The importance of switching activities and when to do it

Revised 2020.04.01

There is a limit to how long we can perform any activity without becoming uncomfortable or even injuring ourselves. Prolonged static postures and repetitious work are the most unhealthy.

Strained muscles heal if given time to heal and the healing time required depends on how long the muscles are strained. If muscles are strained for a long time, they'll need a longer time to recover.

In other words, frequent short muscle rest is better than infrequent long rest.

Resting a muscle for 10 seconds every 10 minutes is more helpful than resting for 60 seconds every 60 minutes.

Over an 8 hour day, resting muscles for 5 minutes every hour is better than one 40 minute rest period.

For best results muscles should be rested BEFORE they start to feel uncomfortable.

For example, if you start to get sore after 15 minutes of a certain activity, stop that activity after 10 minutes. This can be difficult because we tend to take a break only when we're uncomfortable or have some other interruption. If there are no regular cues for you to switch activities, use a timer to remind you at regular intervals, not just when you are sore.

This is especially important to remember when you are busy because that is when you are least likely to want to rest active muscles and consequently will be at maximum risk.

Rest in this context doesn't mean that you can't do any work. Rest could be switching to a task that utilizes different muscle groups. One muscle group will be working while the other rests.

Further Reading

How to switch activities and insert more movement into your workday