The Ultimate 3-Minute Movement Break: Recharge and Add Years to Your Life

The Ultimate 3-Minute Movement Break: Recharge and Add Years to Your Life

April 11, 2024

4 minutes

What if the sluggishness you feel after a day’s work at your desk is your body's cry for help because the extended sitting is slowly killing you? The facts are bleak: prolonged sitting takes years off your life and makes you more likely to develop a chronic illness. But don't worry. I am not asking you to quit your job.

There have been several strong researches that shows movement breaks throughout the workday help counteract most of the damaging health effects of sitting. [1]

Taking three minutes of your workday every hour to move can help add years to your life. As well as reduce muscle tension, and boost metabolism, focus, creativity and productivity. 

But before diving into that three-minute movement break, let's explore why getting this hourly movement is vital for your psychological and physical wellbeing.

Thinking is not the primary function of the brain

In her book MOVE, Caroline Williams explains how the brain's primary concern is to enable us to move towards rewards and away from danger. Throughout our evolution, our senses, memories, emotions, and capacity for planning developed to enhance our movement capabilities. Over time we developed all of this purely to make us more equipped to stay alive. 

Movement is integral to our thinking and emotional states. 

But our brain has yet to evolve to cope with the sedentary demand that comes with modern knowledge work. When we spend long bouts being stationary, our cognitive and emotional abilities suffer and our mood and ability to deal with stress plummet. 

As do the three traits that make us so good at knowledge work in the first place: our focus, creativity and productivity all take a dip.

How our physical health suffers from sitting

Sitting for long periods reduces circulation and decreases metabolic rate, increasing the risk of weight gain and most chronic diseases. Including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. 

Then there are the adverse effects that prolonged sitting has on your joints. As I wrote in an earlier blog

"...If you never go into a deep squat, over time, your body will reduce the ranges of motion in the joints that allow you to get into a squat. Until one day, you start wondering how the toilet seat got so low." 

The more frequent stimulus you can provide for your muscles and joints, the more likely you can fight off the downsides of sitting.

You're probably not as active as you think

The average adult spends 70 per cent of their life sitting or lying still, making it 30 per cent more than in the 1960s. This sedentary lifestyle is even more profound among children, who can spend up to 50 per cent of their free time sitting down. Unsurprisingly, the elderly are the most stationary, dedicating almost 80 per cent of their waking day to barely any movement. [2]

Even if you exercise an hour a day, you can only undo some negatives from sitting. The balance for movement vs sitting is still heavily skewed towards sitting. But enough doom and gloom. 

Here is the good news:

The research shows you can undo most or all the damage from sitting.[3] Short movement breaks are a remarkably effective and simple way to add years to your life by reducing the risk of developing chronic diseases and weight gain due to sitting. While also boosting cognitive and emotional abilities to be a calmer, more productive person. 

And the best part? Almost anyone can do it. 

The Ultimate 3-Minute Movement Break

Sit to Stand

Sit to Stand targets your glutes and quads, as well as hip adductors (inner thighs), hamstrings, calves and core muscles.


  1. Begin with your back to a sturdy chair, feet flat on the ground and shoulder-width apart.
  2. Raise your arms straight out in front of you and parallel with the floor for balance.
  3. Brace your core and slowly sit your hips back.
  4. When your butt touches the chair seat, don't sit; press up through your heels and drive your hips forward to stand.
  5. Repeat.



Windmill is a great exercise to open up your upper back rotation while stretching the hamstrings. Additionally the glutes will do some work to pull you back up to standing.


  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms held out to the sides at shoulder level.
  2. Bend forward from the hips with a flat back and bring your right arm down and across to reach your left foot as your reach up with your left arm and turn your head to look up at your left hand.
  3. Raise yourself back up, returning to standing with your arms at shoulder level and repeat in the other direction.


The Egyptian

The Egyptian helps you to loosen up the shoulder and hip rotation after a bout of sitting.


  1. Start with your arms straight out and your palms facing down.
  2. Pivot and turn to one side while keeping your arms in the same spot in space.
  3. Both hands should turn up as much as possible so that the palms are facing the ceiling. Make a muscular effort in your shoulders.
  4. Switch sides while keeping your arms in one line.


Pendulum Swings

Pendulum Swings works the hip abductuctors (sides of your hips) and adductors (inner thighs) that help stabilise the hip joint, while also working the calves. The continuous movement will elevate your heart rate and help boost your energy. 


  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Lift your right leg slightly at the right side, do a small jump and swing your left leg to your left side while your right leg comes back down.
  3. Switch legs quickly and repeat.


Steam Engine

Steam Engine targets your core, quads and calves, and helps you reduce stiffness in the back. The elevated heart rate will boost your energy. 


  1. Stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart. Place your hands behind your head with elbows in line with your shoulders.
  2. Raise your left knee while bringing your right elbow towards your knee. Try to touch your elbow to your knee without bending over at your waist.
  3. Reverse the movement and repeat with the opposite leg and arm.


Raised Arm Pose

Raised Arm Pose works your core, and stretches the low back, front of your hips and shoulders. 


  1. Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Reach your arms up to the ceiling.
  3. Keep your core tight as you slowly bend backwards and look up.
  4. Hold this position.


Guidelines for the movement break


  1. Set your timer for 30 seconds. 
  2. Start by doing the Sit to Stand until the timer beeps.
  3. Move on to Windmills for another 30 seconds. 
  4. Cycle through each exercise until you've done all six of them. 
  5. Return to your desk.


It really is that simple to add years to your life. Provided you are consistent with your movement breaks. Do it once an hour for every hour you spend sitting at your desk, and you might just increase your odds of chronic disease-free life.

We built StretchMinder to help you keep up with your movement breaks. 

You can set the app to prompt you once an hour to get off your seat with various movement breaks to keep things interesting.

Implementing regular movement breaks can extend your life

The simple addition of movement breaks in your day can significantly impact your physical and mental well-being. You can reduce weight gain, fight off chronic diseases, reduce stress levels, improve mood, increase motivation, and boost concentration and creativity. 

To reduce the friction of sticking with movement breaks, download StretchMinder from the App Store. With StretchMinder, you'll get access to an ever-expanding library of movement breaks and the hourly reminder to actually do them.

After all, what’s the good of this information if you don’t act on it?


[1] The Acute Effects of Interrupting Prolonged Sitting Time in Adults with Standing and Light-Intensity Walking on Biomarkers of Cardiometabolic Health in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis, 02-2022, National Library of Medicine

[2] A systematic review of the amount of sedentary behaviour, Journal of Aging and Physical Activity

[3] Walking or body weight squat "activity snacks" increase dietary amino acid utilization for myofibrillar protein synthesis during prolonged sitting, National Library of Medicine

Be kind to your body

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