Healthy Living in the North

Moving more: Demystifying the walking meeting

Walking meeting

Theresa (far right) with some of her population health teammates on a walking meeting.

Sometimes you do something because it works. After a while, you learn that there are theories, recommendations, and guidelines that tell you that you should do what you’ve already been doing. That’s what happened for Nancy Viney, Northern Health tobacco reduction coordinator, and me.

About a year ago, Nancy and I started walking together. We wanted to get some fresh air and to take some breaks away from our desks. As colleagues, Nancy and I also had to address some challenging work-related issues together. Unintentionally, we found that walking together seemed to help us think and problem solve together. So, the planning became easier and – oddly enough – the walking was less of a chore than if we had done it by ourselves.

More recently, we learned that those who sit more than six hours a day are sedentary. Between going to the gym, finding time for exercise at home, walking, gardening, and maintaining our houses, Nancy and I thought we were pretty active. However, we are sedentary. The culprit? Sitting all day at work.

Walking meetings – like Nancy and I enjoy – can be a useful way to get more activity into our day. More importantly, it breaks up how much we sit. The research behind walking meetings supports that they get us out of our chairs, can make us more creative, and can improve group dynamics.

The idea sounds simple: I know how to participate in a meeting and I know how to walk. How hard can it be to combine the two? However, walking meetings won’t work for everyone in every situation, but they do work for some in a variety of situations. They seem to work best for:

  • Networking meetings – are you just getting to know someone, or giving someone a less formal update?
  • Small groups – think how many people can walk side-by-side so that all can hear?
  • “Outside of the box” thinking – the environment change may be good for problem solving, brainstorming, team building, or planning.

And where you can’t make a walking meeting work, there are ways to still move more at work. Some situations where a walking meeting may not work include:

  • High traffic – the goal is to have everyone hear the discussion. (Option: find a quieter route.)
  • Poor weather – think about appropriate footwear and jackets, etc. This is important for preventing injuries. (Option: walk the hallways indoors.)
  • Formal meetings – if full minutes are required, this may not be the best option (though, you could audio record). (Option: build activity or standing breaks into the agenda.)
  • Is everyone in the group able to walk the terrain safely and comfortably? (Option: have a more traditional meeting with stretch breaks.)

Ultimately, every move counts when it comes to getting out of your work chair. For more guidelines on living a healthier life, visit our position papers.

Have you ever tried a walking meeting?

Theresa Healy

About Theresa Healy

Theresa is the regional manager for healthy community development with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about the capacity of individuals, families and communities across northern B.C. to be partners in health and wellness. As part of her own health and wellness plan, she has taken up running and, more recently, weight lifting. She is also a “new-bee” bee-keeper and a devoted new grandmother. Theresa is an avid historian, writer and researcher who also holds an adjunct appointment at UNBC that allows her to pursue her other passionate love - teaching.

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Comments

  1. Vanessa Salmons says:

    Great message Theresa! I think many of us are “desk-sitters” and can and will get up and move more in our workday

  2. Mary-Ellen Kelm says:

    Thanks Theresa! We are working on getting our office out and moving and you’ve provided some inspiration. Fitness looks great on you!

  3. Kathleen Waller says:

    I, along with three other fellow SD 57 staff did 20 minute lunch walks around the school and talked at the same time. It improved my mood, alertness, and I got to know my co-workers much better.

    I agree that this is a great idea.

  4. Holly Christian says:

    What a great example of thinking outside of the box! Thank you for including where it works and where it won’t. It’s nice to see Northern Health staff “walking the walk”!

  5. Theresa, I was delighted to discover your post on walking meetings! I’ve been walking with clients and colleagues in the US for 11 years, since starting my Coachwalks℠ business. In the last year or two I’ve noticed the walking meeting concept gain traction, especially in Canada. I’ve visited beautiful BC only once, but I have spent many summers walking in Ontario, where I literally took my first steps, as a baby. I will be sharing your post with clients, including several health care professionals who need more encouragement to get moving outdoors!

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  1. [...] note: Last month, Theresa Healy introduced the idea of walking meetings. Here’s an NH staff member putting the advice into action!] Candice (left) and her teammates on a [...]

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