Sit Less and Move More with Walking Meetings

April 25, 2016

Long periods of sitting are inherently bad for your health. In fact, the more time you spend each day sat down, the more likely you are to die prematurely – even if you are a regular exerciser. While exercise definitely does provide protection against many illnesses and ailments, five hours a week of exercise does not make up for 160+ hours of being sedentary.

One great way to get more activity into your day is to swap regular, seated meetings for walking meetings. A walking meeting is simply that: a meeting that takes place during a walk instead of in an office, boardroom, or coffee shop where meetings are commonly held.

Breaking your day up with intermittent bouts of walking can reduce the damage of spending long periods of time sat down. Walking meetings are also good for productivity and creativity…

How to have a walking meeting

Walking meetings need to be structured in much the same way a regular meeting should be. There should be an agreed start and finish time, a proposed agenda, and an outcome that all participants are working toward. The meeting should have a designated leader and all participants should arrive prepared and ready to contribute.

However, unlike boardroom meetings, a walking meeting needs to also consider the fitness level of the participants and the route selected to ensure that even the least fit member of the group can comfortably take part. A walking meeting is NOT a workout but should be a gentle stroll during which all participants are able to talk normally.

Walking meeting work best with small groups – say three to five. Bigger groups make staying together harder and it may not be possible for everyone to hear what is being discussed. Because the participants will probably be distracted, the route should ideally be safe and traffic/obstacle free. A circular route is often best to make timing the meeting easier.

As it will be hard to make notes during the meeting, the secretary of the meeting should use a recording device and produce minutes to be circulated to the attendees after the meeting is over. Needless to say, a walking meeting should not end up at a coffee shop or similar where the participants can then go and buy unhealthy snacks and undo the benefits of their walk!

How walking meetings can boost productivity

Walking meetings are not just good for your health or an excuse to get out of the office for an hour or so! They can also enhance productivity…

1. Walking meetings lead to greater creativity

Stanford University researchers discovered that people’s creative output increases by an average of 60% percent when they are walking compared to when they are sedentary. Indoor walks were found to be just as effective for boosting creativity as outdoor walks but outdoor walks were reported as being more enjoyable.

2. Walking meetings break down the barriers between management and workers

Hikmet Ersek, CEO of Western Union, is a big fan of walking meetings. Ersek says “people become much more relaxed, and they talk from their hearts if you go for a walk with them. And they get to the point they want to make much more quickly.” People often feel intimidated in a boardroom environment whereas any such barriers are removed when walking outside.

3. Walking meetings increase worker energy and engagement

The Wellness & Prevention group of Johnson & Johnson has been doing research on the advantages of walking meetings. Studies revealed that, after 90 days of doing walking meetings, participants felt increased amounts of energy, more focused, and they felt increased engagement with the other participants. This resulted in increased productivity and creativity from all members of the meeting.

4. Walking meetings are better for communication

Leaving the office for a walking meeting removes distractions so walking meetings are much more natural and focused on the topics at hand. Additionally, the increased blood flow to your brain caused by walking helps you express your ideas more fluently and helps you communicate better with your co-workers.

5. Walking meetings outdoors make employees happier

Scientists at the UK’s University of Essex found that the mood and sense of well-being of people is boosted significantly with as little as five minutes of outdoor exercise. Where office-based meetings are often seen as a chore, walking meetings are viewed in a more positive light.

As spring moves into summer, it’s the perfect time to get out of the office and try walking meetings. They may take a little getting used to but research definitely supports walking meetings – from both a health and productivity perspective.

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