Culture   //   April 20, 2022

Why professionals are retaining walking meetings as they return to the office

Getting your brain better tuned for work could be as simple as putting one foot in front of the other.

One healthy byproduct left over from the pandemic is taking regular walks during the workday. Now people are finally heading back to the office, it’s a healthy habit not many of them are willing to relinquish.

Throughout the darker days of the Covid-19 pandemic, many professionals took to walking during the workday to boost mental health and a large proportion of them took video meetings while they did so. Now, that desire among professionals to retain those walking habits is reshaping what a traditional office day looks like.

Two-thirds of 1,732 adults surveyed in the U.S in 2022, said on their days in the office they will take team meetings while out on a walk, according to a report from shoe retailer Rockport.

Meanwhile, 60% of professionals that have returned to the office, have said they feel motivated to carve out time for walks,  with 60% taking up to three walk breaks during the workweek.

“I’ll also schedule walking meetings with my direct reports where we’ll either be on the phone, or in person, walking and talking. I find the conversation goes in much different places than when we’re using video call at our desks.”
Erin Webster-Shaller, vp of marketing, health and food tracking app Lose It!

“Walking certainly boomed during the pandemic as many looked for ways to safely get outside and stay active,” said Lisa Laich, chief marketing officer at Rockport. “It’s great to see that professionals are comfortable taking a walk during the workday and that’s the case for 74% even when they are in the office. Being able to shift your mindset often helps many to approach a task with a fresh perspective,” she added.

Building brain power

It’s not just personal preference, there is scientific evidence to prove that walking stimulates the mind, as well as the body. As a person ages, the body generates fewer and fewer brain cells — a process called neurogenesis. However, experts have discovered that exercise has a positive effect on generating more cells.

Even low-intensity workouts, such as walking, can lead to more brain cell-generation for people in their 50s, 60s, and 70s than for their sedentary peers.

At the same time, physical movement can give a person more energy throughout the day. Human cells contain a component called mitochondria that produces a chemical the body uses for fuel.

Being active stimulates the development of new mitochondria within cells, producing additional capacity for more physical exertion plus extra energy for the brain, improving mental output.

“Whether it’s taking a walk break, doing some stretching, or doing a more active workout, I’ve seen employees have more productive working hours when they take a break and move their bodies throughout the day,” said Erin Webster-Shaller, vp of marketing at Lose It!, a health and food tracking app.

“I’ll also schedule walking meetings with my direct reports where we’ll either be on the phone, or in person, walking and talking.” she stated, “I find the conversation goes in much different places than when we’re using video call at our desks.”

Americans, on average, spend about 90% of their time indoors, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has observed. Incorporating walks into daily routines is a vital offset to that statistic.

Lose It!’s Webster-Shaller’s ideal daily schedule includes a 15-minute walk. “I do some of my best thinking when I’m not engrossed in work at my computer, and fitness breaks are the best ways for me to think creatively about a problem.

“When I find myself stuck on a problem, I usually take a break and go for a walk and come back with a new solution that I wasn’t able to see when I was so focused,” she added.

Routines make valuable coping mechanisms

Locking-in daily habits can go a long way in boosting life at home, at work and in the community, according to researchers at Queen’s University in Canada.

And on a paper published by the World Economic Forum on March 22, specialists found that early in the coronavirus crisis, routines became an important coping mechanism for people to better manage the vast upheavals in their lives.

Experts now are making the case that as pandemic restrictions are being eased, the value of steady lifestyle practices should not be lost.

Making time for getting out and walking within an individual’s daily routine is a positive way to better handle health, along with establishing regular sleeping hours, experts emphasized, especially in the wake of Covid-19 when sedentary lifestyles were more prevalent and could cause lasting medical issues.

For every hour of regular exercise, such as walking, adults may gain as many as two hours of life expectancy, according to The American Heart Association, which champions both how walking can improve employees’ physical health as well as a company’s fiscal health.

The organization touts how being physical decreases the risk of heart attacks and strokes, lowers blood pressure, and reduces cholesterol. Plus, it stresses that a healthy workforce may even lower group insurance rates.