The importance of taking a lunch break

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The importance of taking a lunch break

55 per cent of the respondents of a poll claimed they felt 'too guilty' to take a lunch break at work.

Why Australians skip their lunch breaks

If eating a sandwich at your desk while finishing a report is a familiar habit of yours - you're not alone. According to an online poll with 2,000 participants, 55 per cent of the respondents claimed they felt "too guilty" to take a lunch break at work. Almost one in five were worried that if they took full lunch breaks, people at work may interpret this as a lack of drive or dedication to their jobi.

However, eating at your desk doesn't necessarily mean that you get more work done; in fact, not taking a break could have the opposite impact on your performance. Corporate psychologist Travis Kemp says that the hours you spend glued to your desk shouldn't be taken as a key indicator for office performance, and confirms a trend among the Australian management workforce: "People are judged more and more about what they deliver and what they contribute, not by how many hours they spend in the office"ii.

If that's not reason enough for you to stop skipping your lunch breaks, here are three more reasons why you should take some time out for yourself at work each day.

1. Recharge your cognitive batteries. Research shows that breaks at work have a positive impact on your cognitive capabilities, creativity and productivity. Tasks that require a high level of mental concentration can lead to fatigue and exhaustion similar to physical labour, especially if you have to force yourself to go on. This means, your brain needs time to recover in order to function at full capacity. Getting up from your desk and taking a break from what you were doing helps you feel refreshed and re-energised, and makes it easier for you to focus on your tasks afterwardsiii.

2. Reduce work-related stress. Taking breaks, even if it's just for 15 to 20 minutesiv, is a good measure to combat work-related stress, which can have a significant impact not only on your productivity, but also on your health and overall well-being.

Taking breaks is a good measure to combat work-related stress.

3. Improve your health and life expectancy. Using lunch breaks to get some physical exercise, whether it's a walk through the park or even just around the block, can help prevent health risks such as type-2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesityv,vi. A study conducted by Anne Grunseit from the Prevention Research Collaboration in the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney and Norwegian colleagues, examined the relationship between occupational sitting, Body Mass Index (BMI), and mortality. The results indicated that all-cause mortality increased along with BMI for all levels of occupational activityv.

It's not only a good idea to leave your desk during your lunch break and head to the park or run an errand, but you may also benefit from a little exercise that you can easily do at your desk in between. These tips combined with a healthy, nutritious meal for lunch can help you get through a work day feeling more energised and less stressed - so give it a go! 2012, Lunch at your desk? Your employer owes you a week off, 24 September, viewed 1 February 2015,

iiBusiness Review Australia 2012, Working lunches add weeks to your working year, 24 September, viewed 1 February 2014,

iiiKorkky, P 2012, 'To stay on schedule, take a break', The New York Times, 16 June, viewed 1 February 2015,

ivMay, A 2013, 'Take back your lunch breaks', Sydney Morning Herald, 22 July, viewed 1 February 2015,

vGlattner, R 2012, 'Why sitting at work can be so deadly', Forbes, 27 May, viewed 2 February,

viGovernment of South Australia, The risk of sitting too much, viewed 1 February 2015,