Health Researchers at the University of South Australia have found that taking a long weekend break can have significant health benefits. Empirical research showed that people displayed more active and healthier behaviour even with just a three-day break. Across the 13-month study period, people took an average of two to three holidays of around 12 days each. The most common holiday types were outdoor recreation, family/social events, rest and relaxation, and non-leisure pursuits. The findings were published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.
The study found that on holiday, people engaged in 13% more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) each day, were 5% less sedentary each day, and slept 4% more each day. UniSA researcher Dr Ty Ferguson said that the research indicated that people displayed healthier behaviours when on holiday. Dr Ferguson said that when people go on holiday, they change their everyday responsibilities, and they’re not locked down to their normal schedule. The study found that movement patterns changed for the better when on holiday, with increased physical activity and decreased sedentary behaviour observed across the board. Dr Ferguson said that people gained an extra 21 minutes of sleep each day they were on holiday, which can have a range of positive effects on physical and mental health. Getting enough sleep can help improve mood, cognitive function, and productivity. It can also help lower the risk of developing health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and depression.
The study used data from the Annual Rhythms in Adults’ Lifestyle and Health (ARIA) study where 308 adults (mean age 40.4 years) wore fitness trackers 24 hours a day for 13 months. Minute-by-minute movement behaviour data were aggregated into daily totals to compare movement behaviours pre-holiday, during holiday, and post-holiday.
Senior researcher UniSA’s Prof Carol Maher said that the study offers support for the growing movement for a four-day week. Prof Maher said that a shorter working week is being trialled by companies worldwide. Not surprisingly, employees reported less stress, burnout, and fatigue, as well as better mental health and improved work-life balance. The 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 workweek.
Prof Maher said that the 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. 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.