As we usher in a new era of remote working, it’s becoming even harder to move around. Even in traditional offices, the same story repeats itself: a person sitting at a desk, unmoving for hours on end.
This sedentary lifestyle can cause creative blocks, anxiety, and lethargy. But did you know that simple physical activities like walking can do wonders for your productivity and mind?
In this article, we’ll take you through six benefits that movement brings to the workspace whether it’s attending meetings, coaching, training, or working on projects.
When Did We Stop Moving?
As children, wholesome development is based on kinetic movement. The more a child moves, the more they explore, build curiosity, and gain information about the world around them.
This can only be achieved through movement. The dynamic nature of movement allows cognitive development. Somewhere along the way, however, as we enter schools and universities and go on to have jobs, we’ve lost touch with this beneficial instinct.
Now, we sit at our desks whether we’re at home or in the office, barely moving the entire day. This sedentary lifestyle leads to low motivation, ailments, and a general lack of energy throughout the day.
Despite the tendency to settle into inactivity, there’s a strong case for maintaining some level of movement during our workdays. Neuroscience has established that not moving enough can lead to obstacles in learning aside from poor physical health. When we move, we activate our neurons which clears our minds, helps us think better, and makes our thoughts more fluid.
Let’s get into the benefits of movement, specifically how it impacts us in the workplace.
The Benefits of Movement
1. Helps Generate New Ideas
What do Friedrich Nietzsche, Ernest Hemingway, and Steve Jobs have in common? These three very different people all believed in the power of walking to gain clarity and improve creativity. Steve Jobs believed his most creative ideas came when he was walking. But this belief is more than a preference; it’s backed by science.
A Stanford University study shows that walking can improve your creative output by a whopping 60%. This is because walking allows us to focus on a particular task while relaxing. It gives your mind a break, allowing you more space for problem-solving and critical thinking. If you’ve ever felt “stuck” on something at work and arrived at a breakthrough or solution while away from your desk, this is why. Taking a walk or engaging in some other physical activity kick starts our creative abilities and encourages more creative output.
So, feeling stuck at your desk? Can’t quite crack that project? Stop what you’re doing and get out for a walk.
2. Promotes Learning
Walking and movement can stimulate learning and sharpen our responses. It also gives us opportunities to be inspired by the world around us. Taking in new stimuli, being at one with nature, or just spending time outdoors provides an impetus for free thought.
The more you walk, the easier it becomes to learn. Exercise is also known to help with memory retention and cognitive ability.
3. Improves Health
Movement has many benefits but probably the best one is an improvement in overall health. Human beings were meant to be on the move so spending excessive time indoors can be confining and bad for us.
Walking and moving around improves heart and brain health, keeps your body energized, and boosts mind and body balance.
4. Calms the Mind
Another sure and easy way to center yourself when you’re feeling overworked, burnt out, or unmotivated is to go on a walk. Even a simple walk around the block can help you get out of your own head and gain a healthier perspective.
When any overwhelmingly negative emotion takes over like anger, sadness, or mental fatigue, walking is a great way to neutralize those feelings. It might not cure your creative block or solve all your problems but it will give you the space and tools you need to handle them better.
5. Reduces Stress
Let’s get a little more technical. Apart from mentally calming you down, walking also lowers your cortisol levels.
When you’re under stress or pressure, your body pumps out adrenaline and your stress hormones increase. While this fight or flight response is helpful in dangerous situations, it does you no favours when you’re needlessly stressing about work or relationships. When there’s constant stress, cortisol stays in your body, causing high blood pressure, hypertension, and adding more stress. To break this vicious cycle and cope better, go for a walk. This gives your adrenaline a chance to dissipate as you move your muscles and exhaust pent-up energy. It also helps regulate your breathing so you can think more clearly
Since walking clears the mind, relieves stress, promotes learning, and helps you focus better, why not hold meetings while engaging in this healthy activity? Moving together, or walking and talking, is known to streamline communication by helping both parties focus on the topic at hand. It also reduces conversation fillers so you can imagine how much more productive your discussions can be by taking them outside.
Emmanuelle de Cannière, Chief Happiness Officer at Ivy Partners, has been using the walk and talk meetings technique during her career (both as a coach and coachee) and have seen many positive benefits, including generating fresh ideas, building team communication, and optimizing employee well-being.
“The simple act of walking puts us in motion, a specific direction. “I move forward” while exposing my situation or my difficulty to my coach. Symbolically, it is very strong, and it instantly puts the coachee in active pursuit of his goal. The development and regeneration of the brain are favoured by a moving body. Neuroscience also points to a sedentary lifestyle as an obstacle to learning, especially in children. So, it is as symbolic as it is scientific! “
Walking meetings can lead to better employee engagement by breaking down barriers between manager and subordinate or between coworkers. The fact that we are walking side-by-side means the conversation is more peer-to-peer than when you sit across a desk (or screen) from other, which reinforces the organizational hierarchy.
Walk-and-talk meetings are thus gaining popularity. This setup helps with several things:
- It lets them avoid looking directly at people which some individuals find difficult or awkward, especially if they don’t know the person that well.
- Walking and talking reduce feelings of nervousness.
- Silences are less inconvenient since you’re both walking while words are assimilated more easily.
- It encourages closeness while helping resolve disagreements more easily.
- Interacting with the environment and landscape improves lucidity in conversation.
Rather than holding meetings at the office, in a coffee shop or sitting in front of your computer on Teams, schedule your meetings to take place during a 15 to 20-minute walk. Dedicating time to walking meetings allows your team to discuss and collaborate while promoting healthy habits, like physical activity and social well-being.