Jan Hovancik

Open-source enthusiast, connecting the dots in Product teams. CV with contact info



The break time reminder app

Stretchly is a cross-platform open source app that reminds you to take breaks when working on your computer.

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Brief diversions vastly improve focus, researchers find

A study in the journal Cognition overturns a decades-old theory about the nature of attention and demonstrates that even brief diversions from a task can dramatically improve one's ability to focus on that task for prolonged periods.

Atsunori Ariga, Alejandro Lleras. Brief and rare mental 'breaks' keep you focused: Deactivation and reactivation of task goals preempt vigilance decrements. Cognition, 2011; DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2010.12.007

Want to learn a new skill? Take some short breaks

In a study of healthy volunteers, researchers found that our brains may solidify the memories of new skills we just practiced a few seconds earlier by taking a short rest. The results highlight the critically important role rest may play in learning.

Marlene Bönstrup, Iñaki Iturrate, Ryan Thompson, Gabriel Cruciani, Nitzan Censor, Leonardo G. Cohen. A Rapid Form of Offline Consolidation in Skill Learning. Current Biology, 2019; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.02.049

How to take better workday breaks

A new empirical study provides a greater understanding of workday breaks and offers suggestions on when, where and how to plan the most beneficial daily escapes from the J-O-B. The research also debunks some common break-time myths.

Emily M. Hunter, Cindy Wu. Give Me a Better Break: Choosing Workday Break Activities to Maximize Resource Recovery. Journal of Applied Psychology, 2015; DOI: 10.1037/apl0000045

More breaks from sitting are good for waistlines and hearts

It is becoming well accepted that, as well as too little exercise, too much sitting is bad for people's health. Now a new study has found that it is not just the length of time people spend sitting that can make a difference, but also the number of breaks that they take. Plenty of breaks, even if they are as little as one minute, seem to be good for people's hearts and their waistlines.

G. N. Healy, C. E. Matthews, D. W. Dunstan, E. A. H. Winkler, N. Owen. Sedentary time and cardio-metabolic biomarkers in US adults: NHANES 2003-06. European Heart Journal, 2011; DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehq451

Need a mental break? Avoid your cellphone

Using a cellphone during breaks led to mental depletion, poorer performance in a recent study.

Sanghoon Kang, Terri R. Kurtzberg. Reach for your cell phone at your own risk: The cognitive costs of media choice for breaks. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 2019; 1 DOI: 10.1556/2006.8.2019.21

'Brain Breaks' increase activity, educational performance in elementary schools

A survey about an exercise DVD that adds short breaks of physical activity into the daily routine of elementary school students found it had a high level of popularity with both students and teachers, and offered clear advantages for overly sedentary educational programs.

Gerd Bobe, T. Perera, S. Frei, B. Frei. Brain Breaks: Physical Activity in the Classroom for Elementary School Children. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 2014; 46 (4): S141 DOI: 10.1016/j.jneb.2014.04.116

Taking short walking breaks found to reverse negative effects of prolonged sitting

Three easy – one could even say slow – 5-minute walks can reverse harm caused to leg arteries during three hours of prolonged sitting, researchers report. Sitting for long periods of time is associated with risk factors such as higher cholesterol levels and greater waist circumference that can lead to cardiovascular and metabolic disease. When people sit, slack muscles do not contract to effectively pump blood to the heart. Blood can pool in the legs and affect the endothelial function of arteries, or the ability of blood vessels to expand from increased blood flow.

Saurabh S. Thosar, Sylvanna L. Bielko, Kieren J. Mather, Jeanne D. Johnston, Janet P. Wallace. Effect of Prolonged Sitting and Breaks in Sitting Time on Endothelial Function. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2014; 1 DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000479

Combining morning exercise with short walking breaks helps control blood pressure

Treadmill walking for 30 minutes in the morning lowered average blood pressure over an eight-hour day among older, overweight or obese men and women. Women who are overweight or obese enhanced the beneficial effects of morning exercise to reduce blood pressure by adding three-minute breaks from sitting every half hour throughout the day.

Michael J. Wheeler, David W. Dunstan, Kathryn A. Ellis, Ester Cerin, Sarah Phillips, Gavin Lambert, Louise H. Naylor, Paddy C. Dempsey, Bronwyn A. Kingwell, Daniel J. Green. Effect of Morning Exercise With or Without Breaks in Prolonged Sitting on Blood Pressure in Older Overweight/Obese Adults. Hypertension, 2019; DOI: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.118.12373

Interrupting sitting with walking breaks improves children's blood sugar

Taking 3-minute breaks to walk in the middle of a TV marathon or other sedentary activity can improve children's blood sugar compared to continuously sitting, according to a new study.

Britni R. Belcher, David Berrigan, Alexia Papachrisotopoulou, Sheila M. Brady, Shanna B. Bernstein, Robert J. Brychta, Jacob D. Hattenbach, Ira L. Tigner, Amber B. Courville, Bart E. Drinkard, Kevin P. Smith, Douglas R. Rosing, Pamela L. Wolters, Kong Y. Chen, Jack A. Yanovski. Effects of Interrupting Children's Sedentary Behaviors With Activity on Metabolic Function: A Randomized Trial. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2015; jc.2015-2803 DOI: 10.1210/jc.2015-2803

Let it go: Mental breaks after work improve sleep

If you've had a bad day at work thanks to rude colleagues, doing something fun and relaxing after you punch out could net you a better night's sleep.

Caitlin A. Demsky et al. Workplace Incivility and Employee Sleep: The Role of Rumination and Recovery Experiences. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 2018 DOI: 10.1037/ocp0000116

Mindfulness meditation training lowers biomarkers of stress response in anxiety disorder

Mindfulness meditation is an increasingly popular treatment for anxiety, but testing its effectiveness in a convincing way has been difficult. Now a rigorously designed, clinical trial has found objective physiological evidence that mindfulness meditation combats anxiety.

Study co-authors include Eric Bui, Sophie A. Palitz, Noah R. Schwarz, Maryann E. Owens, and Naomi Simon of MGH; Jennifer M. Johnston of Boston University; and Mark H. Pollack of Rush University. article

Meditation helps increase attention span

It's nearly impossible to pay attention to one thing for a long time. A new study looks at whether Buddhist meditation can improve a person's ability to be attentive and finds that meditation training helps people do better at focusing for a long time on a task that requires them to distinguish small differences between things they see.

Katherine MacLean, Clifford Saron, B. Alan Wallace et al. Intensive Meditation Training Improves Perceptual Discrimination and Sustained Attention. Psychological Science, article