Only one in five U.S. workers takes a lunch break, according to recent research. And when the American workweek can easily span more than 55 hours, which puts people at a higher risk of stroke and heart disease, that's a sobering thought.
As you might imagine, there are VERY good reasons to take a break at work, and your physical health is just one of them. Need convincing? Consider this:
1. It makes you more productive than staying at your desk.
A 2014 survey of employee computer usage found that the highest 10 percent of workplace performers were those who took 17 minutes' worth of breaks for every 52 minutes of work. That's probably because brief breaks vastly improve focus on long tasks. Concentration works like a muscle: Relax it after a sprint, and you'll find an increased capacity to focus.
2. It's likely to bring out your most creative ideas.
Practices like meditation, doodling or walking can streamline brain activity and get you into a "state of flow," in which ideas bubble freely to the surface. A quick conversation with a friend or watching an online video may also be the jumpstart you need to problem-solve in new ways.
3. You'll be physically healthier.
As we mentioned above, workers who logged 55 hours per week or more had a 33 percent greater risk of stroke and a 13 percent greater risk of heart disease than people who worked 35 to 40 hours, a recent study showed. Replace those extra office hours with walking or jogging, which will allow you (if you must!) to make work-related phone calls while lowering obesity rates, preventing diabetes, protecting your heart and staving off some types of cancer.
4. You get to see your friends!
Not every break has to be a meditation session in a calming room: Studies show that some of the best breaks involve simply hanging out with coworkers. Spending time with a close group of people boosts your mood and your potential to come up with collaborative projects.
5. You don't even have to leave the office.
Your break could be a walk outside -- which reduces fatigue and protects against depression -- or a 10-minute jog proven to ward off all kinds of health issues. But short, indoor breaks as quick as five minutes are incredibly effective in their own ways: Experts say making coffee with a coworker boosts all-around happiness, while a brief meditation (even if it's just quietly focusing on your lunch) increases efficiency during other tasks.
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