What 'Micro-Breaks' From Work Can Do For Your Overall Health

The amount of time adults in the U.S. spend planted in a chair is increasing. Since 2007, The Washington Post reports that the average adult has gone from sitting for roughly 5.5 hours a day to about 6.5 hours in recent years. Many of us probably associate a "break" with the weekend, time off from school, or a two-week vacation away from work. However, a new 2022 research analysis published in PLOS One shows that even breaks lasting mere seconds may benefit our work performance — and even our health.

Researchers looked at results from more than 20 prior studies on the subject of short breaks and their related effects on humans. Specifically, the study team coined the term "micro-break" to mean "short discontinuities in one's tasks of no longer than 10 minutes," as per the research paper. Findings showed that micro-breaks hold the potential to boost our well-being by increasing vigor and lessening fatigue. Furthermore, the research also showed a positive relationship between micro-break duration and enhanced performance.

These findings may come as great news for those who spend the majority of their day at a desk, but what's the best use of our time when it comes to micro-breaks?

How to use your micro-break time

Health experts explain that activities that help get us away from the screen and into our bodies are some of the best ways to utilize a micro-break. "Get up, walk around, stretch, do push-ups," Dr. Alex Dimitriu, founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry & Sleep Medicine, told Healthline. "Getting vertical and moving around is good to get blood flowing and has always been the healthiest use of even a free minute. We tend to sit too long in our daily lives at work."

In addition to engaging in activities that benefit our body, experts also suggest taking advantage of micro-break activities that benefit our emotional and mental well-being (per Healthline). This may mean taking 10 seconds for some deep breaths, partaking in a few moments of mindfulness meditation, snuggling your pet, or stepping outside into the sunshine.

However, Dr. Dimitriu encourages individuals to try and avoid internet scrolling during a micro-break. "Social media, reading news, or shopping on Amazon may not be the best use of this free time," he told Healthline. Not only does this neglect to give your eyes a screen break, but Penn Medicine explains that social media usage, in particular, can lead to increased feelings of depression and dissatisfaction with life. Thankfully, a few minutes spent walking away to grab a snack may be all it takes to leave you feeling refreshed once you sit back down to work.