‘Walking meetings’ the new way to stay fit while doing business

06 July 2016 - 16:55 By Deneesha Pillay
Image: iStock

Tired of having to sit through long-winded meetings? Take your colleagues on an outdoor “walking meeting” and improve your health.

Changing just one seated meeting a week into a walking meeting can improve the work-related physical activity of office workers by 10 minutes.

A study published in the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s journal‚ Preventing Chronic Disease‚ offers a new way of improving the health of office workers who spend most of their day sitting in a chair.

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The pilot study‚ titled “Opportunities for Increased Physical Activity in the Workplace: the Walking Meeting”‚ said that implementing a walking meetings protocol was not only well accepted by office workers but was “easy to implement and feasible to conduct during working hours”.

“Despite the positive impact walking has on human health‚ few opportunities exist for workers with largely sedentary jobs to increase physical activity while at work.

“Physical activity (PA) interventions such as the walking meeting protocol that encourage walking and raise levels of PA in the workplace are needed to counter the negative health effects of sedentary behaviour‚” the study said.

David Fabricius‚ a biokineticist based in Cape Town‚ emphasised that “getting people to do something‚ rather than nothing” was a helpful way to increase productivity and could contribute towards an “integrated wellness programme”.

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“Making small changes to one’s daily routine with regards to increased physical activity not only has the potential to increase productivity but can also decrease levels of stress.”

The study‚ which supports the American Heart Association's recommendations of 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity for adults‚ or about 30 minutes each weekday‚ found that the average time participants engaged in combined work-related moderate/vigorous physical activity per week during the 3 weeks increased from an average of 55 minutes during the baseline week to 67 minutes at week 2 and to 65 minutes at week 3.

“If you’re living in Cape Town‚ and it’s a beautiful winter’s day like today‚ there is very little stopping you and your colleagues from taking a stroll around town.

“For someone living in Johannesburg perhaps‚ a shopping centre would suffice‚” Fabricius said.

“Implementing this means you are taking a step in the right direction towards increasing activities of daily living. From doing nothing‚ to doing something means you’re half way there from meeting your quota of the recommended amount of physical activity you should undertake‚” he added.

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According to the Science Daily website‚ previous studies have proven that engaging in moderate exercise‚ which includes brisk walking‚ for as little as 15 minutes per day can add up to three years of life expectancy.

In addition‚ Fabricius said that while obesity isn’t killing people‚ physical inactivity likely is.

“If you have the option to walk‚ do so. Park further away from the gym or the shopping centre. Take the stairs and take frequent breaks between extended sitting periods and adjust your sitting posture regularly‚” he said.

Increase physical activity in the work place – tips from the Alberta Centre for Active Living:

- Hourly computer prompts reminding employees to stand up and move.

- Motivational signs or posters to encourage stair climbing instead of riding in lifts or on escalators.

- Establishing workplace physical activity policies that encourage active group lunch breaks‚ such as organised sports or neighbourhood walks.

- Sit-stand workstation interventions

– to promote more sit-stand transitions throughout the day and reduce prolonged bouts of sitting.

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