Healthy Computing: How To Take Frequent Breaks

When captured by our work, time flies. Sometimes it is only our aches and
pains, the stirring voices from our body, that tell us we need to move.
Even with the best intentions we forget to take micro-breaks or large
movement breaks. Micro-breaks are 1 to 2-second moments of muscle
relaxation to interrupt the low level static tension. This allows the
blood to flow in and out, bringing oxygen and nourishment to the tissue
and removing waste products. Prevent discomfort and increase your energy
when you take frequent breaks.

Take Many Micro-Breaks

Every 30 to 60 seconds drop your hands to your lap and let your arms, shoulders and hands go limp. You may be thinking that taking so many breaks will result in never getting work done yet, the time actually amounts to only 1 to 2 minutes per hour. Increase your relaxation by breathing evenly in and out through your nose (if possible) while keeping your eyes open with relaxed lids. Put on a little smile (stretch your lips horizontally while slightly drawing the corners up and back), and slightly tilt your head sideways while relaxing your whole body. Use every opportunity to drop your hands to your lap with a plop, such as:

  • At the end of every paragraph or column of data
  • Waiting for the cursor to comeback
  • Reading emails

Take Frequent Large Movement Breaks

Every 30 to 60 minutes change positions, alternate tasks, or perform movements for about 1 to 5 minutes. These large movements assist lymph return, improve blood flow and redistribute physical strains and pressures, such as disc compression from sitting. Use every opportunity to change your position and/or perform the following movements:

  • Stand up to answer the telephone
  • Get out of your chair to retrieve your documents from the printer
  • Alternate work tasks (e.g., data entry then filing then data
  • Walk to the water cooler and refresh with a drink (drinking
    liquids encourages bathroom visits: an automatic large movement)
  • Climb the stairs instead of taking the elevator
  • Stand up and actively perform stretch and strength exercises

Install A Computer Interrupt Program

These programs to remind you to
take breaks. The following programs can be downloaded from the web for
a free test ride.

If break reminder programs are not compatible with your network, use a
small alarm clock or set your wristwatch alarm to remind you to move.

Copyright 2002 Erik Peper, Ph.D. and Katherine Hughes Gibney

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Written by Erik Peper PhD

Explore Wellness in 2021