It is your hour of freedom, a chance to get refreshed and rejuvenated, a time to recharge your batteries and let your work troubles fade away. So how do most of us spend our hour lunch breaks at work? Typically curled up on a couch relaxing with a good read or by simply sitting. The problem with spending an hour of time during your break sitting in a sedentary position, is that most likely you already spend the majority of the day in a seated position while working. And, the problem with sitting for extended periods of time? Quite simply put: your health.
Sitting for long periods of time has been proven to cause work related aches and pains including lumbar pain, neck pain, upper back pain, repetitive stress injuries, fatigue, and carpal tunnel syndrome. These aches can happen due to a number of different reasons including not sitting with proper posture, sitting in a poorly designed chair, sitting in a chair that is too big/too small for your frame, sitting for extended periods of time, sitting in the same position, and lack of movement. However the main problem comes down to sitting. Although most of us are required by our employers to sit in our office chairs for the majority of the day, our lunch break is the one time of the day when we have complete freedom to do whatever we please. Instead of sitting we have come up with 7 alternate ways to spend your lunch break.
- Stretch – Even if you do not get a full hour for lunch or are too slammed to even take a break, take a few moments to stand up and stretch. Roll your shoulders back, raise your arms above your head in a full extension, take a quick walk around your office, and shake out your legs. It is best to do this every 1-2 hours, but if your time only permits this during your lunch break, remember to do so.
- Walk – Have some time to spare during your break? Take the opportunity to take a walk around your building, parking lot, or walk instead of drive to eat lunch. Walking will help you take your mind off of your work stresses while helping you stay active.
- Go to an Exercise Class – For some of us, our work carries on even once we leave the office. For others, we usually have other activities planned for after the work day such as running errands or spending time with our families. Consider your hour lunch break as an opportunity to partake in an exercise class to help clear your mind.
- Get a Massage – Sometimes work gets in the way of the little luxuries in life that leave us feeling revitalized and reinvigorated, a massage being one of them. Take an hour out of your work day during your lunch break to work out all the kinks and pains that have been building up in your back and you will feel like a whole new person when you return to work!
- Run – Often after work the last thing we want to do is change into our gym clothes and go on a run. Not only are we already exhausted from the long work day, but it is also a hazard to run in the dark at night. What better time to stretch and re-energize yourself than mid way through the day with a quick run around your office. Bring a pair of gym clothes and running shoes to work and you will be all set to go!
- Try Every Restaurant Within Walking Distance – If you can walk to it, you should try it! Get your exercise in while trying new quaint restaurants and hole in the wall food places that you would never consider going to if you had your car. You never know, you may find your next favorite spot to eat in the process.
- Go to a Park – Pack a lunch and have a picnic at a park nearby. You will get to enjoy being outdoors and away from anything that reminds you of work. After your done, take a stroll around and take in the scenery.
Whether you are taking a walk or exercising during your lunch break, it is important for your health to remain active throughout the day. Even if you are unable to take an hour break, be certain to stretch, get out of your office chair, and move around throughout your work day at least once every 2 hours. So the next time you are thinking about how you can spend your lunch break, consider one of our 7 options!
Do you ever find yourself working for hours on end sitting in an office chair without getting up to take a break? This is not uncommon, in fact most people either do not know or forget to take breaks when working long hours sitting in one position. Whether you work full time or part-time from home or in a traditional workplace setting, it is still important to take breaks. Taking breaks while working long hours is essential and crucial to your health.
Employers may need to think about the environment in which their work takes place in order to develop an adequate plan for allowing time for breaks. For jobs which are full time, two shorter breaks is often adequate. People who work behind a computer all day should take a break every hour or so and be able to get up and move round. This enables them from being in a seated posture all day staring at the screen. People who work in highly repetitive jobs should be offered more frequent shorter breaks in order to prevent boredom which can result in a decrease in productivity, a decrease in proficiency, and less mistakes. There are many reasons why regular breaks are important; here are just a few.
1. Circulation is impaired by prolonged sitting: When you sit in static postures where you are not moving, circulation can be impeded. When blood flow to an active muscle is impaired, the oxygen supply is diminished, which over time can impair muscle function. The feeling of fatigue often is related to circulation and blood supply.
2 Working on the computer distorts the awareness of time: When working for long hours on the computer most people do not take breaks frequently enough, nor do they realize how much time has passed since they began working. An easy way to eliminate this problem is to make sure people take regular breaks by using time reminders.
3. Burnout: People who work continually face complete burnout and what good is a burnt out employee? Physical exhaustion can lead to problems such as chronic headaches, fatigue, inability to concentrate, and trouble sleeping at night. Even if all you take is 15 minutes during an 8 hour work day, you can use that time to refresh yourself and feel more energized the rest of the work day.
4 Productivity: Many studies have revealed that workers who take breaks are dramatically more productive during the day as opposed to those who do not. After a break, your performance levels increase dramatically so that you can tackle tasks again with renewed vigor and finish them accurately. Mistakes are also made more when you do not refresh your mind and body.
5. Heart Risks: After researchers in Finland conducted a study on a group of nearly 800 workers over the span of 28 years, they found that subjects who failed to find time to recover from their workweek were more likely to eventually die of cardiovascular disease. If people are not able to relax periodically, plaques can build up in their arteries which contribute to potential heart attacks and or strokes.
6. Stress: Focusing on a tedious task for too long can easily lead to physical and mental stress. Stress as most know, can lead to serious implications for our health. Common consequences of stress include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, poor fitness, low resistance to viruses, and serious illnesses. If something that is being worked on becomes too stressful, it is best to take a break from it and resume the work once calm and collected.
7. Repetitive Stress Injuries: Especially for those that sit at a desk all day staring at a computer, it is easy to develop repetitive stress injuries such as eyestrain from staring at a computer screen too long. Carpal Tunnel is also another injury which can develop from spending too much time typing and not typing in the proper position. Sitting in an office chair too long generally leads to wanting to fidget and move posture, most of the time into improper posture. By not sitting correctly and having adequate lumbar support, back and neck pain is sure to develop.
When starting your new routine of taking breaks, start small with 5 minute breaks and work your way up in about a week or two. Taking breaks at work cannot be considered being lazy, especially when you take short meaningful ones. There is no harm in trying, but there is harm in not trying.