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Support physical activity breaks during the workday

Why: 

Stretch breaks, also known as active breaks, micro breaks or mini breaks, will help reduce muscle tension caused when muscles remain static or fixed in one position for too long.  When remaining static, muscles fatigue more easily, circulation decreases, you become uncomfortable, and tasks become more difficult.  Stretching can help relieve discomfort due to repetitive movements, awkward postures, and excessive force.

Repetitive Strain Injury occurs from repeated physical movements, doing damage to tendons, nerves, muscles, and other soft body tissues.  Occupations ranging from meatpackers to musicians have characteristic Repetitive Strain Injuries that can result from the typical move they make.  The rise of computer use and flat, light-touch keyboards that permit high speed typing have resulted in an epidemic of injuries of the hands, arms, and shoulders.

Four factors are associated with the development of Repetitive Strain Injury:

  • Force

  • Posture

  • Repetition

  • Insufficient rest

    The human body has great recuperative powers, given the opportunity to repair itself.  Regular incorporation of stretch breaks throughout the day not only helps to avoid Repetitive Strain Injury, but may help improve alertness and decrease fatigue.

    How:

  • Stretch breaks can be self-initiated or formally led by an instructor.

  • Employees can schedule their own breaks in Outlook software or by email calendar.

  • Software is available that will automatically notify you when it’s time for a break and will lead you through some exercises.

  • Hang posters of stretching exercises on the walls for people without Internet access.

  • Incentive programs can also be incorporated.

    Instructor led-format:

  • Include stretching, strength exercises, walking, or relaxation techniques in instructor-led activities.

  • Keep sessions to 5-15 minutes in length.

  • Offer stretch breaks 2-3 times per week depending on managerial approval.

    The program design is intended to be:

  • Convenient: instructor goes to the worksite area and usually uses a conference room.

  • Flexible: days and times are set up to accommodate employee work schedules.

  • Adaptable: customized sessions are provided for each group; i.e. stretching vs. walking vs. relaxation tapes vs. strength exercises with or without prop use vs. mini massage or a combination of all of the above.

  • Informational: discussions regarding health awareness including self-care, nutrition, physical activity, stress management, safety, etc.

    Use resources within the corporation for design and implementation.  Resources can include:

  • Physical therapy

  • Massage therapy

  • Risk management

  • Safety and ergonomics

    Assessment methods for workday physical activities:

  • Attendance

  • Evaluations (participants and managers)

  • Workers’ compensation claims

  • Initial assessment (flexibility, blood pressure, etc.) can be taken with a follow-up to determine program effectiveness.

    Resources:

  • Park Nicollet:  www.healthsource.org
        Take A Break posters and Two-sided laminated cards featuring stretching and strengthening
        Exercises

  • Power Pause:  www.possibility.com/PowerPause/

  • Yoga Everywhere:  http://yogaeverywhere.com/home.html