summary: A three-day weekend is good for our health, according to a new study. An extra rest day improves sleep duration, increases physical activity, and is associated with healthier behaviors in general.

source: University of South Australia

As the four-day work week is being tested in countries all over the world, health researchers at the University of South Australia say they’re all in when it comes to a long weekend, especially as new empirical research shows the extra time is good for our health.

By assessing changes in daily movements before, during, and after the holidays, the researchers found that people showed more active and healthier behaviors when they were on vacation, even when they only had a three-day break.

During the 13-month study period, people took an average of two to three vacations, each about 12 days long. The most popular type of vacation was “outdoor recreation” (35 percent), followed by “family/social events” (31 percent), “rest and relaxation” (17 percent) and “non-leisure activities” such as caring for others or renovations homes (17 percent).

Specifically, show that people on holidays:

  • 13 percent less likely to do moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) each day (or five minutes/day more)
  • were five percent less active each day (or 29 minutes/day less)
  • Four percent sleep more each day (or 21 minutes/day more).

UniSA researcher Dr Ty Ferguson says the research indicates that people display healthier behaviors when they are on holiday.

“When people go on vacation, they shift their daily responsibilities because they are not tied into their usual schedule,” says Dr. Ferguson.

“In this study, we found that movement patterns change for the better when on holiday, with increased physical activity and decreased sedentary behavior seen across the board.

“We also found that people got an extra 21 minutes of sleep each day they were on vacation, which can have a range of positive effects on our physical and mental health. For example, getting enough sleep can help improve our mood and cognitive function.” And our productivity.It can also help reduce the risk of a range of health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and depression.

“Interestingly, the magnitude of these changes increased in line with the length of the vacation — so the longer the vacation, the better the health benefits.”

The study used data from Annual rhythms in adult lifestyle and health (ARIA) A study where 308 adults (average age 40.4 years) wore fitness trackers 24 hours a day for 13 months. Minute-by-minute movement behavior data was aggregated into daily totals to compare movement behaviors before, during, and after vacation.

Professor Carol Maher, senior researcher at UniSA, says the study provides support for the four-day-a-week growing movement.

It shows a woman walking in a field
Professor Carol Maher, senior researcher at UniSA, says the study provides support for the four-day-a-week growing movement. The image is in the public domain

“A shorter work week is being piloted by companies all over the world. Not surprisingly, employees report less stress, burnout, and burnout, as well as better mental health and a better work-life balance,” says Prof. Maher.

This study provides empirical evidence that people have healthier lifestyles when they have a short break, such as a three-day weekend. This increase in physical activity and sleep is expected to have positive effects on both mental and physical health, contributing to the benefits observed in the four-day work week.

Importantly, our study also showed that even after a short vacation, people’s increased sleep remained elevated for two weeks, demonstrating that the health benefits of resting for three days can have lasting effects after the holiday itself.

“As the world adjusts to a new normal, perhaps it is time to embrace the long weekend as a way to boost our physical and mental health.”

About this psychology and health research news

author: Annabelle Mansfield
source: University of South Australia
communication: Annabelle Mansfield – University of South Australia
picture: The image is in the public domain

Original search: open access.
“How do movement behaviors change over a 24-hour period during and after vacation? A cohort study” by Ty Ferguson et al. International journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity

a summary

How do 24-hour movement behaviors change during and after vacation? Cohort study


For adults, vacations are a break from daily work responsibilities—providing the opportunity to redistribute the time between sleep, sedentary behavior, light physical activity (LPA), and moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) over a 24-hour period. . To date, there has been minimal research on how activity behavior patterns change on vacation, and whether any changes remain after vacation. This study examined how daily movement behaviors change before, during, and after vacations, and whether they differ based on the type of vacation and the duration of the vacation.


Data collected during the annual Study of Rhythms in Adult Lifestyle and Health (ARIA) was used. 308 adults (mean age 40.4 years, SD 5.6) wore Fitbit Charge 3 fitness trackers 24HA daily for 13 months. Minute-by-minute motion behavior data were aggregated into daily totals. Multilevel mixed effects linear regression was used to compare movement behaviors during and after vacation (4 weeks) to pre-vacation levels (14 days), examining associations with vacation type and duration.


Participants took an average of 2.6 (SD = 1.7) vacations of 12 (SD = 14) days (n= 9778 days) duration. The most popular type of vacation was outdoor recreation (35%) followed by family/social events (31%), leisure (17%) and non-recreational (17%).

Daily sleep, LPA, and MVPA increased (+21 min [95% CI = 19,24] s<0.001, +3 min [95% CI = 0.4,5] s<0.02 and +5 min [95% CI = 3,6] s<0.001, respectively) and sedentary behavior decreased (-29 min [95% CI = -32,-25] s<0.001) while on vacation. After the vacation, sleep remained elevated for two weeks; MVPA has returned to pre-holiday levels; LPA and overly sedentary behavior were corrected, with LPA significantly lower by 4 weeks, and sedentary behavior significantly higher by 1 week. The biggest changes were seen in "rest" and "outdoor" vacations. The magnitude of changes was smaller for short holidays (less than 3 days).


Vacations are associated with positive changes in daily movement behaviors. These data provide preliminary evidence of the health benefits of vacations.

Demo registration

The study was retrospectively registered with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (Trial ID: ACTRN12619001430123).

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