re doing the wash in a non-ergonomic way. In fact, there are all kinds of ways you can set up your environment to be more healthy and body-friendly. Hedge offers the following room-by-room tips:


Living Room

  • Lighting matters: To avoid eyestrain, make sure you’ve got enough light to read by.
  • Seating: Choose chairs and sofas for their back support rather than just their pretty looks.
  • Put your feet up: Consider adding an ottoman. Lifting your feet at the end of a long day is very good for your body, Hedge says.


  • Get a split-load basket: Bending over, bottom up, isn’t exactly proper alignment — but it sure is common laundry-sorting stance. “If you’re bending over multiple times, you’re running the risk of a back injury,” Hedge explains. To cut down on this back-straining pose, consider a split load laundry bag that has one side for whites, one side for colors. By tossing clothes in the proper side of the bag when you take them off, you can skip the repeat back-bending motion in the laundry room.
  • Lighten your load: Lugging heavy baskets of laundry from upstairs to a downstairs laundry room can wreak havoc on your back. Shrink your loads without much effort by switching to a smaller laundry basket.


  • Watch your wrists: The design of your kitchen knives can cause aches and pains in your arms and wrists. Look for knives with bent handles, which allow room for your hand and wrist to stay in their natural alignment. The goal is to keep your wrist straight while you chop, without even having to think about it.


  • Mattress matters: Sleeping on a good, ergonomic mattress can have tremendous benefits for your back. Consumer Reports has great info on which are best. Or, check out Hedge’s article on mattress-buying tips in SpineUniverse.
  • Light for activity: If you’re trying to create a romantic mood, low lighting is a good thing. But if you’re working on a needlepoint, bright lights are a must. Be sure that the lighting in your bedroom flexes to adjust to your bedroom plans.



  • Adjustable chair: If your kids are going to occasionally use the computer, you can adjust height for them with cushions. But if you’ve got teenagers who will constantly be online, be sure that the office chair adjusts to their body size — and show them how to do it.
  • Ergonomic workstation: Check out our other blog on setting up a healthy office for more tips.

Front Yard

  • Use ergonomic tools: Hedge lives in Ithaca, a city that gets quite a bit of snowfall. “People get a shovel and they shovel their driveway, and what we see as a result is an increase in back injuries and an increase in heart attacks, because it’s heavy, heavy, work.” A bent-handle, ergonomic shovel can help reduce back strain, Hedge says.
  • Cut out heavy tasks: Think about ways you might minimize — or even eliminate — some of the more intense tasks. Ask yourself “What’s the heaviest work,” Hedge says, “and can I make this work less heavy by reducing the size of the load?”


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