We sometimes think physical movement has to be structured, painful and intense. Well, that certainly is not true. Movement comes in all shapes and forms, and one of the simplest and enjoyable types of movement is walking.
The 1st of April is National Walk to Work Day, a day that advocates incorporating walking into our daily commute and celebrates the importance of an active and healthy workplace. The first Walk to Work Day came about in 2004 from the Preventive magazine who decided that on the first Friday of every April this day would be celebrated. This was later backed by the U.S. Department of Health and around the world encouraging 30 minutes of walking a day whether that be to work, at lunchtime or during the day.
During the COVID-19 pandemic walking became a social and everyday activity. How often did you hear ‘I’m off for a walk…’ or ‘Fancy a walk?’. Our psychologists at VISTA HQ encouraged all their clients who were working from home to start their day with a walk outside before sitting down to start the day, to have mini breaks across the day to give the head some rest and finish the day off with a lap outside as the commute home. Walking became a way of decompressing after a day of working at the dining table, a break from homeschooling and a break from the pressure of life. It became a social activity where individuals would call family or friends while out walking after a day at home. Walking became such a big part of our lives because it is an accessible, cost-free, easy and enjoyable form of exercise which we can do every day, anywhere. It also helps us reduce our carbon footprint, walking a 1.5miles has been shown to reduce less than 75% greenhouse gases that would have been released if we drove the same distance. Not only does walking help our minds and bodies, it also helps the planet and the impact we have on the earth.
The Importance of an Active and Healthy Workforce
Sometimes we forget the importance of a healthy workforce. Putting the workforce’s mental, physical and social wellbeing at the forefront of the business is a priority. Workplace absence has been predicted to cost the UK economy a total of £26million by 2030. This is a huge figure which will leave a lot of businesses suffering as a result. With the decline in workplace wellbeing, taking strategic and actionable steps to enhance workplace wellbeing has never been so important. That’s why simple and effective activities such as walking can be a really effective way to enhance workplace wellbeing, and here’s why:
Benefits of Walking for the Workforce
1. Lower Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) affects the heart or blood vessels and usually results from a buildup of fat in the arteries. The different types include coronary heart disease and strokes. It is one of the main causes of death and disability in the UK. Research has shown that a healthy lifestyle is one of the main methods which can be taken to prevent CVD. A recent study with 2430 participants has shown that walking was associated with a lower risk of CVD. While cycling to work was shown to be a lower risk of CVD, cancer and mortality. These results showcase the power of making simple changes whether you prefer to walk or cycle.
2. Reduced Sick Leave and Higher Performance
Research has shown that over a period of 4 years, workers who engaged in sports had 20 days less sick leave compared to individuals who didn’t take part in any sport. Likewise, a similar study reported that from a cohort of 638 workers higher level of physical activity was related to an overall better job performance. Additionally, those who were obese had a higher number of workdays off. These findings highlight the importance of prioritising workplace physical initiatives, challenges and opportunities.
3. Helps Memory and Mood
For only 10 minutes a day, walking can improve your mood compared to those who are inactive. For those with major depressive disorders, this can be further amplified if you walk in a green space area compared to walking in an urban area. In another study, brain scans of people who walked 3 times a week for 1-hour showed that the decision-making areas in their brain worked more efficiently than people who attended educational seminars.
Tips on How to Walk More
1. Split your Trip
For some of us, walking to work may not be feasible. That’s why we suggest getting off a stop earlier, or walking to the tube, train station or bus (however you travel). You could even try and park your car further away than usual from your workplace. Be creative and think of ways you can try and get some steps in before sitting at your office desk. As mentioned earlier, our psychologists encourage anyone who works at home to go outside and do a lap every morning before sitting as your ‘commute’ to walk. The same goes for hometime commute, go for a short work the minute you finish to give yourself some time to decompress. Think about your lifestyle and demands, what would be the best fit for you? All you need is 5 to 10 minutes to start.
2. Invite Someone along
Doing things with others can make us more accountable, and the experience more enjoyable. Perhaps you pick someone up along the way or you message a friend or work colleague for a morning walk before you start your day. In your workplace at lunchtime, you get a walking group going. This can be for a quick 15 minutes after you have finished your lunch or in between long calls. Sitting too much is not good for our bodies or minds. Walking provides opportunities to build our health and physical fitness.
3. Make a Habit of It
At VISTA we encourage all our users to focus on building habits that are sustainable, feasible and enjoyable. Quick wins or fixes never win and we end up in the same place where we started often feeling guilty or like we failed. That’s why we endorse picking 2 or 3 days at the start, pick the days you will walk to work or get off the bus, tube or train earlier so you can get a short walk to work. Start small and build your way up.
The evidence behind the benefits of walking is really fascinating. It is a lifestyle choice that improves our memory, mood, job performance and health. Workplaces should incorporate walking initiatives and incentives to get their people healthy and happy. The burden of mental health and a stressed workforce is increasing. This is putting huge pressure on businesses to cover their costs and think of evidence-based, real-time and strategic ways to support their people. Start today, get in contact with our team at VISTA HQ to learn more about how we can support you and your people to develop a healthy and thriving workforce.