What if manic Mondays were a thing of the past?
The idea of shorter workweeks has slowly gained traction globally for work-life balance purposes, with longer weekend trials set to take place in countries around the world. Today, more research has emerged in favor of the new model: improved health.
A new study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that three-day weekends may promote increased daily movement, less sitting time and better sleep.
While holidays in general have been shown to benefit people’s health, research has pointed to positive results even after just one extra day off per week.
“When people go on vacation, they change their daily responsibilities because they are not confined to their normal schedule,” Ty Ferguson, a researcher at the University of South Australia, said in a press release. “In this study, we found that movement patterns improved during the holidays, with increased physical activity and decreased sedentary behaviors seen at all levels.”
HOW THE STUDY WORKED
The University of South Australia tracked data from 308 adults wearing fitness trackers as part of the “Annual Rhythms in Adult Lifestyle and Health (ARIA)” study.
After 13 months, a period during which the average person took two to three vacations of about 12 days each, the data was available: 35% of people took vacations for outdoor recreation, 31% for family events and social gatherings, and 17% of holidays were spent relaxing.
The remaining 17% of vacations consisted of time spent on maintenance or other non-leisure activities, such as home improvement projects.
Based on this, the data revealed the health benefits of vacation, finding a 13% increase in daily movement, categorized as “moderate to vigorous” movement type.
The study also found that 5% of people sat nearly half an hour less per day while on vacation.
Even signs of improved sleep emerged, as study participants slept about 21 minutes longer on their days off, with the added benefits of rest extending into the weeks back at work.
According to Ferguson, getting enough sleep can benefit people’s mood, cognitive function and productivity.
“It may also help reduce our risk of developing a range of health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and depression.”
A POTENTIAL GLOBAL MODEL?
Some countries have made efforts to reduce working hours through weekly four-day trials, such as Spain, which announced a trial of the longer weekend model in 2021.
Iñigo Errejó, deputy of Más País, a small Spanish left-wing party, took for Twitter to announce a pilot test of the 32-hour work week model.
“We did it! We agreed with the government to promote a pilot project to reduce working hours. European funds should also be used to redirect the economy towards improving health, protecting the environment and increased productivity,” he shared in a tweet.
Spain plans to test this model for at least two years, which can only improve long-term health, based on the results of this study.
Carol Maher, lead researcher and professor at the University of South Australia, said in a press release that employees in the study reported less stress, burnout and fatigue, as well as better mental health and a better work-life balance after the holidays.
People in Canada are also in favor of longer weekends, with a recent poll finding that 91% of senior executives surveyed would support a four-day work week for their team, citing support for retention, productivity and well-being of employees as their reasoning.
“As the world adjusts to a new normal, maybe it’s time to embrace the long weekend as a way to improve our physical and mental health,” Maher said.