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 programmes are 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 and 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.
Variety of movement and micro breaks are just as important for those at standing desks and on factory lines as they are for those who are seated, including those using ergonomic chairs and Swiss balls.
They also serve as a useful mental break and can 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 beneficial, but for the purposes of incorporating this into most workplace environments, we suggest 30 seconds every half hour.
This time frame is beneficial physiologically and psychologically. It is minimally disruptive, and no one is going to find the time frame too daunting at the outset or feel exhausted afterwards.
If staff are doing 30 minutes of activity a day already, isn’t that enough?
Getting in 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) a day is important, but it’s a separate thing altogether 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 themselves, 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, 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, but it won’t give you the most bang for your buck. Without more specific instructions, the movement won’t be as motivational or as physiologically beneficial as it could be and you will not get the 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 varying abilities, energy levels, injuries, personality types 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