Most of us with office jobs know: Incorporating movement into your routine can be tough when you’re stuck behind a desk all day. Plus, hustle culture perpetuates the myth that if you work — while seated — until you drop, you’re optimizing your performance and setting yourself up for success. In reality, that’s not the case at all: Ultimately, overworking and working a sedentary job late into the evening every night is a recipe for burnout. In other words, you need to give yourself breaks — the kind that involve leaving your desk and moving around — in order to keep performing at your best. “Build in brain breaks throughout your day to optimize your brain performance and prevent fatigue,” Krystal L. Culler, D.B.H., tells Thrive. According to research, regular breaks — even short ones — can help you make better decisions, inspire motivation, and increase productivity and creativity.
It’s not just your brain that needs a break: Your body does, too. Research has shown that extended sitting can be harmful: According to the Mayo Clinic, one analysis found that those who sat for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity had a risk of dying similar to those posed by smoking and obesity. Other outcomes of “sitting disease” include increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, and depression. According to the Harvard Health Blog, just 25 minutes of physical activity (walking counts!) can help offset the negative health effects of sitting all day.
Opting for walking meetings instead of stationary ones is a great way to do that. Not only do they allow you to get in more movement they also provide a valuable opportunity for your brain. Walking and moving together is tied to “cognitive mapping,” which can actually help you cope with workplace stress. “Our sensory systems work at their best when they’re moving about the world,” Shane O’Mara, D.Phil., a neuroscientist who studies the connection between brain systems and cognitive function explains in The Guardian. “Cognitive mapping,” O’Mara says, is about creating pathways that get marked in your hippocampus, and prompt new cells to fire. Those cells begin to fire when you move — so if your stress is taking a toll on your work and your mood, going on a walk can help counteract some of those debilitating effects.
That’s why suggesting walking meetings to co-workers can be such a great, and simple, way to improve your well-being throughout the workday. O’Mara says your cognitive map can be seen as a “silent sense” that is largely constructed without awareness, so cultivating it during a walking meeting can help you relieve stress while staying productive. Research has also shown that walking meetings can help strengthen relationships with colleagues, and foster creativity, so really, it’s a win for everyone. It’s no surprise that Steve Jobs was such a proponent of walking meetings throughout his career.
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