Micro breaks for macro benefits
The ME Time programme is designed to improve staff’s:-
- concentration levels
- cognitive ability
The programmes consist of 30 second Mini Exercise breaks to be used every 30 minutes.
- The short exercises are achievable by staff of all abilities.
- The programme is super easy to roll out.
- Minimally disruptive.
- Not prone to any technical glitches.
Studies show that regular short breaks are essential for good health. Layer those breaks with exercises that challenge strength, balance, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness, range of motion, posture, and that incorporate deep breathing and mindfulness, and the benefits are even bigger.
Moving regularly – even just a little as is the case with micro breaks – increases blood flow and oxygen levels making us feel more awake and alert, better able to focus and learn.
Moving takes us out of poor and/or long held postural positions thereby reducing the chance of pain and injury both in the short term and long term.
Want more details?
When to have micro breaks
Micro breaks were initially designed to break up times when we are not moving much and/or doing the same movement for long periods of 20 minutes or more.
They are equally important therefore for those at standing desks as they are for those who are seated, inclusive of those seated on ergonomic chairs and swiss balls. They are also essential for people on factory lines.
Since they also serve as a useful mental break they are also handy in situations where there may be a little more movement happening but where intense focus or concentration is required, as you’ll see below re the Surgeon Study.
Duration of micro breaks
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!
A break of even just a few seconds can be helpful. Heavy keyboard users might find 10 seconds every 10 minutes very beneficial but for the purposes of incorporating this into a workplace environment we suggest just 30 seconds.
This time frame is beneficial physiologically and psychologically, is minimally disruptive. No one is going to feel exhausted after them or feel an exercise will be impossible to do for that length of time.
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.
Additional micro break reading
- Surgeon Study: 20 Second Breaks every 20 Minutes leads to 7 times improvement
- 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