Photo by Giuseppe Savo / Flickr
Photo by Giuseppe Savo / Flickr

Written by Thomas Figg-Hoblyn
Photos by Ryan Leibrich

It’s that time of the semester again Gators –research papers, essays, finals – cramming.

But it’s time to consider the damage done to one’s body from cramming for hours on end, banging away on a keyboard, jacked on caffeine, hunched over a laptop or PC like a starving man over a bowl of soup.

Slouching, twisting, and folding painfully as one pimps out the body for that grade – sacrificing health. It doesn’t have to be that way though.

Step back from the computer, take a deep breath and give your health a boost by taking a stretch break.

Taking breaks and stretching on cue, to the guidance of a software program is now a viable option for SF State students thanks to the effort of Erik Peper Ph.D., professor and co-founder of SF State’s Institute of Holistic Health Studies.

rik Peper, Professor of Holistic Health at SF State. Photo Ryan Leibrich / Xpress
Erik Peper, Professor of Holistic Health at SF State. Photo Ryan Leibrich / Xpress

Peper, a smiling Dutchman with a keen sense of humor and a penchant for healing, is an internationally recognized biofeedback expert and successful author. His list of articles, books, projects, and innovations in healing reads like an unedited Jack Kerouac novel.

Peper has made Stretch Break Pro, an ergonomic software program that helps reduce stress, increase productivity and prevent computer related injuries by gently reminding the user to take periodic stretch breaks while using the computer, available to the SF State community. The program also provides healthy computing tips and suggests specific stretches, with written and visual directions for their performance.

While working with the software’s distributor Para Technologies, Peper swayed them to give SF State access to the program.

“It’s about a $140,000 donation,” Peper says.

The campus community is invited to download and use the computer program Stretch Break Pro at no cost.

That’s right folks – increase productivity, and pamper your body, for FREE! Peper invites all students, faculty and staff to download the software  and install it on their work and home computers.

According to Peper, taking frequent breaks and remaining active while working is another vital component of computing health. “Taking many breaks really reduces exhaustion and illness,” Peper says. “People who take many breaks have much fewer symptoms.”

Taking frequent breaks from work may seem counterintuitive, but according to Peper, your productivity doesn’t go down, it goes slightly up.

Stretch Break Pro runs in the background, prompting the user to take breaks at chosen intervals. Once the “Time to Stretch!” reminder appears on the screen, the user can click through to hear relaxing music and see an animated demonstration of a stretch or series of stretches to perform.

After noting the effectiveness of Stretch Break Pro in research studies, Peper  made arrangements with Para Technologies to donate a license of the software to SF State.

Para Technologies President Arthur Saltzman said the donation was the result of collaboration with Peper on the latest version of Stretch Break. “He gave permission to incorporate his Healthy Computing Email Tips into the program and I agreed to donate a license to SF State,” he says.

So go ahead and get back to your cramming. Get jacked on energy drinks, coffee, tea – or whatever your flavor is and get cracking. But, download Stretch Break Pro, and get better results, and take those stretches and breaks so you don’t injure yourself.

“When you actually do it, I can promise you an improvement in energy by the end of the day,” Peper says.

It might not be as fun as the seventh-inning stretch at the ball game, or the Chicken Dance, but hey, one never knows.

To download Stretch Break Pro, visit http://tech.sfsu.edu/guides/stretch-break-pro and follow the directions.

Windows users can download Stretch Break at bit.ly/sbSFSUwin

Mac users can get their copy from bit.ly/sbSFSUmac

For both versions, the user name is “bringit” and the password is “home63″.