16 April 2019

Press release 04/2019

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health studied the effects that the use of a break exercise app had on the sitting, physical activity, communality and productivity of office workers. It also examined how the new approach was introduced.

– Taking breaks from sitting enhanced the perceived recovery from work of the subjects, it also boosted their energy and reduced musculoskeletal strain and pain symptoms as well as the perceived fatigue and forgetfulness, says Anne Punakallio, Senior Researcher at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

Regular breaks in sitting, combined with an increase of physical activity in leisure time also improved postural control. The perceived work ability and health, other mood sensations and work-related feelings, however, remained unchanged.

The study was conducted at Nokia, and the experiences gained from the use of the break exercise method in LocalTapiola were utilised in planning the study.

The participants used the Cuckoo break exercise app for six months. The app provided a reminder of the break and the video content directed the workouts for 2–3 minutes at a time. The users were able to form teams and compete with each other. The recommendation was to interrupt sitting by exercise breaks at least three times a day. The effects were examined by conducting questionnaires, physiological measurements and interviews.

Taking a break from sitting while doing break exercises brought economic benefits to organisations through highly active participants taking breaks, when the benefit was measured with the perceived productivity of work. For highly active participants the sense of communality in the workplace was improved, as well.

The example and the encouragement provided by the manager were proven to be effective

The results show that a break exercise app makes it possible to reduce the amount of sitting and to interrupt sitting effectively. The use of the break exercise app was promoted significantly by the participation of the work community and the manager in the break exercise, the encouragement to take breaks and the visible nature of break exercise in the workplace.

Break exercising was prevented, in particular, by busy schedule lack of space in work environment, and tasks requiring concentration, which were seen as already having interfering interruptions.

According to Anne Punakallio establishing break exercising as a part of everyday work is a multifaceted process. When a break exercise app is introduced at the workplace, it is recommended, for example, that:

  • the introduction is planned (and tailored) with consideration of the work and the workers
  • the commitment of the management and supervisors is ensured
  • the preservation of motivation is ensured after the initial enthusiasm and any interruptions in use by utilising various methods, such as campaigns, measurement of results, monitoring of the wellbeing and progress of the worker and the work community
  • the entire work community is included in the activation, common rules are established and sitting is interrupted with breaks taken together
  • break exercises are performed regularly and daily
  • to bound the activation with other activities in the workplace, such as occupational health or safety activities

Altogether 476 Nokia office workers enrolled in the intervention study, and 92% of these responded to the initial questionnaire. Physiological measurements were also conducted on approximately 90 people. The impact was measured at the beginning, after three months and after six months. After three months, the control group received the app and the effects were also measured in this group.

Additional information:

Anne Punakallio, Senior Research Scientist at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, tel. +358 30 474 2648, anne.punakallio(at)ttl.fi

Veera Lehmonen, Managing Director at Cuckoo Workout, tel. +358 44 992 3744, veera(at)cuckooworkout.com

Tiina Ristamäki, HR Manager of Wellbeing at Nokia, tel. +358 50 524 7430, tiina.ristamaki(at)nokia.com

Anne-Maija Jalonen, Occupational Safety Manager at LocalTapiola, tel. +358 40 581 7928, anne-maija.jalonen(at)lahitapiola.fi


More on this topic (in Finnis):

The final report of the project ‘Toimistotyöntekijöiden työhyvinvointi – tauottamalla vähemmän istumista ja lisää yhteisöllisyyttä? (Occupational wellbeing of office workers – taking breaks to reduce the amount of sitting and boosting communality? (in Julkari)

Toimistotyöntekijöiden työhyvinvointi – tauottamalla vähemmän istumista ja lisää yhteisöllisyyttä? (TYPET project page)