Time Out: We All Need a Three-Day Weekend

Summary: A three-day weekend is good for our health, a new study reports. An extra day of rest improves sleep duration, increases physical activity, and was associated with overall healthier behaviors.

Source: University of South Australia

As a four-day work week is trialed in countries across the globe, 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 that the extra time off is good for our health.

Assessing changes in daily movements before, during and after holidays, researchers found that people displayed more active, healthy behaviors when they were on holiday, even when they only had a three-day break.

Across the 13-month study period, people generally took an average two to three holidays, each being around 12 days. The most common holiday type was ‘outdoor recreation’ (35 percent), followed by ‘family/social events’ (31 percent), ‘rest and relaxation’ (17 percent) and ‘non-leisure pursuits’ such as caring for others or home renovations (17 percent).

Specifically, it showed that on holiday people:

  • engaged in 13 percent more moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) each day (or five min/day more)
  • were five percent less sedentary each day (or 29 min/day less)
  • slept four percent more each day (or 21 min/day more).

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

“When people go on holiday, they’re changing their everyday responsibilities because they’re not locked down to their normal schedule,” Dr Ferguson says.

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

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

“Interestingly, the size of these changes increased in line with the length of the holiday – so the longer the holiday, the better the health benefits.”

The study used data from the Annual rhythms in adults’ lifestyle and health (ARIA) study where 308 adults (mean age 40.4 years) wore fitness trackers 24 hours a day for 13 months. Minute-by-minute movement behaviour data were aggregated into daily totals to compare movement behaviours pre-holiday, during holiday and post-holiday.

Senior researcher UniSA’s Prof Carol Maher says that the study offers support for the growing movement for a four-day week.

This shows a woman walking in a field
Senior researcher UniSA’s Prof Carol Maher says that the study offers support for the growing movement for a four-day week. Image is in the public domain

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

“This study provides empirical evidence that people have healthier lifestyle patterns 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 with a four-day work week.

“Importantly, our study also showed that even after a short holiday, people’s increased sleep remained elevated for two weeks, showing that the health benefits of a three-day break can have lasting effects beyond the holiday itself.

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

About this psychology and health research news

Author: Annabel Mansfield
Source: University of South Australia
Contact: Annabel Mansfield – University of South Australia
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original Research: Open access.
How do 24-h movement behaviours change during and after vacation? A cohort study” by Ty Ferguson et al. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity


How do 24-h movement behaviours change during and after vacation? A cohort study


For adults, vacations represent a break from daily responsibilities of work – offering the opportunity to re-distribute time between sleep, sedentary behaviour, light physical activity (LPA) and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) across the 24-h day. To date, there has been minimal research into how activity behaviour patterns change on vacation, and whether any changes linger after the vacation. This study examined how daily movement behaviours change from before, to during and after vacations, and whether these varied based on the type of vacation and vacation duration.


Data collected during the Annual Rhythms In Adults’ lifestyle and health (ARIA) study were used. 308 adults (mean age 40.4 years, SD 5.6) wore Fitbit Charge 3 fitness trackers 24 h a day for 13 months. Minute-by-minute movement behaviour data were aggregated into daily totals. Multi-level mixed-effects linear regressions were used to compare movement behaviours during and post-vacation (4 weeks) to pre-vacation levels (14 days), and to examine the 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 common vacation type was outdoor recreation (35%) followed by family/social events (31%), rest (17%) and non-leisure (17%).

Daily sleep, LPA and MVPA all increased (+ 21 min [95% CI = 19,24] p < 0.001, + 3 min [95% CI = 0.4,5] p < 0.02, and + 5 min [95% CI = 3,6] p < 0.001 respectively) and sedentary behaviour decreased (-29 min [95% CI = -32,-25] p < 0.001) during vacation. Post-vacation, sleep remained elevated for two weeks; MVPA returned to pre-vacation levels; and LPA and sedentary behaviour over-corrected, with LPA significantly lower for 4 weeks, and sedentary behaviour significantly higher for one week. The largest changes were seen for “rest” and “outdoor” vacations. The magnitude of changes was smallest for short vacations (< 3 days).


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

Trial registration

The study was prospectively registered on the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trial Registry (Trial ID: ACTRN12619001430123).

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