How Often Should You Be Taking Laptop Breaks During the Workday?

Just a few more minutes of movement each day could tack years onto your life expectancy

A remote worker takes a break to stare out the window.
Even the shortest of workday breaks can drastically improve your metabolic health.
visualspace/Getty Images

Ophthalmologists have an oft-quoted tip for reducing eye strain: “20-20-20.”

It’s pretty simple: every 20 minutes, look at something that’s 20 feet away from you for 20 seconds. Experts agree that it’s an effective (if somewhat basic) solution to the havoc an average of seven hours of screen-time is wreaking on our retinas each day.

Following a recent study published in the American Journal of Physiology, it might be time for a new, healthier-workday mantra: “3-30.” Researchers determined that employees should get up and exercise for three minutes every half hour. Assessing a cohort of 16 middle-aged, white-collar workers at high risk for Type 2 diabetes, the authors of the study concluded “Every waking hour spent in sedentary postures (that is, sitting or lying) increases risk for metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes.”

Half of these workers committed to some sort of light movement twice an hour (they were alerted by a smartphone app each time they had to get up), while the others continued their usual habits. You wouldn’t qualify everything the active group got up to as “exercise” — most of the time, they just moseyed around for three minutes. On the lower end, they’d walk to the other room. More serious sessions would involve climbing stairs or performing jumping jacks.

But the difference between the groups was clear after three weeks. Blood sugar levels were healthier in the active group, signifying an improvement in metabolic health. And among them, the workers who moved more (pushing the break past three minutes, or fitting in more steps) had even better biometrics.

Ultimately, this isn’t rocket science; when you actually contract muscles, they break down sugars and fatty acids in the bloodstream. But it’s a useful reminder of the fact that we all sit way too much (especially now that there’s no commute to schlep to) and even a few minutes of movement each day can tack years onto your life.

Win the Ultimate Formula 1® Miami Grand Prix Experience

Want the F1 experience of a lifetime? Here’s your chance to win tickets to see Turn 18 Grandstand, one of Ultimate Formula 1® Miami Grand Prix’s most premier grandstands!