It's okay to take a break

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It's okay to take a break


Business people walking to a meeting

28 January 2015

We have heard the constant headlines on the negative impacts of sedentary behaviour. ‘Is sitting the new smoking?’ the ‘chair disease’ or ‘sedentary work is a ticking time bomb’.

We get it – we shouldn’t sit for long periods. However technology advancements in today’s workplaces make this order near impossible. We no longer need to move when we want to talk to a colleague, send/receive mail or file documents.

So what can we do to avoid being a victim to our chair?

Ergonomic experts say that short frequent breaks can reduce the negative impacts of prolonged sitting. Taking short breaks and changing your posture can help musculoskeletal performance. Also, frequent breaks prevent strain caused by performing one task for an extended period.

We all know we should get up more often but many of us just don’t. Rest break software can be a great tool for prompting you to do so. There are a variety of applications on the market to choose from. We suggest using Workrave as it is free, user friendly and has adjustable break reminders.

Workrave prompts you to take breaks and preform guided exercises to help reduce muscle fatigue or strain. The software incorporates both micro-breaks and rest breaks (task variation).


Micro-breaks are short frequent breaks from a task. You should break from your task and relax or stretch your muscles for about 30 seconds. According to the Journal of Applied Ergonomics, multiple short breaks are better for preventing fatigue compared to one long break.

Rest breaks

Rest breaks refer to a task change. During a rest break it is important you stand up and move to interrupt your sitting pattern.

Suggested activities during rest breaks:

  • Stretch

  • Walk to the printer

  • Grab a drink of water

  • Walk to colleagues desk rather than emailing

  • Stand up and make a phone call

  • Organise/clean workstation

You can also prevent aches and pains by setting up your workstation correctly. It is amazing what a few minor changes can do for you. Our Ergonomics page has lots of useful information to assist you with this. But yet, you can only achieve an optimal ergonomic workstation if you take a break from it frequently.

(Insert micro-break here!)

For USC staff and students, you can download Workrave through the USC Software Center.

Do you need to be reminded to take a break? Do you use a rest break software? Which rest break software do you like best?

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