Ergonomics – Breaks, Rest Periods, and Stretches

Ergonomics –  Breaks, Rest Periods, and Stretches

ergonomicsErgonomic injury risk factors include forceful movements, repetitive motions, awkward postures, and lack of rest.  Rest periods give the body time to recover from work; breaktime exercises and stretches strengthen the body.  Workers should think of themselves as Industrial Athletes; athletes wouldn’t participate in a sport without proper rest and warm-up, so use the same preparation on the job.

Maintaining overall health reduces your risk of injury.  Get a good night’s sleep to rest your body and maintain alertness.  Eat healthy foods and drink fluids to boost energy and stay hydrated.  Aerobic exercise and weight training increase strength and vitality.  Stretching, yoga, and pilates improve flexibility and build core body strength.

Pay attention to signs of discomfort and fatigue on the job; these are warning signs from your body.  As muscles tire during a work task, slouching can lead to poor posture, sloppy, uncontrolled movements, and injuries. Rest breaks mean recovery for the body.  During a job task, take micro-breaks lasting 10-15 seconds every ten minutes.  Take mini-breaks lasting 3-5 minutes every thirty to sixty minutes.  These short breaks give the body a rest, reduce discomfort, and improve your performance.

Alternate your work activities and postures throughout the day.  Rotating tasks may seem inefficient, but the rest and use of different muscle groups increases energy and maintains productivity.  For example, if you are a landscaper, don’t trim all of the shrubs, sweep up the trimmings, and then leaf-blow the whole area; work in sections and trim, sweep, and leaf-blow in alternating tasks.  If you work at a single workstation and job task all day, move into different postures while you work: first standing, then standing with one foot resting on a stool, then sitting.

Stretches help you warm-up before work and relax during breaks; they increase flexibility and boost blood flow and oxygen to muscles.  Perform stretches slowly and gently; avoid extreme postures and stop stretching if you feel pain or discomfort.  Physical and Occupational Therapists are the most qualified individuals to generate a specific stretching and warm-up program.

Overall fitness and flexibility, adequate sleep, task rotation, and rest breaks can help limit the overall risk of injury.


During a day of sitting in front of your computer with your arms extended to the keyboard, muscle tension and stiffness can build up in your neck, back, shoulders, hands, wrists, and even fingers. But it only takes minutes to prevent these discomforts with comfort exercises you can do at your terminal.

Warming Up helps you relax, loosens tense muscles and in­creases blood circulation. Deep breathing draws fresh air deep into your lungs, while reaching high stretches stiff muscles.

Deep Breathing: Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, letting your stomach expand and contract. Repeat 6 times.

Reaching High: Raise your arms over your head, stretch­ing as high as you can. Then bring your arms back down. Rest a moment. Repeat 2 times.

For The Neck: To relieve a stiff neck glide your head back, as far as it will go, keeping your head and ears level, (Doing it correctly creates a double chin). Now glide your head forward. Repeat 3 times.

For The Upper Back: To relieve shoulder and back tension raise your hands to your shoulders. Using your arms, push your shoulders back. Keep your elbows down. Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat 3 times.

For The Lower Back: To relieve lumbar pressure lower your head and slowly roll your body as far as you can toward your knees. Hold for 10 seconds. Push yourself up with your leg muscles. Repeat 3 times.

For The Shoulders: To relieve shoulder stiffness, raise your arms to the sides, elbows straight. Slowly rotate your arms in small circles forward, then backward. Lower your arms, then repeat 3 times.

For The Hands and Wrists: To relieve hand and wrist tension hold your right arm out, fingers pointed up. Take your left hand and gently bend your right hand back toward the forearm. Hold 5 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

For The Fingers: To relieve hand and finger tension hold your hands out in front of you, palms down. Spread your fingers apart as far as you can. Hold for 5 seconds, then make a tight fist. Repeat 3 times.