Backed be science

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

  1. TOP FIVE RESEARCH FINDINGS  (AND A SECRET SIXTH!) 
  2. WHY DO A PLEAZER?  
  3. JUST HOW MUCH SITTING DO WE DO? 
  4. RISKS OF A SEDENTARY LIFESTYLE:  
  5. SO WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT THIS?  
  6. 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 (MclaughlinAtkinStarrHallWolfendenSutherlandWiggers, RamirezHallalPratt, 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.   

Test Pleaz for free for one full year

Do you experience back pain, stress or are you and your colleagues feeling detached from each other once in a while?

Maybe we can help one another because our platform has been scientifically proven to not only decrease stress but also increase belonging and job satisfaction.

With the free access you get:

— Unlimited access to the Pleaz platform for a team size of 100 members for 1 full year

— Access to professional wellbeing plans helping you make your team healthier

— Help and technical support to make sure that everything works and is easy to use

Our CPO Alexander explains more about the offer here:

Who are we looking for?

We are looking for those who are concerned with their colleagues’ wellbeing and want to bring a new way of building wellbeing in their team.

When joining The Pleaz Wellbeing Platform you are saying yes to help test a product that is scientifically proven to increase your overall health, decrease stress, and create more belonging in a team.

What should I do now?

You should be ready to take out 1-2 hours pr month because we will be asking you to give feedback through e.g. questionnaires, usability tests or interviews – and of course you can decide the conditions yourself.

If this sounds like something for you, we would like to invite you into a closed group of other test-users where you will receive further information about the process.

What is mental health and wellbeing?

All you need to do is step out of the front door and head to work. No big deal right? But for some reason, there’s dread in the pit of your stomach because it’s finally the day of the deadline. If you think about it, you haven’t had a great run lately. Maybe it’s something you’re doing wrong. Or worse, maybe it’s just you. You put your head in your hands, frustrated. It must be because you lack confidence, you tell yourself. You’re just not good enough. Maybe if you called in sick instead, you’d get an extra day to check everything over thoroughly. Then you’d be ready by tomorrow right? Yeah, that sounds like a plan. So, practicing your best ‘sick voice’ impression, you call up your boss and tell them you can’t make it in after all. 

Goodness, that spiraled quickly didn’t it? And just because you told yourself you weren’t good enough.

The good news is, this negative thinking doesn’t have to become a pattern in your work life. Did you know you can be your own superhero when it comes to your mental health? Sometimes it can be difficult to know how to deal with stress or problems that crop up in the workplace, but it is definitely possible to get yourself feeling better again with a little bit of insight, care and most importantly, patience.

How to prevent back pain at work?

Do you have a sore back causing you pain?  

If so, you are not alone – in fact, studies show that throughout a year between 23% to 38% of office workers have experienced lower back pain (1). 

One of the main ways to decrease lower back pain caused by excessive sitting during the working day is to regularly move the lower back (2).

Try out video instructed exercise below to loosen tension in your back and keep reading to learn more about:

  • What is causing the pain in your back?
  • Why should you prioritize this during your working day both as an individual and employer?
  • What can you do to prevent it during your working day?

What is physical health?

Physical health is not just looking thin and not calling in sick to work that often. It’s a state of being free from illness or injury and being able to maintain a healthy quality of life and get the most out of our daily activities without undue fatigue or physical stress. This state of wellbeing can be achieved and maintained through a wide range of our daily habits and behaviors such as dieting, sleeping, relaxation, physical activity, personal hygiene, dental health, and much more. (1)

There is no single perfect formula to achieving this. Humans has individual needs in regards to these elements and responds differently on our physical health. 

However, the purpose of this blog post is to present the science behind and general guidelines on some of these elements which are considered essential to maintaining good physical health- then you can decide for yourself how you want to prioritize your time.
– then you can decide for yourself if you are prioritizing your physical health with your current habits 

– and maybe you can recognize some of your daily behaviors that could be changed to improve your physical wellbeing. 

How can mindfulness decrease stress?

SUMMARY: The day has started just like any other, but you can already feel your heart racing as you walk through the office doors. Is the presentation you made up to scratch, you wonder. Will you need to stay back again after 5pm this afternoon? Wait, how many meetings were scheduled today? Oh no. Did you remember to answer that email from your boss or not?  

Whoa, slow down! You’ve only just made it to your desk and already your mind is filled with questions and anxiety about the work day ahead. But don’t worry- there’s one easy way you can stop those racing thoughts from holding you captive. And that’s to take a few minutes to yourself.  

It might sound counterintuitive to do this, but whenever you are feeling a little overwhelmed during your work day- whether it’s at the start, middle or end of the day- take a quick break to reboot your mind. In this blog post, we’re going to teach you how to do this using one easy trick- mindfulness. How? Read on. 

What is social wellbeing?

The workday is in full swing by the time you arrive at the office. Your colleague Mark catches you in the lift and you chat with him about the soccer season beginning at the end of the week. Later, your boss Lucy dashes past, but quickly stops to check in about your partner because they had been sick earlier in the week. You make a mental note to text your partner to see how their day is going too. When it’s time to go in for a midday meeting, your team do a quick five minute yoga session before heading into the boardroom. 

After lunch you’re standing at the copy machine when Kirsti approaches. You want to tell her how well the last sales call went because she’s top of the ladder and you’re always trying to learn new tips and tricks from her. Then, just as you’re ready to pack up for the day, your partner replies to your text to tell you they’re enjoying their first day back at work. Success! 

Now it may not seem like it, but these are all simple examples of how you’re working on your social health without even knowing it. How? Just by conversing and doing team activities or events with other people during your workday. And while it is often overlooked, it should actually rank equally with your physical or mental wellbeing. 

So what exactly is social wellbeing and why is it so important?

Five reasons why you should exercise at work!

You’ve been behind the work computer for a few hours now. Your neck and back are starting to hurt… but there’s just half an hour before the next meeting and that presentation isn’t going to write itself. It’s fine, you think to yourself, that niggling pain will disappear soon. However, by the end of the day, you feel restless because the most you ended up moving was between your desk to the breakroom and back. And surprise, surprise, that pain hasn’t disappeared either. 

Sound familiar? Every day millions of office workers forfeit the chance to stretch their legs to work more, thinking any sort of break means less productivity. But what if you could prevent pain, re-energize yourself and still get everything done during the day? There is a simple and often overlooked way: taking a few quick breaks throughout your working day.

That’s right. Taking a few minutes out of the day to do some physical exercise could help keep your brain alert, your body engaged and on track to enjoy your day once you’ve finished at work. Here’s how.