Mac OS X Break Programs Review

Like I wrote in a previous post, the use of a break program was probably the main reason I beat Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI). For many years I used WorkPace, but when I switched to using a Macbook Pro a couple of months ago, I had to find a replacement, since WorkPace isn’t avialable for the Mac.

WorkPace has two main components: micro pauses and exercise breaks. My set-up was to take a micro pause for 10 seconds for every 5 minutes of typing, and to have an exercise break for a few minutes every 45 minutes.

For me, it is very important to be reminded (via a pop-up window) that I have to take a micro pause. Ohterwise I get too caught up coding, and forget to take the break. I also want to have suggested stretches and exercises to do while taking the longer break. In theory, I could just do  stretches on my own, but there are several benefits of having stretches suggested to me. First, I am much more likely to actually do them if they are shown to me. Second, there is (ideally) a good variety of stretches, so I am sure to do my arms, hands, neck, shoulders etc.

After googling intensly I found three programs that looked promising, and I’ve tried all three of them for a few weeks each.

The first I found and tried is MacBreakZ. It’s a good break program, and the lowest priced of the three at $24.95. The main drawback is that there are no videos of the stretches – it only has a picture for each  stretch, and a couple of sentences describing how to do it corretly. At first this wasn’t a problem for me, since the (old) version of WorkPace I’ve been using all along uses the same system. But after having tried the other programs that use videos of the stretches, I now think it is quite valuable to see videos of the stretches – it makes it a lot easier to do the stretches correctly (and for the right length of time).

One other problem I found with MacBreakZ is that there isn’t enough control over when there will be micro pauses. Unless I type really intensely, I don’t get enough micro pauses. It would have been nice with a way to configure how often there should be micro pauses – this is something WorkPace has, and something the next program I tried has too.

Next I tried RSIGuard, which costs $65. This program solves my two complaints of MacBreakZ – it has videos of all the stretches, and it is possible to set how often there should be micro breaks (as well as how often there should be exercise breaks – but this is something MacBreakZ can do as well).

The third program I tried is Desk Doctor, and at $129 it is the most expensive of the group. This program has by far the best stretch videos I have seen. The videos show the  stretches very clearly, and they show the whole stretch, including repetitions, which is something RSIGuard doesn’t. All videos are shown against a “relaxing” backdrop of sea and cliffs, which is all right, but a plain white background would have worked just as well for me.

There is however one problem with it that makes it unsuitable for me – there is no reminder system. There is a “health score” that increases when you do a stretch, and decreases if you go for too long without any stretches, but that is not enough. Like I wrote in the beginning, if there is not an annoying pop-up window forcing me to take a break, I won’t. Therefore, Desk Doctor is unfortunately disqualified.

So, my favorite of the three is RSIGuard. It isn’t perfect though.  None of the three programs have enough exercises for the fingers – they focus on the hands and arms. WorkPace has has several excellent finger exercises, for example “thumb touching finger tips”, “trace a circle with each finger” and “palm stretch”. I also wouldn’t mind having videos of the quality provided by Desk Doctor. Overall though, RSIGuard is a great break program, well worth buying.

4 responses to “Mac OS X Break Programs Review

  1. I’ve been using Time Out. It’s not very fully featured, but it’s free.

  2. Pingback: How I Beat Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) with a Few Minor Adjustments

  3. Thanks for the write up. I too used Workpace to help with my RSI but switched to a mac as my primary machine in August. I’ve been using TimeOut but it doesn’t seem quite as insistent as Workpace was and I’m flaring up. I hope the RSIGuard can be tuned a little more tightly.

  4. Pingback: How I Beat Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) With A Few Minor Adjustments | Lifehacker Australia

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