There’s been a lot of fuss recently over the best way to stay healthy for those who sit in front of a desk all day. While some of my colleagues have chosen to go the whole nine yards and adopt a standing or even walking desk, not all of us want—or can afford—such a major adjustment in our workflow. Fortunately, there are still healthy options for the deskbound worker, such as excitedpixel’s BreakTime.
While standing may be a good option for keeping you healthier during your work day, the main thing is to stay active and move around. BreakTime helps remind you to get up regularly; at a specified interval, the app pops up a dialog box reminding you to get up and move around, again for an amount of time that you determine. In that, it’s not much different from many of its competitors, like Dejal’s Time Out, or Tinybird’s Break Reminder - Harmony.
BreakTime is largely unobtrusive—by default, it sits in your dock, but you can also opt to have it only displayed in your menu bar, or run it in a “faceless” mode where it doesn’t show up until it’s time to take a break. If you leave the menu bar icon visible, you can quickly click on it to see how much time remains before your next break—which you can readjust using a slider—or flip the program on or off. If you frequently step away from your computer anyway, BreakTime has an option to let you automatically reschedule your next break for when activity is detected again.
When it’s time for you to get up, BreakTime dims the screen and presents you with a dialog box that counts down the time remaining in your respite. If you’re right in the middle of something crucial, you can delay for one, five, or 15 minutes (or just click Done to dismiss the current break altogether, and reset the break timer). However, if you’re the kind of person who knows that they’ll be all too tempted to skip your break, you can have BreakTime enforce the interruption by preventing you from clicking Done or switching away from the app before your time is up.
Using BreakTime for a few days—configured with a two-minute break every 25 minutes—has convinced me that taking a respite is a good thing, and not nearly as much of a disruption as I would have thought. (I do confess, however, that while I get up and move around, I don’t take as much of a break from the screen, instead using the opportunity to wander around and check things on my iPhone.) And at least I can console myself with the knowledge that I’ll—hopefully—live a longer, happier life.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for my break.
BreakTime requires Mac OS X 10.6 or later, and currently costs $3 from the Mac App Store. A limited trial is available from excitedpixel’s website.