Should I take exercise breaks at work?
Yes… if you want to be productive and healthy!
For 2019’s National Physiotherapy BackWeek (1-8 September), the South African Society of Physiotherapy (SASP) is challenging employers and employees to schedule brief ‘Brain Breaks’ to boost brain power!
8:30 am: with a steaming cup of coffee you sit at your desk and get down to work. It may be two or even three hours before you move again, to head for the gents/ladies or pour another cuppa. Hard as we work these days, many office workers barely leave their swivel chairs, sitting down for seven and more hours every day.
And this, it’s been established, is not ideal. Sedentary bodies are at greater risk of many conditions that threaten quality and even length of life. Most adults, say the Australian authors of a 2010 study, face a two-pronged challenge: too much sitting coupled with too little exercise.
But how do you find time to exercise? Early in the morning or after close of business, these seem to be the best options, although they make other things, like family time, a bit more difficult.
How about taking time off in the middle of the working day? Forty or 50 minutes a day can be split into ten-minute blocks if necessary, to stimulate and engage both the body and brain (something exercise is proven to do). From a study published in the Lancet, “Researcher Ulf Ekelund, a Professor at the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, suggested that the one hour of activity could be brisk walking or cycling but said that the exercise doesn’t have to be so rigorous or all at one time. That is, the hour of activity can be spread out over the entire day.”
Employers will undoubtedly assume that taking hours out of every work week to exercise will decrease productivity, but it turns out that they’re wrong. Workers, if anything, were more productive, even though they had less time on their hands than before incorporating exercise into each day.
And “…those who exercised also reported improvements in self-assessed productivity -- they perceived that they got more done at work, had a greater work capacity, and were sick less often.”
“Our bodies were not designed to be still all day,” says Professor Witness Mudzi, President of the SASP. “We have to move to keep our organs in good shape, to keep lymph flowing, to keep our lungs working optimally, to prevent pain conditions and muscle weakness. In days gone by, this was not a worry, certainly not for the working classes or farm workers; but now, it behooves both employers and employees to plan working days which allow for a bare minimum of physical activity, to ensure healthy, happy and motivated workforces.”
Our challenge to you this National Physiotherapy Back Week: why not experiment with this? Speak to your colleagues, negotiate with your bosses, try scheduling physical activity every day for a month and see how well it works.
To find a physiotherapist near you, go to www.saphysio.co.za.Back