Scientific Evidence

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Scientific Evidence

Medical professionals, with years of experience working with adults in the work place who have medical conditions or disabilities that impact upon their capacity to work at a desk for log periods, have collaborated to deliver this innovative collection of stretches and exercises.

Taking a Stand for Office-Based Workers' Mental Health: The Return of the Microbreak

Casey Peter Mainsbridge, Dean Cooley, Sarah Dawkins, Kristy de Salas, Jiajin Tong, Matthew Wade Schmidt, Scott J Pedersen

DOI: 10.3389/fpubh.2020.00215


OBJECTIVE: To investigate if microbreaks comprised of regular, low-dose NEPA (Non-exercise physical activity), would alter desk-based employees' mood states and perceptions of job-related stress.

METHODS: A pilot quasi-experimental, field-based, repeated measures (pre-intervention, post-intervention, washout) research design with random assignment with replacement to an experimental or control group. The experimental group received the movement microbreak software on their work computers for 13 weeks during the intervention period. Both groups were followed for an additional 13 weeks after the intervention was removed from the experimental group (washout period).

RESULTS: No significant differences between the groups for baseline and the post-test but a significant difference between groups during the washout test with a medium effect size. The null hypothesis that police officers allocated to desk-based duties who interrupted their occupational sitting would not experience a reduction in self-reported stress stemming from their organizational environment, compared to their colleagues who maintained their normal desk-based occupational patterns was rejected.

CONCLUSIONS: The pilot study findings indicated that desk-based employees engaged in desk-based work who were exposed to sustained and regular prompts to complete low dose NEPA (i.e., microbreaks) demonstrated a significant interaction between job-related stress and the mood states of vigor and fatigue. The directional movement of these three combined dependent variables in the experimental group over time indicates that perceptions of stress and mood states can be positively affected by using targeted movement microbreaks designed to instigate interruptions to sitting posture, and then have employees engage in some form of physical activity. This multivariate analysis suggested that both stress and mood variables have a possible influence on the other.

Daily Micro-Breaks and Job Performance: General Work Engagement as a Cross-Level Moderator

Kim, Sooyeol & Park, Youngah & Headrick, Lucille. (2018). Daily Micro-Breaks and Job Performance: General Work Engagement as a Cross-Level Moderator. Journal of Applied Psychology.

DOI: 10.1037/apl0000308

Abstract: Despite the growing research on work recovery and its well-being outcomes, surprisingly little attention has been paid to at-work recovery and its job performance outcomes. The current study extends the work recovery literature by examining day-level relationships between prototypical microbreaks and job performance as mediated by state positive affect. Furthermore, general work engagement is tested as a cross-level moderator weakening the indirect effects of microbreaks on job performance via positive affect.

Using multisource experience sampling method, the authors collected two daily surveys from 71 call center employees and obtained objective records of daily sales performance for two consecutive weeks (n = 632). Multilevel path analysis results showed that relaxation, socialization, and cognitive microbreaks were related to increased positive affect at work which, in turn, predicted greater sales performance. However, breaks for nutrition-intake (having snacks and drinks) did not show significant effects. Importantly, microbreaks had significant indirect effects on job performance via positive affect only for workers who had lower general work engagement, whereas the indirect effects did not exist for workers who had higher general work engagement. Furthermore, Bayesian multilevel analyses confirmed the results. Theoretical and practical implications, limitations, and future research directions are discussed.

The Effects of Exercise and Rest Breaks on Musculoskeletal Discomfort During Computer Tasks

Ronald de Vera Barredo, Kelly Mahon (2007)

DOI: 10.1589/jpts.19.151


OBJECTIVE: To review the strength of research evidence on the effects of exercise and rest breaks on musculoskeletal discomfort during computer tasks and compare the evidence with clinical guidelines.

SIGNIFICANCE: The review of research evidence and its comparison with current clinical guidelines provide clinicians with knowledge to make clinically sound decisions in the care and management of individuals with musculoskeletal discomfort during computer tasks.

METHODS: Articles from PubMed, Ovid and references of relevant articles were reviewed for research design and internal validity. Grades of evidence were assigned based on the aggregate strength of articles for each intervention.

RESULTS: Fifteen articles (one on exercise, seven on rest breaks, five examining both) met the inclusion criteria. Exercise and rest breaks were each assigned a grade of C.

CONCLUSIONS: Evidence supports the use of exercise and rest breaks in reducing musculoskeletal discomfort in computer tasks. The research evidence suggest no additional benefits of exercise over rest breaks alone. Research evidence concurs with the clinical guidelines recommended by OSHA and the Official Disability Guidelines.

Point-of-choice prompts to reduce sitting time at work: a randomized trial

DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2012.05.010

Evans RE, Fawole HO, Sheriff SA, Dall PM, Grant PM, Ryan CG; American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2012 Sep;43(3):293-297 clinical trial 7/10 [Eligibility criteria: No; Random allocation: Yes; Concealed allocation: Yes; Baseline comparability: Yes; Blind subjects: No; Blind therapists: No; Blind assessors: Yes; Adequate follow-up: Yes; Intention-to-treat analysis: No; Between-group comparisons: Yes; Point estimates and variability: Yes. Note: Eligibility criteria item does not contribute to total score] *This score has been confirmed*

BACKGROUND: Prolonged sitting is prevalent in the workplace and is associated with adverse health markers. PURPOSE: Investigate the effects of point-of-choice (PoC) prompting software, on the computer used at work (PC), to reduce long uninterrupted sedentary periods and total sedentary time at work.

DESIGN Assessor-blinded, parallel group, active-controlled randomized trial.

SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: A convenience sample of office workers from Glasgow, United Kingdom. Data were collected April to June 2010, and analyzed October 2010 to June 2011.

INTERVENTION: The education group (n = 14) received a brief education session on the importance of reducing long sitting periods at work. The PoC group (n = 14) received the same education along with prompting software on their PC for 5 workdays, which reminded them to stand up every 30 minutes.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Sitting time was measured objectively using the activPAL activity monitor for 5 workdays at baseline and 5 workdays during the intervention. The number and time spent sitting in events > 30 minutes' duration were the main outcome measures.

RESULTS: At baseline, participants spent 5.7 +/- 1.0 hours/day (76% +/- 9%) of their time at work sitting. Of that time, 3.3 +/- 1.3 hours/day was spent sitting in 3.7 +/- 1.4 events > 30 minutes. There was a significant difference between the groups in the change (intervention to baseline) of both the number (ANCOVA; -6.8%, p = 0.014) and duration (-15.5%, p = 0.007) of sitting events > 30 minutes. During the intervention, compared with baseline, the PoC group reduced the number (paired t-test; -0.11 events/hour, p = 0.045) and duration (-12.2%, p = 0.035) of sitting events > 30 minutes. However, there was no significant difference in total sitting time between groups (-4.4%, p = 0.084).

CONCLUSIONS: Point-of-choice prompting software on work computers recommending taking a break from sitting plus education is superior to education alone in reducing long uninterrupted sedentary periods at work.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: This trial was registered at NCT01628861.

Stretching to reduce work-related musculoskeletal disorders: a systematic review

J Rehabil Med. 2008 May;40(5):321-8. da Costa BR, Vieira ER.

DOI: 10.2340/16501977-0204


Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.


OBJECTIVEThis article reviewed the literature to clarify the physiological effects and benefits of, and misconceptions about, stretches used to reduce musculoskeletal disorders.

METHODSNine databases were reviewed to identify studies exploring the effectiveness of stretching to prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Included studies were reviewed and their methodological quality was assessed using the PEDro scale.

RESULTSThe physiological effects of stretches may contribute to reducing discomfort and pain. However, if other measures are not in place to remediate their causes, stretches may suppress awareness of risks, resulting in more debilitating injuries. If inadequately performed, stretches may also cause or aggravate injuries. Careful analysis and stretching program design are required before implementing stretches. Seven studies evaluating the effectiveness of stretching to prevent musculoskeletal disorders in different occupations were identified and reviewed.

CONCLUSION: The studies provided mixed findings, but demonstrated some beneficial effect of stretching in preventing work-related musculoskeletal disorders. However, due to the relatively low methodological quality of the studies available in the literature, future studies are necessary for a definite response. Future studies should minimize threats to internal and external validity, have control groups, use appropriate follow-up periods, and present a more detailed description of the interventions and worker population.

Effects of software programs stimulating regular breaks and exercises on work-related neck and upper-limb disorders

Scand J Work Environ Health. 2003 Apr;29(2):106-16. van den Heuvel SG, de Looze MP, Hildebrandt VH, Thé KH.

DOI: 10.5271/sjweh.712 4


TNO Work and Employment (TNO = The Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research), Hoofddorp, The Netherlands. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


OBJECTIVES: This study evaluated the effects on work-related neck and upper-limb disorders among computer workers stimulated (by a software program) to take regular breaks and perform physical exercises. Possible effects on sick leave and productivity were studied as well. A randomized controlled design was used with cluster randomization. Altogether 268 computer workers with complaints in the neck or an upper limb from 22 office locations were randomized into a control group, one intervention group stimulated to take extra breaks and one intervention group stimulated to perform exercises during the extra breaks during an 8-weekperiod. Questionnaires were administered before and after the intervention, and questions were generated by the software during the intervention period. Computer usage was recorded online.

RESULTS: The data on self-reported recovery suggested a favorable effect; more subjects in the intervention groups than in the control group reported recovery (55% versus 34%) from their complaints and fewer reported deterioration (4% versus 20%). However, a comparison between the reported pre- and post intervention scores on the severity and frequency of the complaints showed no significant differences in the change among the three groups. No effects on sick leave were observed. The subjects in the intervention groups showed higher productivity.

CONCLUSIONS: The use of a software program stimulating workers to take regular breaks contributes to perceived recovery from neck or upper-limb complaints. There seems to be no additional effects from performing physical exercises during these breaks.

Effects of intermittent stretching exercises at work on musculoskeletal pain associated with the use of a personal computer and the influence of media on outcomes.

Work. 2010;36(1):27-37. DOI: 10.3233/WOR-2010-1004.

Marangoni AH.


Department of Physical Therapy, Wheeling Jesuit University, 316 Washington Ave, Wheeling, WV 26003, USA. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of regular stretching exercises on pain associated with working at a computer workstation, and to ascertain whether the type of media used for exercise instruction had an effect on outcomes.

PARTICIPANTS: Sixty-eight volunteers were divided into three equivalent groups. All of the subjects worked at computers for prolonged periods of time and reported that their pain had been a source of distress for at least three weeks prior to the intake evaluation.

METHODS: A pretest-posttest-control group design with cluster randomization was used to evaluate the effect of a stretching program on pain. Thirty-six different stretches were performed by the subjects for 15-17 work days. Two intervention groups were directed to stretch once every six minutes. One group (n=22) was reminded to stretch via a computer program, the second group (n=23) by using a hard copy version of the stretches with pictures and written instructions, and a third group received no intervention.

RESULTS: ANOVA analysis found a significant reduction in pain of 72% (p < 0.001) for the computer-generated stretching program, and of 64% (p < 0.001) using the hardcopy version of the intervention. The control group had an increase in pain of 1%.

CONCLUSIONS: Both software and hard copy stretching interventions contributed to a decrease in pain without making any changes to workstation ergonomics and there was no significant statistical difference in the outcomes of either intervention. The subjective evaluation of pain using both visual analog scales and a newly created "pain spot" assessment technique yielded similar results.