Do you usually eat at your desk while trying to get through your day’s workload? Just one in five of us actually takes any form of lunch break at all, and research is showing that all the time stuck at a desk isn’t doing our health any good or increasing our productivity. Here are some top reasons backed by science for ditching the desk lunch.
1. Staying at your desk destroys motivation
A recent study asked participants to go for a 30-minute midday walk three times a week over 10 weeks. The researchers gave the subjects a smartphone app that recorded their mood level, workload, tiredness and motivation before and just after the walks.
The results showed that the lunchtime walks lowered the subject’s stress levels and made them feel more motivated and enthusiastic about their work. A follow-up study showed that these breaks also made participants feel more confident about their work performance.
Study leader Cecilie Thogersen-Ntoumani, of Curtin University, says “walking therefore seems to have both energising and relaxing properties in the workplace.”
2. Employees who take regular breaks are more productive than those that don’t
It appears that just putting some physical space between yourself and your workload has a restorative effect on your brain. Other studies have shown that employees who often take breaks during the workday are more productive than workaholics. Physical exercise tells the brain to produce stress-fighting chemicals called endorphins, which could explain why walking made the study participants relaxed.
3. Being outside reduces stress and promotes calm
Being outside also provides brain benefits. Sunshine jump-starts the process of serotonin production, which is a neurotransmitter believed to be linked to happiness and mood. Parks and other green spaces have a calming effect on our mental activity, and shift us into a type of meditative state, which researchers say is likely to have a restorative and stress-busting effect.
4. If you can’t get away, get a desk plant
If you can’t get away from your office, invest in a desk plant that can serve as a substitute for actually being outdoors looking at nature. You can also go for a walk indoors at lunchtime, as research finds walking indoors can boost creativity by around 60%.
Kimberley Esbach, a professor at the University of California, Davis Graduate School of Management, says that “creativity and innovation happen when people change their environment, and especially when they expose themselves to a nature-like environment, to a natural environment.”
Next time you’re feeling jaded and depleted, tackle a few flights of stairs in your building if you can’t get out and about. At least stop eating at your desk and give your brain a break.