5 Reasons to Take a Lunch Break

You work long hours. You eat junk food purchased from the office vending machine while you multitask. You don't remember the last time you went out for lunch. Does this sound like you?

If you're like many working professionals, chances are you seldom take the traditional lunch break, which is disappearing from American office culture.

But skipping lunch can backfire, according to Dean Hebert, an applied sports psychology coach and entrepreneur who also teaches undergraduate psychology at the University of Phoenix Main Campus.

"If we don't take a break once in a while, we lose focus, make mistakes and become less productive," he explains. Here are five reasons to put lunch back in your routine:

You'll have more energy.
"Taking frequent rest breaks helps combat fatigue, whether we're exercising or working," Hebert says. Just as elite athletes balance intervals of intense exercise with rest periods while training for competition, our brains and bodies also perform optimally when balancing work with frequent breaks.

"I call this the 'hard/easy' strategy," Hebert explains. "If you balance periods of intense focus with breaks - even breaks as short as a minute or two - you'll conserve energy and also perform tasks at an optimum level."

Intrigued? He recommends the bestselling business book "The Power of Full Engagement" for more information on this concept.

Your body needs fuel.
Like it or not, we need food to survive. "Skipping lunch is never a good idea, and can even be dangerous," warns Victoria Greenberg, RN, nursing program manager for the University of Phoenix Southern California Campus.

"Without food, you get agitated, shaky, irritable, and you lose focus," she explains. "Our bodies are like engines; they need fuel to function."

You'll get more done.
While some companies expect employees to put in "face time" instead of measuring actual productivity, this kind of culture is antiquated and makes employees less effective, according to Hebert.

"Multiple studies have shown that people who take a short break every two hours accomplish more than those who work four or more hours straight," he says. "We are far more effective when we treat our workday as a series of short sprints rather than a marathon."

Your stress levels will drop.
Taking breaks helps keep your body and mind in balance, which makes you more productive in the long run.

"The most successful people understand the importance of down time," Hebert asserts. While taking an hour lunch away from work nets the best results for most people, any break is better than no break. Even listening to music or meditating for a couple minutes can do wonders, he notes.

You'll be healthier.
Taking purposeful breaks away from work contributes to overall health, according to our experts. "Working straight through without breaks increases stress, which can lead to smoking, obesity, even substance abuse," Greenberg says. "So take those lunch and rest breaks."

Hebert agrees: "You need to take care of yourself, because nobody else will."

-By Jill Elaine Hughes

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