Have you ever found yourself struggling with a new idea at work, thinking “I just need to get up and move my legs”? Your body may have been telling you something.
New studies are finding that spending our workday at a desk and our leisure time on a couch isn’t just bad for our physical health – it negatively impacts our mental wellbeing and slows our productivity at work. The key to improving both our health and our creativity might be as simple as getting up and going for a walk.
A recent study from Stanford University tested the relationship between walking and thinking creatively. Researchers found that, compared to sitting, walking increased participants’ abilities to generate new ideas and explore a greater number of possible solutions to problems, even after they had stopped walking. It did not matter whether participants walked on a treadmill or around Stanford’s beautiful campus – “the act of walking itself, and not the environment, was the main factor” (Stanford Report).
This finding sounds appealing, but does it hold-up in an actual workplace? Business owner, John Rampton, has good reason to believe so. In an article for Entrepreneur, Rampton shared that his company had recently experienced a 30% increase in productivity and profitability. How? By requiring all employees to go for two 15 minute walks every day (in addition to regular breaks). When they returned from their walks, the employees completed tasks both more accurately and more quickly.
Try It Yourself!
It would be wonderful if more workplaces followed Rampton’s example and set aside time for walking breaks, but the reality is that most don’t. Thankfully, incorporating walking into your daily routine is easy if you just make a few small changes to your habits!
Rest breaks at work are a great time to get in a bit of light exercise. If you only use your break time to transition from sitting at a desk in front of a computer screen to sitting at a lunch table in front of your phone screen, how much of a break are you truly getting? Not much of one! Instead, try using this time to get a break from responding to electronic stimuli and being confined to a small space by taking a walk. Even if you need this time to make phone calls, do it on the move!
You can also adapt your workplace to be more movement-friendly. If you have a printer at your work desk, consider moving it to another room – you’ll free up space at your desk and will get to stretch your legs every time you go to retrieve your documents. If you need to speak with a coworker or employer about work matters, consider meeting with them in person rather than contacting them via phone or email – aside from the benefits of getting in a quick walk, you’ll also be able to communicate more effectively and efficiently when your conversation isn’t mediated by an electronic device.
Throughout the workday, these small walking trips really add up!
But walking isn’t just about being more productive and getting more physical exercise – it’s been shown to improve mental wellbeing as well. According to the UK’s National Health Services website, even light exercise is effective at protecting people from depression and anxiety, and can alleviate these symptoms in people who already suffer from them. Scientific evidence suggests that exercise causes chemical changes in our brains which create “a sense of greater self-esteem, self-control and the ability to rise to a challenge” (National Health Services).
Making a Change
Walking is easy – the hard part is convincing yourself to take the first steps. As a certified executive coach, I would love to help you move your life forward!
For close to 20 years I have been helping people create compelling visions for the future, and supporting them as they turn these ideas into plans and actions. I help you discover your own wellspring of wellbeing, which you can draw from as you move toward even greater wellbeing in your personal and professional life.
I hope that you have found this post helpful and encouraging – the most important part now is to try these tips for yourself. Personally, in addition to walking in my office while I’m on the phone I’ve been leaving my office twice a day to take a longer walk, and have definitely noticed an improvement in my creativity during the work day!
Incorporating more exercise into your daily life doesn’t need to be daunting or stressful – it’s (literally) just a series of small steps! I’d love to hear about the new ways you find to bring exercise into your daily life and the positive results you experience from it!!!