Sitting is getting its fair share of heat these days. Apparently, sitting is the new smoking. Office warriors take heed: the more we sit, the more likely we are to develop all sorts of long-term adverse health effects.
This has definitely gotten me thinking about how much I sit. In the past, I intentionally strove to walk less and sit more. I once heard a fitness guru say he intentionally sought out the furthest parking spot so he could incorporate more steps into his day. I remember thinking that this was ridiculous. After all, I prided myself on tapping into my mother’s good parking karma where the spot right by the door would magically open up. Nowadays though, I believe that he is onto something and I too am seeking out ways to get more steps in my day.
Walking has been embraced by many successful people. Apparently the late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, took long walks to discuss complex topics with his colleagues. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is also known to embrace walking meetings. In a recent TED Talk, Nilofer Merchant promotes the benefits of walking and talking. And the more I look, the more I notice people wearing devices like the Fitbit to track their steps.
On the heels of all this talk about walking, I’ve started to incorporate more into my day. Ironically, this has led to a boost in my productivity. I did some digging into this and have discovered four ways that walking boosts productivity.
- Walking gets our creative juices flowing
Walking helps us to tackle some of the big challenges we face in the workplace. Publication Coach, Daphne Gray-Grant says that walking helps with creativity, which in turn helps with writing. Standard researchers Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz measured the effect that walking would have on 176 college students. They found that the sheer act of walking (even if on a treadmill in an uninspiring room) boosted creativity by an average of 60%. This boost remained even after a person sat back down after their walk.
- Walking keeps us away from our screens and connected to people
Walking gives us a chance to connect with different people across our organization. A popular management technique called “Management by Walk About” is grounded in getting out there and meeting with people in an informal manner. It is a great way to provide support and resolve issues during their early stages. It also helps to reduce interruptions later in our day.
- Walking gives us some much needed breaks
Breaks drive productivity. Physical breaks allow us to shake off any stale energy and reframe our mindset. When we return to work, we are more refreshed and focused. As well, even a brief walk has been associated with tremendous health benefits and longer life expectancy. In fact, many common activities like walking have surprising health benefits.
- Walking encourages us to use our sitting time more wisely
When we have long stretches of unscheduled time at our desk, there is a greater possibility for our productivity to dip. I believe in short bursts of productivity. I like to turn on my stopwatch and see how much I can get done in a small chunk of time. I take inspiration from the popular Pomodoro technique which is based on 25 minute bursts of focused activity. The less time we have, the more wisely we use it. Limit your time at your desk and watch your productivity soar.
Of course, the irony is not lost on me that I am sitting while writing this blog. For this reason, I am looking into a standing or even a treadmill desk. My colleagues and I have also started to introduce walking meetings, especially when brainstorming new ideas. Sometimes we have to stop and take notes. However, it is consistently rewarding to see how much we are able to accomplish while on the go.
What can your company do to embrace the productivity gains associated with walking? More strategy meetings on the go? Periodic email bans to encourage people to get up and go to see someone? Challenges that encourage people to count their daily steps? Please share your thoughts. If sitting truly is this detrimental, we could all use some more inspiration.