Summary: Researchers have long linked long periods of physical inactivity in humans with a range of health risks. And across the globe, millions of office workers sit for prolonged hours behind their computers everyday, sometimes without even moving off their chairs for regular breaks. But Pleaz aims to change this through Pleazers – short, online, video guided exercises designed to refocus and re-energize those watching. In 2021, researchers at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) looked into the effects these healthy breaks could have within the workplace environment.
More than 200 office workers from four European countries completed the study and took part in the Pleazers. The participants followed the video exercises once a day for the working week and the study compared their levels of stress and overall and physical wellbeing, to employees who did not take regular breaks over the same time period. Here’s what they found.
Table of Contents
- TOP FIVE RESEARCH FINDINGS (AND A SECRET SIXTH!)
- WHY DO A PLEAZER?
- JUST HOW MUCH SITTING DO WE DO?
- RISKS OF A SEDENTARY LIFESTYLE:
- SO WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT THIS?
- MORE ABOUT THE RESEARCH STUDY:
TOP FIVE RESEARCH FINDINGS (AND A SECRET SIXTH!)
The UCPH study found a number of encouraging results when it came to taking part in Pleazers throughout the workday for office workers. These were the top five research findings:
- Doing just one Pleazer every working day for four months decreased stress by five percent on average. This was a direct effect!
- Nearly 30 percent (29.5%) of workers who did four or more Pleazers per week reported they never felt stressed or nervous at work, compared to just under 10 percent (9.5%) who did not take healthy breaks regularly
- During the first coronavirus lockdown, participants who did not do any healthy breaks experienced a decrease in their overall wellbeing by 9.5%, compared to those who were asked to do at least three healthy breaks every week – these participants only experienced a 2.5% decrease in wellbeing
- Nearly 75 percent of workers (74%) who participated in at least four Pleazers weekly across four months reported that their work was always or a lot of the time enjoyable, interesting and satisfying, compared to just 40 percent of those who did not do healthy breaks regularly
- Workers who were asked to regularly do Pleazers during the four month period reported an 18 percent increase in identification to colleagues, meaning they felt closer to the team in general. This finding suggests that relationships between team members could be strengthened through short healthy breaks.
But according to UCPH Research Assistant and co-author Simon Spenter Ifversen, the most important findings were ones that couldn’t easily be explained. He said the research showed that healthy breaks explained 20 percent of the change in mental wellbeing, and 10 percent in change to overall wellbeing during the research project.
“The main thing it shows is the impact doing healthy breaks can have on your mental wellbeing,” he said. “(A professor) said he couldn’t believe that number, getting numbers like that, that 20% is a number you don’t usually see in psychological studies, it’s very rare. Getting a 10% or even 5% connection on this would be impressive, so 20% is really incredible.”
More information about the study can be found at the end of this article.
Bottom Line: A little goes a long way! Taking part in a daily Pleazer can help improve your working day by decreasing stress and ensuring you are more satisfied in your job.
WHY DO A PLEAZER?
There are many great reasons to do a Pleazer! But first, what exactly are they?
Pleazers are short, guided exercise and mindfulness online videos that encourage workers to move their body and relax their mind in the workplace. Pleazers can be done alone in your workspace whenever you need to unwind, or you can take part in social Pleazers with your colleagues during meetings, or just as a break.
In fact, Pleazers are a great way to build positive work relationships. Pleaz co-founder Pernille Feld Snitkjaer said that the research proves that social coherence to colleagues can improve by doing just one Pleazer a week. “Just the fact that you’re physically active together will improve empathy with each other,” she says. “It’s also about laughing together… and when you’re not doing everything perfectly, it loosens the atmosphere.”
She said that in one of the companies that used Pleazers during the lockdown, employees were initially shy taking part with the cameras on during meetings. But within a short space of time, they began to use them and started “communicating better” throughout their workday. She said the Pleazers are now just a part of their daily routine and have helped to create a sort of “social glue.”
Doing a Pleazer may also have added benefits of restoring creativity, productivity and motivation. Ms Feld Snitkjaer said that two to four minutes “of physical activity will benefit your brain an hour after these exercises. You’ll have more concentration, you’re more focused after these calisthenics.” She said an added bonus was that you were also more likely to go home feeling less tired after work and therefore able to take part in meaningful activities such as cooking or spending time with the kids.
“We got some great correlations of healthy breaks decreasing the perceived level of stress,” Mr Spenter Ifversen said of the research, “We always expected to see a positive correlation between the physical, mental and social wellbeing by doing healthy breaks, as numerous studies have previously validated physical activity’s effect on this.”
“What is very interesting about this is the findings on social psychological factors, such as group identification and social norm (when) doing healthy breaks in the office, effect on engagement and intention to engage in healthy breaks. These connections are what we hope to research going forward.”
Bottom Line: Doing a Pleazer can help improve creativity and productivity, build positive relationships with co-workers and reduce office injuries.
JUST HOW MUCH SITTING DO WE DO?
It should come as no surprise that office work in particular comprises a lot of sedentary behavior. In a study looking at reported sitting times across 28 European countries, workers that sat behind a desk in a white collar job reported an average of 420 minutes sitting per day (7 hours), while 40.7 percent of the group reportedly sat for more than 7.5 hours daily (Loyen, van der Ploeg, Bauman, Brug, and Lakerveld, 2016). This is compared to other jobs, such as professionals (29.4%), employed professionals (34.2%), students (28%) and general management (36.2%), who all reported lower hours of daily sitting.
Some countries also reported higher sitting times than others. In Denmark and the Netherlands alone, 31.7 percent and 32.1 percent of total participants respectively, were reported as sitting for more than 7.5 hours a day, the highest of the countries assessed. Spain recorded the fewest people sitting for longer than 7.5 hours a day at 8.9 percent, with Portugal (10%) and Ireland (10.4%) reporting similar numbers.
More generally, according to recent collated research across 62 countries reporting sitting times, the average person spends about 4.7 hours a day seated (Mclaughlin, Atkin, Starr, Hall, Wolfenden, Sutherland, Wiggers, Ramirez, Hallal, Pratt, Lynch & Wijndaele, 2020). The research also found that higher-income countries reported longer sitting times, including much of the European Union.
Denmark was reported as having a daily mean sitting time of 355 minutes (5.91 hours), while a number of other European countries reported similar or higher sitting times: The Netherlands reported 394 minutes (6.56 hours), the Czech Republic reported 340 minutes (5.66 hours), Switzerland reported 366 minutes (6.1 hours) and Sweden reported 346 minutes (5.76 hours).
Bottom Line: Those working behind a desk tend to experience more hours of inactivity per day – so get moving!
RISKS OF A SEDENTARY LIFESTYLE:
One of the biggest challenges of working in an office is the large number of hours employees spend sitting down. However, while some sitting is necessary, an excessive amount of inactivity may increase health risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
While there are no official international recommendations regarding sitting times, it is generally accepted by peak bodies that this be limited. The World Health Organization already has guidelines recommending how long children under five years old should engage in physical and sedentary behaviour (WHO, 2020) and reports that up to five millions deaths could be averted each year globally if more people were to engage in physical activity (WHO, 2019). According to the UK Chief Medical Officer’s Physical Activity Guidelines, extended periods of non-activity should be broken up “by at least light physical activity” (Davies, Atherton, McBride and Calderwood, 2019).
Pleazers aim to do just this, with the latest research just the beginning. Mr Spenter Ifversen said, “What we hope to do with the research project is scientifically validate healthy breaks during the workday as an effective tool to break up sedentary behavior and help a target group which is actually very exposed to the negative health consequences of sedentary behavior.”
Reported physical risks include reduced blood flow capacity, back pain and an increased risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, increased blood pressure, and type two diabetes (World Health Organization, 2009). High levels of sedentary behavior can also result in decision fatigue, headaches, tiredness, demotivation, burnout, stress, reduced performance and a lack of energy at the end of the working day (Kilpatrick et al., 2013; Lee & Kim, 2019) Sedentary behavior has also been found to increase the risk of anxiety, stress, depression, and memory loss (Faulkner & Biddle, 2013; Kilpatrick et al, 2013; Lee & Kim, 2019b; Siddarth, 2018; Sloan et al., 2013).
Bottom Line: Sitting for prolonged hours at a time can increase health risks, so don’t forget to do a Pleazer.
SO WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT THIS?
Glad you asked! It is very easy to ensure you are taking a healthy break at work with Pleaz! We take all the hard work out of finding proven techniques to get you on the road to healthy breaks. Just head to our website and choose a Pleazer that suits your needs that day – they are designed by qualified sport scientists and scientifically validated. If you need to destress, perhaps a Mindfulness Pleazer will work for you. Or if you need renewed energy, maybe a Fun Break will get you ready to jump back into that presentation later on.
Not sure what to pick? Check out our Pleazer Program, which has a new Pleazer available each day.
We can even remind you daily to take a Pleazer with our calendar!
And if your company is not yet part of Pleaz, please get in contact with our team and we can help put healthy breaks on their meeting agenda.
Bottom Line: Give it a go! We make taking healthy breaks easy and fun.
MORE ABOUT THE RESEARCH STUDY:
The research program collected data between December 2020 and June 2021 with 433 workers from Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Germany, across seven different companies.
Of those, 221 people completed the project (a total of 51%). Three large surveys were conducted during this time, as well as monthly surveys and Fitbit measurements. Participants were divided into implementation groups and control groups depending on their self-reported weekly activities.
The surveys asked a range of questions including their perceived ideas of stress measured across a scale, job satisfaction, how many healthy breaks employees intended to take in the future and how workers identify with their colleagues.