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Take A 10-Second Micro-Break Every 10 Minutes

A very common ergonomics advice that we read online for workplace health problems about injuries such as repetitive strain injuries (also commonly known as "RSI") is that we need to take short but frequent breaks. Most of of the time, we hear suggestions that we should take a 5-minute break every 50-55 minutes.

Have you heard about 10-second micro-breaks?

You see, most of the physical stresses we face comes mainly from muscle/muscular fatigue.

When muscles are fatigued (tired) then the muscles don't work optimally (ie sub-optimal performance), it's like trying to go for a jog when you're already tired.

What tired muscles need is simply they need rests from time to time to recover...and achieving the RIGHT amount of muscle recovery to right rest time may be a little tricky, but it's not that difficult.

  • at low fatigue levels, muscles recover very quickly
  • at high fatigue levels, muscles recover slowly

Low fatigue is like typing an article for 30 minutes versus high fatigue is going for a more intense 1-2 hours tennis/hike/marathon - different fatigue level. The general consensus is that once your muscles become fatigued, tired and sore, recovery will take a long time.

This can mean a difference of:

  • at low fatigue levels, muscles recover very quickly > may need 10 seconds of recovery
  • at high fatigue levels, muscles recover slowly > may need hours

Think of how your body feels after an intense/strenuous exercise work out session.

micro-breaks as the solution

One solution to low muscle fatigue is micro breaks.

These are very short (hence "micro-breaks") of 5 to 10 seconds every 5 to 10 minutes of

  • repetitive motions (eg typing, filing, carrying, pushing, pulling, as long as it's repetitive work)
  • stationary position (eg seated, standing etc)

These micro-breaks serve to:

  • relax your muscles (ideally you can do a short stretch) and introduce normal length of muscles again
  • improve blood circulation and flow (to remove lactic acid build up and introduce nutrients)

These breaks are small enough to not get in the way of your work but done repeatedly, can bring big relief and help to your tired muscles.

advantages of micro-breaks

  • takes very little time and can easily be developed to become a healthy habit
  • prevents fatigue load build up.
  • preventative and are taken before discomfort or injury occurs
  • micro breaks are the most effective and efficient breaks you can take, but remembering and actually taking them can be difficult.

some examples of micro-breaks

  • turning your head and neck from side to side, top to bottom
  • letting go of mouse and hands away from keyboard
  • standing and stretching
  • dropping arms to side including letting your shoulders rest
  • etc