Friday, March 9, 2012

Reduce health risks with short breaks every twenty minutes at work

Scientists have advised that we should aim for short breaks of around 2 minutes every 20 minutes at work in order to reduce health risks associated with low levels of activity at work.  Research for the journal Diabetes Care has discovered that these short breaks help to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes caused by high levels of glucose and insulin in the bloodstream. 

After eating, levels of glucose and insulin in the body rise providing cells with blood sugar which is converted to energy or stored for later.  When sitting the muscles in the body are relaxed and don’t help the body to break this down.

The study, conducted with nineteen adults – all who didn’t get regular exercise and classed as overweight where tested over the course of three days, monitoring their blood sugar and insulin levels.  Each person was monitored over a period of 7 hours each day in an office-like environment to mimic working conditions. 
On each of the study days participants consumed a sugary drink 2 hours into the day to monitor blood sugar levels under different levels of activity.  The first day participants only moved about for bathroom breaks, spending the rest of the time sitting at their desk.  The second day, participants were encouraged to break every 20 minutes for about 2 minutes each break.  The third day had the same stipulations however each person was to do slightly more vigorous activity during each break.

The first day showed that each participant experienced large spikes in both blood sugar and insulin levels when no activity was undertaken.  The second day revealed that a small amount of activity every 20 minutes had the ability to reduce levels by around 24%.  The third day, where participants were encouraged to do more vigorous activity, resulted in even lower spikes of blood sugar and insulin levels around the 30% mark showing that the greater the level of activity, the better the results.

Being an employer means you are responsible for the health and wellbeing of your employees and you should actively encourage your workers to take short breaks now and again.  Of course, if you are a small business you are generally worried about keeping your workers motivated and productive.  These small breaks may result in cost savings through fewer sick days and reduced small business health insurance premiums.  For the sake of 6 minutes every hour, you could save yourself a lot in the long run.

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