Three-day weekends have been trialed in various countries. But a new study summarises why adopting them could benefit all of us, regardless of where we live.
Three-day weekends for all!
As a four-day workweek is trialed in countries across the globe, health researchers say that there are clear benefits when it comes to a long weekend, especially as new empirical research shows that the extra time off is good for our mental, as well as physical, health.
Assessing changes in daily movements before, during, and after holidays, researchers from the University of South Australia (UniSA) found that people displayed more active, healthy behaviors when they were on holiday, even when they only had a three-day break.
Across the 13-month study period, people generally took an average of two to three holidays, each being around 12 days in length. The most common holiday type of those examined was in the ‘outdoor recreation’ category (35%), followed by ‘family/social events’ (31%), ‘rest and relaxation’ (17%), and ‘non-leisure pursuits’ such as caring for others or home renovations (17%).
Specifically, the study showed that on holiday, people –
- engaged in 13% more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) each day (for five minutes per day or more);
- were 5% less sedentary each day; and
- slept 4% more each day (equating to 21 min/day more in total).
People display healthier regimes on holiday.
According to UniSA researcher Dr. Ty Ferguson, the research indicates that people display healthier behaviors when they are on holiday.
Speaking about the research findings, Dr. Fergusomn told Science Daily,
“When people go on holiday, they’re changing their everyday responsibilities because they’re not locked down to their normal schedule. 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.
Dr. Ferguson continued,
“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 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. 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.”
Further details of the study
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 behavior data were aggregated into daily totals to compare movement behaviors pre-holiday, during, and post-holiday.
Senior researcher UniSA’s Prof Carol Maher explained to Science Daily that there is support for the growing movement for a four-day week.
“A shorter working week is being trialed by companies all over the world. Not surprisingly, employees reported less stress, burnout, and fatigue, as well as better mental health and improved work-life balance.
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.”
Professor Mather concluded that, most importantly, the UniSA study also showed that even after a short holiday, people’s increased sleep remained elevated for two weeks, indicating that the health benefits of a three-day break can have lasting effects beyond the holiday itself.
Although the benefits of a shorter working week followed by more extended weekends have been suspected for years, this latest study clearly shows that there are tangible benefits from adopting such a lifestyle arrangement.
At My Mind News, we have previously reported on the benefits that getting more exercise, better sleep, and being out in nature more can all have on our mental health and wellbeing. This study promotes the data behind the theory that finding a better work-life balance can indeed provide benefits for us all, both in the short term and longer lasting effects on our mental health especially.
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.
What are your thoughts on adopting three-day weekends? Is the practice something that you would embrace? Let us know in the comments.