Thinking, talking, and walking are intricately linked throughout history. According to legend, Aristotle was said to walk around the Lyceum Gymnasium in Athens as he delivered his ideas to the followers that had gathered. He eventually founded what we now refer to as Ancient Greece’s Peripathetic School of Philosophy, derived from the walkway in the Lyceum in which he taught. The Sophists who were philosophers predating Socrates were wanderers, travelling place to place by foot delivering talks. Poet William Wordsworth used walking as a means to immerse himself in nature, freeing his thoughts to land in a new space of creativity. It is walking that stimulated the productivity of these greats.
It is only a recent idea that we are supposed to meet around long mahogany-coloured tables, seated in our fancy Herman Miller chairs. However, the problem remains that Canadian adults are now spending about three quarters of their time being sedentary (Statistics Canada, 2015). Canadian guidelines suggest that adults should do 150 minutes of moderate or vigorous aerobic physical activity per week in 10-minute bouts or more, but only 20% of us are actually meeting these guidelines (Tremblay et al., 2011; Statistics Canada, 2015). The fact of the matter is that living a sedentary lifestyle and having high amounts of daily sitting time are associated with higher mortality rates from many chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and depression (Warburton, Katzmarzyk, Rhodes, & Shephard, 2007). By holding a walking meeting, you are effectively reducing these risks for yourself and your colleagues. Every bit of activity counts!
WALKING MEETING BENEFITS
A walking meeting is simply a meeting that takes place during a walk instead of an office, boardroom, or coffee shop where meetings are commonly held. The walk and talks have obvious benefits. Besides the physical, energy boosting qualities, walking helps to break down formalities, relaxes inhibitions and anxieties, and fosters camaraderie between colleagues. Research has shown that the act of walking results in increases in creative thinking and mood (Oppezzo & Schwartz, 2014). Meetings on the go can also help minimize distractions, meaning that you won’t need to stare down your smartphone every time it blinks furiously on the board room table. You might also get some much needed fresh air and sunlight!
Although a 10+ person meeting is not really going to hold well while walking (perhaps try a standing meeting for that instead), walking meetings are the perfect alternative for one-on-one meetings, or small groups of up to 4 or 5 people. Consider these tips that can help your walking meeting run smoothly (no pun intended).
MAKE IT WORK!
1) PLAN THE ROUTE: Plot out walks that are the typical length of your calendar slots: 15 minutes, 30 minutes, maybe even a 60 minute one! Avoid noisy or crowded areas if possible, and check the weather forecast prior to leaving.
2) MIND YOUR PACE: Unless you agree to power-walk in advance, think pleasant stroll. It is highly unlikely that your colleagues want to break a sweat in their business attire!
3) WARN COLLEAGUES IN ADVANCE: Have the courtesy to notify your colleagues of your walking meeting in advance. This allows them to dress appropriately for the occasion, perhaps having changed shoes.
4) CONSIDER A DESTINATION: Naming a point of interest may provide more rationale and incentive for others to go for a walk. However, try to avoid making the destination a source of unneeded calories (ahem, I’m talking about that 500 calorie white chocolate mocha with extra whipped cream).
5) HAVE FUN: Enjoy the invigorating experience of combining work with a bit of exercise and the great outdoors (or indoors if the weather does not permit).
Do you see yourself being a part of a walking meeting? What are your tips to successful walking meetings? Comment below!
Oppezzo, M., & Schwartz, D. L. (2014). Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 40(4), 1142-1152. doi: 10.1037/a0036577
Statistics Canada. 2015. “Directly Measured Physical Activity of Adults, 2012 and 2013.” Health Fact Sheet. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-625-X,
Tremblay, M. S., Darren, E. R. Warburton, D., Janssen, I., Paterson, D. H., Latimer, A. E., Rhodes, R. E., Kho, M. E., Hicks, A., LeBlanc, A. G., Zehr, L., Murumets, K., & Duggan, M. (2011). New Canadian physical activity guidelines. Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, 36(1), 36-46; 47-58. doi: 10.1139/H11-009
Warburton, D., Katzmarzyk P., Rhodes R. E., & Shephard, R. (2007). Evidence informed physical activity guidelines for Canadian adults. Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, 32, S16–S68. doi: 10.1139/H07-123