4-day work weeks provide the health benefits of a mini vacation

ADELAIDE, Australia — Who doesn’t like a three-day weekend? As the concept of a four-day work week gains popularity in countries across the globe, a new study finds that the extra day off really does do wonders for your health! Researchers in Australia have found that people are more active and live a healthier lifestyle when they’re on vacation — even if that break is just three days long.

A team from the University of South Australia finds that people on vacation engage in more healthy behaviors, such as participating in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, sleeping more, and sitting down less (sedentary behavior). The results come from a 13-month study of over 300 adults with an average of 40.

In general, the group was more likely to opt for the big, long vacation than a four-day work week — going on two to three vacations lasting around 12 days during that year. The most common vacation types were “outdoor recreation” (35%), “family/social events” (31%), “rest and relaxation” (17%), and “non-leisure pursuits” such as caring for family or doing home improvements (17%).

What can a vacation do for your health?

Regardless of what people were doing or how long their break was, results show that vacationers engaged in 13 percent more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day. That’s about five minutes more than normal. They also spent five percent less time doing sedentary activities like sitting and watching TV. This equates to about half-hour less each day while on vacation. Participants also slept for an extra 21 minutes a night on average.

“When people go on holiday, they’re changing their everyday responsibilities because they’re not locked down to their normal schedule,” says UniSA researcher Dr. Ty Ferguson in a university release.

“In this study, we found that movement patterns changed for the better when on holiday, with increased physical activity and decreased sedentary behavior observed across the board.”

“We also found that people gained an extra 21 minutes of sleep each day they were on holiday, which can have a range of positive effects on our physical and mental health. For example, getting enough sleep can help improve our mood, cognitive function, and productivity. It can also help lower our risk of developing a range of health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and depression,” Dr. Ferguson continues.

“Interestingly, the size of these changes increased in line with the length of the holiday – so the longer the holiday, the better the health benefits.”

A woman laying on the beach smiling
A woman laying on the beach smiling (Photo by Karl Callwood on Unsplash)

Scientists are ‘all in’ on the 4-day work week

“A shorter working week is being trialed by companies all over the world. Not surprisingly, employees reported less stress, burnout, fatigue, as well as better mental health and improved work-life balance,” says UniSA’s Professor Carol Maher, a senior researcher on the study.

“This study provides empirical evidence that people have healthier lifestyle patterns when they have a short break, such as a three-day weekend. This increase in physical activity and sleep is expected to have positive effects on both mental and physical health, contributing to the benefits observed with a four-day work week.”

“Importantly, our study also showed that even after a short holiday, people’s increased sleep remained elevated for two weeks, showing that the health benefits of a three-day break can have lasting effects beyond the holiday itself,” Prof. Maher concludes. “As the world adapts to a new normal, perhaps it’s time to embrace the long weekend as a way to boost our physical and mental health.”

The findings are published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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