In all the clamour to take more sport and exercise, and all the brou ha ha about obesity across all age groups, it’s timely to consider just how much sitting down people do in a given day.
Are you desk bound? Or worse, are you computer on the desk bound? Do you work in a place where it’s frowned upon to get up a lot and walk around and talk to colleagues?
Well, take heart, quite literally. A new survey from Queensland University of Brisbane has found that people who get up regularly and frequently benefit from slimmer waists and healthier hearts.
Published in the European Heart Journal they found that what they call ‘screen breaks’ benefit people by one and a half inches on the waistline and higher levels of ‘good cholesterol (HDL)’ and lower levels of harmful blood fats.
The volunteers in the study spent an average 8 hours plus every day sitting, and needed to get up once every five and a half minutes.
The suggestion was made that many meetings could easily be done standing up. Indeed, some companies, such as Amazon, already do that at certain times of their daily chores.
Health and Safety, Innit?
The Health and Safety Executive published guidance in March 2012, asking ‘should VDU users be given breaks?’
In fact, there are strict rules about it. The Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 cover the daily activities of screen users and state (Regulation 4):
Every employer shall so plan the activities of users at work in his undertaking that their daily work on display screen equipment is periodically interrupted by such breaks or changes of activity as reduce their workload at that equipment.
- wherever possible jobs at display screens should be designed to consist of a mix of screen and non screen based work to prevent fatigue and to vary visual/mental demands;
- where the job unavoidably contains spells of intensive display screen work (whether using the keyboard or input device, reading the screen, or a mixture of the two), these should be broken up by periods of non-intensive, non-display screen work;
- where work cannot be so organised, e.g. in jobs requiring only data or text entry requiring sustained attention and concentration, deliberate breaks or pauses must be introduced;
- where the display screen work involves intensive use of the keyboard, any activity that would demand broadly similar use of the arms or hands should be avoided during breaks; and
- where the display screen work is visually demanding any activities during breaks should be of a different visual character.
They also say that all breaks must also allow users to vary their posture. Exercise routines which include blinking, stretching and focusing eyes on distant objects can be helpful and could be covered in staff training programmes.
Guidance to Consider
The HSE didn’t lay down requirements for breaks which apply to all types of work, but stressed that it was the nature and mix of demands which should determine break lengths.
Further, they stated:
- breaks should be taken before the onset of fatigue, not in order to recuperate and when performance is at a maximum, before productivity reduces;
- the timing of the break is more important than its length;
- breaks or changes of activity should be included in working time. They should reduce the workload at the screen, i.e. should not result in a higher pace or intensity of work on account of their introduction;
- short, frequent breaks are more satisfactory than occasional, longer breaks: e.g., a 5-10 minute break after 50-60 minutes continuous screen and/or keyboard work is likely to be better than a 15 minute break every 2 hours;
- if possible, breaks should be taken away from the screen;
- informal breaks, that is time spent not viewing the screen (e.g. on other tasks), appear from study evidence to be more effective in relieving visual fatigue than formal rest breaks; and
- wherever practicable, users should be allowed some discretion as to how they carry out tasks; individual control over the nature and pace of work allows optimal distribution of effort over the working day.
So, how do you check out against all those criteria? Let us know what you think, whether you are a boss or a worker, but have a break before you write to us online unless you do it while standing by the snack table!
A Hard Day at the Office, 24 April 2012
The Longest Coffee Breaks in the World, 11 July 2012
Digital Health Shapes Up to Be a Financial Winning Marketplace, 12 November 2012
A Gentle Jog and Round-Up of Sports and Technology News 23 October 2012
Virtual Sport Rather Defeats the Object of Competitive Sports, 3 October 2012
Second Screens Are the Obvious Target for Advertisers Now, 11 September 2012