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The Benefits of a Three-Day Weekend: Study Shows it is Good for our Health

Last week we had an extra day off thanks to Easter. And now researchers argue that a three-day weekend should not be an exception to the rule at all.

The four-day work week is on the rise. More and more employees indicate that they want to work less. And that’s not even such a bad idea. Not so long ago, a study showed that the four-day work week is even a mega success, with people experiencing fewer burnout complaints and calling in sick less often, while it also improves mental and physical health (see box). A new research group now fully agrees with the idea of ​​extending the weekend by one day. Because out their study turns out that this extra free time is actually very good for us.

Four-day work week
The results of the world’s largest experiment with the four-day work week speak for themselves. More than 70 percent of employees reported fewer burnout complaints and almost 40 percent said they were less stressed than before the survey started. Absenteeism fell by 65 percent and turnover dropped by 57 percent. More than 60 percent indicated that it was easier to find a balance between work and private life. Their psychological and physical health also improved. Meanwhile, the turnover of the companies remained virtually the same. There was even a small plus of 1.4 percent. The vast majority of the participants therefore said they intend to continue with the four-day work week. Eighteen companies reported that the shorter working week had already been introduced permanently.

In the new study, more than 300 adults (average age 40) were closely monitored over the 13-month study period. During this period, participants generally took two to three vacations of about twelve days. Because the test subjects wore fitness trackers, the researchers were able to track exactly how much the participants moved before, during and after a holiday.

The findings show that the participants lived much healthier lives during their vacations. For example, the holidaymakers were five minutes more vigorously intensively physically active every day. They also sat 29 minutes less per day and slept 21 minutes more per day.

Get enough sleep
The fact that the participants spent longer on one ear during their days off is very positive. For example, many people structurally sleep too little. And although sleep is underestimated by many people, it is extremely important for our health. When you have slept enough, for example, your mood improves, your cognitive function improves and you are a lot more productive. In addition, it lowers the risk of a range of health problems, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and depression.

The added value of a good night’s sleep
Sleep is very important for many physical and cognitive functions. For example, cardiovascular health, immune system, metabolism, memory, and emotion regulation are influenced by sleep. The risk of Alzheimer’s disease or cancer is also associated with sleep quality. For better health and good emotional well-being, people should consistently get enough sleep. This means 7 hours of sleep per night for most healthy people.

In short, the results imply that people live more active and healthier lives during their holidays – even when they only had three days off in a row. “When people don’t have to work for a while, their daily responsibilities change,” said researcher Ty Ferguson. “That’s because they’re not tied to their normal schedule. In this study, we found that their movement patterns change for the better during holidays, with them moving more and sitting less across the board. Interestingly, the magnitude of these changes increased the longer the holiday lasted. So the longer the holiday, the greater the health benefits.”

Shorter work week
According to researcher Carol Maher, the findings support the importance of a four-day work week. “Shorter workweeks are already being trialled by companies around the world,” she says. “It is actually not surprising that employees experience less stress, burn-outs and fatigue as a result. It improves their mental health and ensures a better work-life balance. And now our new study provides empirical evidence that people maintain healthier lifestyles when they have a three-day weekend. The observed increase in the amount of exercise and sleep is expected to have a positive effect on both their psychological and physical health. This adds to the benefits already noted with a four-day work week.”

Maher would therefore like to see the three-day weekend become the norm. Because it is possible that this can even benefit our overall sleep. “Our research shows that people slept better even two weeks after a short vacation,” she says. “This shows that health benefits of a three-day weekend may have lasting effects.”

All in all, the findings indicate that a shorter working week is not such a bad idea at all. And not only is an extra day quite pleasant, it also apparently improves us physically and mentally. “As the world adjusts to a new normal, it may be time to embrace longer weekends as a way to improve our physical and mental health,” concludes Maher.

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