Activity Breaks that Fuel Your Mind and Body

Moving throughout the day helps your mind and body feel great. A little bit goes a long way — even just a minute here and there with desk/workstation movements or opportunities to move. This week, we’re focusing on 5-15 minute physical activity ideas we can use during breaks. Taking an active break allows our brain and body to recharge, so that when we return to work or studying, we can not only feel better physically and mentally, but we can actually be more focused, productive, and creative.

Always remember to listen to your body. If any movement is causing pain or unusual discomfort, trust your body’s signal and stop. Also, make sure the space you are in is clear for movement. If you are not able to do these activities for any reason, please choose your own favorite activity.

  • Walk/Wheel

    According to the CDC, most people can engage in an active lifestyle through walking or moving with assistive devices. It’s the most popular way to get active because it’s low-cost, available wherever you are, and something you can do no matter what stage of life you’re in.

    Use some of your break time — morning, lunch, or afternoon — to walk or move. 

    Whether you get outside or take laps inside your office, building, or home, here are the top 3 research-backed reasons to walk.

    1. Walking boosts mental well-being: It’s been shown to help in the treatment of depression and anxiety, and can improve self-esteem and happiness.
    2. Walking improves physical health: There is an inverse relationship between cardiovascular disease risk and walking. Walking consistently is as effective as running in lowering blood pressure.
    3. Walking can improve sleep: Low-impact physical activity, like walking, has been shown to help sleep quality and duration.
  • Tai Chi for Health

    Tai Chi for Health, which has roots in ancient martial arts, has been called "meditation in motion" and "medication in motion" because of its many health benefits. Combining slow, continuous movements with focused breathing, it is an enjoyable activity that is suitable for a wide range of ages and fitness levels.

    Research shows there are many potential benefits of this mind/body activity, including:

    • Improved muscular strength and flexibility
    • Reduced muscle and joint pain
    • Improved balance and fall prevention
    • Improved mental well-being and focus
    • Reduced stress and anxiety and increased relaxation


    Try Tai Chi during some of your break time — morning, lunch, or afternoon. IU Rec Sports at Home has a free Tai Chi video series (in addition to some other great physical activity resources).

  • Chair Yoga

    If you can breathe, you can do yoga. Chair yoga is an amazing option no matter your yoga experience or skill level. It can be done at your desk or workspace — no mat or special attire required. Yoga (with or without a chair) can offer many mental and physical health benefits, including:

    • Stress relief
    • Improved sleep
    • Back and neck pain relief
    • Helping people manage anxiety or depressive symptoms
    • Chronic disease management

    Plan to do some Chair Yoga during break time. This 6-minute Chair Yoga video from Yoga with Adriene or this Chair Yoga Poses handout are great places to start.

    If you’re looking for some resources on Yoga without the use of a chair, check out this 15-minute Office Break Yoga video from Yoga with Adriene, this Gentle Mat Yoga Poses handout, or IU Rec Sports at Home (select the Yoga category tab).

  • Dance

    Dancing provides all the benefits of other cardiorespiratory activities, and you can do it right in your home or office with minimal equipment. Whether you prefer to freestyle/lip sync/air guitar to your favorite song or would enjoy some guided moves, take the opportunity to boogie.

    Check out these videos for some dance inspiration:

  • Chair Stretches/Movements

    There are lots of great options to stretch and move without leaving your chair. Try one of the activities listed below:

  • Additional Resources

    • Tons of Ideas: Check out the CDC’s Physical Activity Breaks for the Workplace Resource Guide for ideas and resources for physical activity breaks in the workplace that are easy, fun, low cost, and are not disruptive to the workplace.
    • The Mind-Body Connection: Research shows that regular physical activity reduces anxiety, depression, and negative mood and improves self-esteem and cognitive function.
    • Sleep: Physical activity and sleep go hand-in-hand. Moving more throughout the day can help you sleep better at night, and a good night’s sleep can help you feel energized to move. Check out Healthy IU’s sleep resources.
    • Every Minute Counts: When it comes to physical activity, every minute counts toward your daily/weekly goals. Move whenever you can, and you might be surprised how quickly it all adds up. Learn more about opportunities to move.