The Secret to Being More Focused and Productive While Working

October 19, 2022

Alyssa Jackson

M.Ed. in Health and Wellness Education

Young white woman planking on a yoga mat in front of a desk

Whether you are an educator with distracted students or an online student struggling with a short attention span, you should consider incorporating physical brain breaks regularly into your routine. It can greatly impact work performance, stress levels and so much more.

What are physical brain breaks?

In a world that seemingly turned virtual overnight, we’ve forgotten the bliss of stepping away from the screen and moving our bodies throughout the day. Physical brain breaks are short periods of intentional movement throughout the day. On top of giving your eyes a break from screens, they provide effective mental and physical benefits in just five minutes and should be incorporated every 60-90 minutes of concentration time. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s recipe for success includes two 15-minute breaks in each half of the day and four five-minute breaks spaced throughout the day. Here’s the benefit breakdown:

Physical benefits:

  1. Movement = energy. The rumors are true: Moving more leads to increased energy throughout the day. Try replacing afternoon coffee with a 15-minute walk for an instant energy boost.
  2. Movement = strength. Sedentary lifestyles lead to muscle loss and tightening, which can trigger chronic pain and injuries. Replacing some sitting time with movement can help keep our bones, joints and muscles strong and flexible.
  3. Movement = rest. Daily activity has been shown to help adults fall asleep quicker and experience deeper, more restful sleep.
  4. Movement = weight management. Our bodies are designed to move and our Basal Metabolic Rate thanks us when we move by boosting the amount of calories naturally burned throughout the day.

Mental benefits:

  1. Movement = focus. Short periods of physical activity are linked to improved focus, thinking and cognition.
  2. Movement = mood-booster. Moving stimulates the release of brain chemicals linked to feelings of fulfillment and joy. Even quick periods of activity can greatly decrease anxious and stressful feelings.
  3. Movement = productivity. Following a short bout of exercise, the mind is more motivated to dial in on new tasks.
  4. Movement = lifestyle. Creating this type of routine will spill over into daily life, supporting overall health and well-being.

If you’re convinced but aren’t sure what types of activities you should do in such a short period of time, here are some suggestions for that quick five-minute break:

  1. Go for a walk down the street or water the plants.
  2. Try a few yoga poses.
  3. Walk up and down a set of stairs.
  4. Practice some body weight exercises at your desk.
  5. Set a timer and complete a series of core exercises.
  6. Play with the family pet.
  7. Jog to the end of the block.
  8. Clean and organize your desk or workspace.

You can do anything for five minutes, so feel free to get creative about how you want to take your breaks! However, as a final challenge, try to get away from all screens during physical brain breaks, including your phone. This will truly de-stimulate the brain, which is essential to making a seamless transition back into work.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of American College of Education.
Alyssa Jackson
Alyssa Jackson, M.Ed. in Health and Wellness Education

Alyssa is a nutrition educator with the Expanded Food and Nutrition Program through NC State University in North Carolina. She recently completed her M.Ed in Health and Wellness Education at ACE.

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