Busy professionals typically feel that they can’t squeeze one more obligation into their lives. So when I suggest that clients build some walking time into their schedules it can be a tough sell. But once they begin, they often discover that regular walking is a keystone of a highly productive career.
Recent research has shed new light on the transformative power of walking. Consider that walking can help you to:
- Enhance brainpower. A fascinating article in the April 22 New York Times Magazine summed it up this way: “Exercise, the latest neuroscience suggests, does more to bolster thinking than thinking does.” Author Gretchen Reynolds reported that exercise seems to slow or reverse the brain’s physical decay, much as it does with muscles. And the exercise needn’t be exhaustive. A study of older men and women found that regular walking made parts of their brains bigger and healthier. After one year, “the walkers had regained two years or more of hippocampal youth” (the hippocampus is an important part of the brain and is associated with memory).
- Solve problems. When you are feeling blocked or befuddled, a walking break can trigger a creative breakthrough. In his classic book, “The Breakout Principle,” Dr. Herbert Benson described how repetitive exercise like walking can activate a biological trigger that converts conflict and confusion into clarity and extraordinary performance. Walking can help you to change your mental patterns and start thinking in new ways.
- Reduce stress. Walking can change your body chemistry, countering the impact of stress hormones and calming your mind and body.
- Improve your mood. Regular aerobic exercise, including walking, helps people feel happier, partly because of the ways it allows the brain to function better. Walking 20 or 30 minutes every day has been shown to reduce depression for some people as effectively as a mild tranquilizer.
- Stay healthier. Regular walking been shown to reduce development risks and to combat the symptoms of many serious health conditions, ranging from strokes and heart disease to breast cancer and diabetes. Walking seems to benefit every part of the body, helping you to look and feel better and changing the way you age. Walking promotes the immune function, promotes better sleep, builds bones and supports weight loss.
Are you convinced about the benefits of walking but don’t know where to start? Try these tips to launch your program:
- Start small. Begin today by walking just a little bit more. If you aren’t walking much at all now, commit to walking ten minutes every day for the next week. Then in the following week increase your walking schedule by five minutes a day.
- Accumulate steps. You don’t have to do all your walking in one block. You get the benefits of 30 minutes of walking if you take three ten-minute walks in the course of your day.
- Build on normal activity. A great thing about walking is that it does not require special clothes and you can incorporate it into the course of a regular workday. For example, instead of talking with a colleague over a cup of coffee you might suggest a walk around the block.
- Keep track. It will be easier to build your walking habit if you keep track of how much you do. You can count your steps and measure the distance of your walks by wearing a pedometer. My favorite device is my Fitbit, a small clip that I wear on my waistband. The Fitbit not only counts steps but also tracks calories burned, and it connects wirelessly with the site I use for logging food and exercise.
Want to hear more about building a productive work life? Bev and her colleagues are available to create workshops or retreats. We can help make your organizations more effective and your work life more successful and enjoyable. Meanwhile, read Bev’s Blog and check out her website at www.ClearWaysConsulting.com.
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