Micro breaks for macro benefits
The programmes consist of 30 second Mini Exercise breaks.
- The short exercises are achievable by staff of all abilities.
- The programme is super easy to roll out.
- Minimally disruptive.
- Not prone to technical glitches.
Studies show that regular short breaks are essential for good health. They improve concentration levels, mood, health and cognitive ability while also decreasing pain and the chance of injury in both the short term and long term.
Layer those breaks with exercises that challenge strength, balance, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness, range of motion, posture, incorporate some deep breathing and mindfulness, and the benefits are even bigger.
Micro breaks were initially designed to break up long periods when we are not doing much movement or much variety of movement.
They are equally important for those at standing desks and on factory lines as they are for those who are seated, inclusive of those using ergonomic chairs and swiss balls.
They also serve as a useful mental break are useful to break up periods of intense focus or concentration.
In a study of surgeons, it was shown that those who had 20-second active micro breaks every 20 minutes performed tasks seven times better than those who hadn’t.
They also had half the levels of physical fatigue and felt less pain in their backs, necks, shoulders and wrists!
Heavy keyboard users might find 10 seconds every 10 minutes very beneficial but for the purposes of incorporating this into most workplace environments we suggest 30 seconds.
This time frame is beneficial physiologically and psychologically. It is also minimally disruptive and no one is going to feel exhausted after them or feel that time frame is too daunting at the outset.
If staff are doing 30 minutes of activity a day already, isn’t that enough?
Getting in 30 minutes of moderate-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) a day is important but it’s altogether a separate thing to breaking up sedentary time with regular small bouts of movement. Both are equally important and neither one replaces the other.
Can’t staff do micro breaks by themselves?
They could but studies tell us they won’t. In the surgeon study, despite the spectacular results and the very positive responses from the surgeons, few of them did the exercises unless the nurses enforced them!
Our programme is best suited for situations where two or more people can do the exercises at the same time. The more people who can do them at the same time though, the better.
Can’t we just walk to the water cooler and back?
Inviting staff to just ‘get up and move a bit’ every 30 minutes is a great start if that’s where you’re at but it won’t give you the most bang for your buck. Without more specifics, the instruction won’t be as motivational or as physiologically beneficial as it could be and as such, not get maximum engagement or the results you’re chasing.
Saying that, our exercise prompts still leave a lot of room for interpretation and as such cater for people’s energy levels, any injuries they might have, their personality type and the space they have available.
- Surgeon Study: 20 Second Breaks every 20 Minutes leads to 7 times improvement
- Stanford University recommendations
- Benefit of small bouts of exercise – Australian Universities released January 2020
- Why It’s Important for Students to Take Breaks During Homework – Cindy Hovington, Ph.D
- Wilkinson, M. & Demsky, C.A. (2016). Micro breaks. In S. G. Rogelberg (Ed.), The SAGE encyclopedia of industrial and organizational psychology, 2nd ed. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE.
- The feasibility and impact of embedding pedagogical strategies targeting physical activity within undergraduate teacher education – 2019