Being active is not limited to finding time for a run or the gym. You can incorporate beneficial physical movements into your routine in many ways, one of which is remembering to take breaks throughout your day. Breaks are essential to a balanced workday, whether you are working or studying, at the office or home.
Not only are you at risk for ergonomic injuries when you sit at a desk for too long, but pushing yourself to keep going might not be as effective as you think.1 Breaks are good for your mental well-being, alleviating fatigue, resetting your focus and improving your performance.23
How long should your break be?
A review of various studies noted that the ideal break length depends on the task.4 For example, repetitive tasks and certain creative projects greatly benefitted from breaks that were 10 minutes or less, while cognitively demanding tasks required longer breaks to improve performance. Regardless, a short break is better than no break, whether it's three minutes between tasks or 15 minutes between meetings. Make the most of your break time, and your performance may benefit.
The next time you need to take a quick break, choose movement rather than picking up your phone. Here are some quick fitness tips for your short breaks.
- Stand up and stretch: It might seem basic, but if you have time for nothing else, stretching is essential when sitting at a desk for long periods. Cycling through stretches only takes a few minutes.
- Try desk yoga: Like stretching, yoga is a great way to loosen your body after sitting for long periods. If you need inspiration, there are tons of guided desk yoga videos available!
- Walk around: Walking not only helps loosen things up, but it's also good for your heart health and gets you more steps if you follow a daily step goal.5 A short walk could be to refill your water bottle, take a bathroom break or check your mailbox.
- Dance: Dancing is a great way to get moving while staying by your desk — just pop in some earbuds, turn up some music and boogie. Dancing is great for your health,6 and listening to music can help fight fatigue and clear your mind from work.7
- Do push-ups: Push-ups by your desk are another way to fit some quick fitness into your day and improve your heart health.8 If you want to challenge yourself, you can set daily push-up goals and gradually increase the number.
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- Stanford Environmental Health & Safety. Microbreaks. Accessed November 15, 2022.
- Journal of Applied Psychology. Daily Micro-Breaks and Job Performance: General Work Engagement as a Cross-Level Moderator. Accessed November 15, 2022.
- Harvard Business Review. Schedule a 15-Minute Break Before You Burn Out. Accessed November 15, 2022.
- PLOS One. “Give me a break!” A systematic review and meta-analysis on the efficacy of micro-breaks for increasing well-being and performance. Accessed November 15, 2022.
- American Diabetes Association. The Benefits of Walking. Accessed November 15, 2022.
- BetterHealth Channel. Dance - health benefits. Accessed November 15, 2022.
- International Journal of Physiology, Pathophysiology and Pharmacology. Effect of music tempo on exercise performance and heart rate among young adults. Accessed November 15, 2022.
- JAMA Network Open. Association Between Push-up Exercise Capacity and Future Cardiovascular Events Among Active Adult Men. Accessed November 15, 2022.