5 ways taking short breaks benefit your health

Breaking up you working day with short structured breaks that focus on your health will bring both short and long term benefits 

HEALTH BREAKS

Even though most people know that exercise is important for health, more than half (55%) don’t perform the recommended amount (1). One of the top reasons people give for not exercising, eating well or meditating is a lack of time (2). As humans, we fill our plates with routine, often time-wasting actions and tasks dedicated to pleasing everyone else’s schedules. People think they can’t fit anything else in. Some put their own needs last and prioritise children, parents, bosses and friends. Added to this is the thought that people believe it takes hours at the gym, miles of pounding pavements or lengthy boot camps to achieve optimal health.

“The problem, in part, stems from the perception that more is more. The old adage of less is more definitely applies here”.

Contrary to this common belief that leading an active and healthy lifestyle is time consuming, there is plenty of evidence to prove that dedicating short bouts of time to structured healthy breaks during the day will benefit you both in the short and long term. Here’s how.

ONE: You will reduce the negative impact of prolonged sitting.

Studies have shown that sitting for prolonged periods without breaks each day is as bad for your health as smoking a pack of cigarettes daily (3). That’s massive. One study found that even active people who ran for up to an hour in the morning, ‘undid’ all the health benefits by sitting at the desk for lengthy hours for the remainder of the day (4). 

Regular breaks that move your body will improve circulation to your periphery, improving blood pressure and aiding circulation.

Movement breaks will also reduce the incidence of lower back and neck pain resulting from prolonged poor desk postures.

Further, studies have also linked micro-breaks taken during the work day to improved mood, energy levels and reduced cravings (due to distracting the brain with movement) (5).

TWOYou will get fitter and stronger.

Studies have proven that short bouts of intense exercise improves cardiovascular fitness (6). Further studies prove that regular stretching improves range of movement (7).

Movement breaks can also contribute to building strength, fitness and flexibility. Two minutes of squats, a few sets of push ups, a 3 minute stretch, some squat jumps for 5 minutes all count!

THREE: You will be more focussed.

Studies have shown that regular and short breaks heighten brain focus. Such studies led to the development of the Pomodoro technique. This involves taking 2-5 minute breaks at regular intervals. Both students and workers benefit from this practice (8).

Breaks every hour or more frequently will optimise your brain function and concentration.

FOUR: You will be calmer.

Breaks dedicated to breathing and meditation can improve mindfulness. Such activities can improve perspective and slow the process of negative thoughts festering in your mind (9).

FIVE: You may lose weight.

Breaks dedicated to healthy snacking can assist weight management by reducing hunger (10). The provision here is that healthy choices such as vegetables or fruit need to be the focus. Again, we are talking structured ‘health breaks’ here. The fibre, vitamins, minerals will boost health and the nutrition will temper hunger, reducing the risk of overeating at the next meal (11). 

Employee health and wellbeing company, Health Breaks facilitates healthy breaks by providing hundreds of 2-10min Pods for mind, body, food and social wellbeing. Here are 2 examples of Health Breaks for the mind and body.

Workplaces that take a proactive stance on employee health and wellbeing have the power to champion healthy behaviours within the working day. Normalising short breaks dedicated to healthy practices will improve employee performance, reduce illness and injury caused by long working hours and too much sitting time, and create positive work environments good employees want to stay in. An example of this is Rae-Line who actively facilitate employees to take two 3min breaks a day for a stretch or strength routine on Health Breaks app. Another health-focused company, United Pacific Industries, starts each morning with a company-wide group stretch routine. While aged care company AACG conduct pre-shift 5min stretch and fitness breaks to their employees at least twice weekly.

Health Breaks aims to help workplaces normalise employees taking short breaks to do something positive for their body, mind, food or social wellbeing. Evidence has proven that this can make a positive impact on population health beyond the workplace. 

Find out more about how Health Breaks can boost your employees and your workplace here

Written by: Kristin McMaster, Director, Health Breaks

References

  1. Hoare E, Stavreski B, Jennings GL, Kingwell BA. Exploring Motivation and Barriers to Physical Activity among Active and Inactive Australian Adults. Sports (Basel). 2017;5(3):47. Published 2017 Jun 28. doi:10.3390/sports5030047
  2. Australian Institue of Health and Welfare, Australia’s Health 2018,  
  3. Better Health Channel, The dangers of sitting: why sitting is the new smoking, https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/the-dangers-of-sitting
  4.  Bergouignan, A., Legget, K.T., De Jong, N. et al. Effect of frequent interruptions of prolonged sitting on self-perceived levels of energy, mood, food cravings and cognitive function. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 13, 113 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-016-0437-z
  5. Hamilton MT, Healy GN, Dunstan DW, Zderic TW, Owen N. Too Little Exercise and Too Much Sitting: Inactivity Physiology and the Need for New Recommendations on Sedentary Behavior. Curr Cardiovasc Risk Rep. 2008;2(4):292-298. doi:10.1007/s12170-008-0054-8
  6. Magutah K, Thairu K, Patel N. Effect of short moderate intensity exercise bouts on cardiovascular function and maximal oxygen consumption in sedentary older adults. BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med. 2020;6(1):e000672. Published 2020 Feb 28. doi:10.1136/bmjsem-2019-000672ABS, National Heath Survey,
  7.  Garber CE, Blissmer B, Deschenes MR, Franklin BA, Lamonte MJ, Lee IM, Nieman DC, Swain DP; American College of Sports Medicine. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Quantity and quality of exercise for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuromotor fitness in apparently healthy adults: guidance for prescribing exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011 Jul;43(7):1334-59. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e318213fefb. PMID: 21694556.
  8. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Brief diversions vastly improve focus, researchers find.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110208131529.htm>.
  9. Taylor WC, King KE, Shegog R, et al. Booster Breaks in the workplace: participants’ perspectives on health-promoting work breaks. Health Educ Res. 2013;28(3):414-425. doi:10.1093/her/cyt001
  10. Kim H, Reece J, Kang M. Effects of Accumulated Short Bouts of Exercise on Weight and Obesity Indices in Adults: A Meta-Analysis. Am J Health Promot. 2020 Jan;34(1):96-104. doi: 10.1177/0890117119872863. Epub 2019 Sep 5. PMID: 31847548.
  11. Keast DR, Nicklas TA, O’Neil CE. Snacking is associated with reduced risk of overweight and reduced abdominal obesity in adolescents: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999-2004. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Aug;92(2):428-35. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.28421. Epub 2010 Jun 16. PMID: 20554791.