Taking a Leisurely Stroll Can Boost Productivity

Imagine: the sun has just begun to rise; the sky is painted with soft pink and sherbet hues. A trodden path winds up a hill sprinkled with morning dew and tall aspen trees line either side. As you begin to walk up the hill, feeling your walking pace sync with your natural rhythm, your mind begins to wander. Suddenly, a solution to the problem that you had been fretting over flickers on like a light bulb in your head. A feeling of warmth and tranquility washes over you, and you are able to seize your day with passion. This tranquil scenario of a person taking a walk to stimulate their mind may be a powerful addition to a more productive workday.

Some people choose to hit the gym during lunch. Others simply take a walk outside before they delve back into their work. But studies have shown that walking stimulates creativity more than a sedentary life or even intense cardio. When a person goes for a walk, there is a mind-body connection established that allows them to not only relieve stress but stimulate and generate new ideas. A sedentary lifestyle is not stimulating mentally (it’s been proven to increase feelings of depression and anxiety).  While intense cardio does relieve stress, it does not stimulate creative thought processes as much as walking does. This is because walking at your body’s natural pace is like putting yourself on autopilot, which requires no additional effort. Conversely, running at an irregular pace on a treadmill requires a lot of mental and physical exertion in order to function at a quicker speed. While running may relieve the weight of the day, it does not leave much room for the mind to wander and come up with innovative ideas.

The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition published a study in 2014 that examined how walking influences creative thinking. Over the course of four experiments, the study shows how university students, on average, thought four to six more creative thoughts while walking than they did with any other form of exercise or lack thereof. In one of the experiments, “students were asked to contemplate a metaphor, such as ‘a budding cocoon,’ and generate a unique but equivalent metaphor, such as ‘an egg hatching.’ Ninety-five percent of the students who went for a walk were able to do so, compared to only 50 percent of those who never stood up,” according to The New Yorker.

When employees sit for eight hours or more each day, their minds become exhausted and their bodies need activity to in order to feel stimulated. Encouraging your employees to leave their desks for 15 to 30 minutes each day, or to take a short midday walk, may be the answer to a harmonious mind-body connection, as well as a more fruitful, thoughtful and creative workforce.

Five Ways to Encourage Your Employees to Walk During Their Workday:

  1. Start a walking group: Get fit and catch up with co-workers during lunch every day.
  2. Schedule “walk and talk” meetings: This is a great way to have a one-on-one discussion, while getting fit!
  3. Have employee’s leave a pair of tennis shoes at the office: This way there are no excuses!
  4. Add some friendly competition: Have your employees use fitness trackers, with a challenge to take 10, 000 steps each day.
  5. Skip the emails: When possible, lead by example and walk to a colleague’s desk for a tête-à-tête.