Have you noticed how the quality of our thinking and creativity often improves as we move?

Many workplaces are now realising this and incorporating ‘walking meetings’ into their daily activities.  Replacing the traditional boardroom and meeting room with the fresh air of the outdoors.  ‘Walking and talking’ and the concept of ‘active mind, active body’ is becoming more and more popular as individuals, teams and businesses reap the benefits.

Lets take a moment to examine some of the research behind this concept.

A Stanford study found that walking boosted the creative impact of individuals by a remarkable 60% on average! Researchers in Arizona State University trialled placing 9 sedentary over weight individuals into a simulated office environment for eight hours a day where they sat working on computers, answering phones etc. and measured their thinking skills, memory and decision making.  They then asked the same group to break up their day with short periods of exercise e.g. walking, gentle peddling on a stationary bike, etc.  The results demonstrated a significant improvement across all performance categories when they engaged in mild exercise throughout their day.

Simple exercise such as walking has been shown to promote new connections in the brain.  The rhythm of our steps can be likened to that of music and influences our mood and thoughts.  Walking can hold our attention and assists us in entering a mental state linked to that of innovation and creativity.

The benefits of combining exercise and cognitive activity are not just confined to adults.  In New South Wales Australia, educational settings have begun a ‘Thinking While Moving’ program for school children where physical activity and maths are integrated simultaneously again with positive results.

Some of the additional benefits of ‘walking meetings’ are a reduction in hierarchal obstacles in the workplace, improved collaboration and communication as well as enhanced skills sharing.  Also, evidence suggests that ‘walking meetings’ can assist in improving organisational culture and staff morale.  There are of course the obvious health benefits not only in terms of losing weight and lessening blood pressure but so too, in reducing levels of stress.

So, what should you do if you would like to give ‘walking meetings’ a go in your workplace?

  1. Always inform staff in advance when you intend to schedule a walking meeting.
  2. Check the weather forecast before scheduling it.
  3. Staff should have appropriate footwear and clothing.
  4. Bottles of water should be brought along.
  5. In terms of best times of the day, just before lunch or in the afternoon to avoid that mid day energy slump can work very well.
  6. Small groups are more appropriate for walking meetings.
  7. As the use of white boards etc. are not an option when on the move consider using the likes of ‘Evernote’ for example or appoint someone to record the most important points of the walking meeting on a mobile device as it takes place.
  8. Gather feedback in terms of what participants feel went well and what might be improved upon.
  9. It is important to use a combination of both walking and traditional meetings to cater for different topics, styles and preferences.
  10. Have fun with it!

Joe McDonald is founder of create1o. Delivering one to one professional coaching, impactful workshops and online courses.  Working with managers, leaders, teams and organisations in improving culture, creating opportunities for innovation and improving performance. Check out www.create10.ie for further information.