Spending time outside offers many health benefits, and a recent study detailed just how long people should stay outside to gain those advantages (a minimum of 120 minutes per week). However, planning regular time outside isn’t always easy, as work and personal commitments make it difficult to find time. The good news is there are ways to nurture this quest for well-being by unconventional means.
What’s So Great About Being Outside?
Being outside, especially being around nature, has the effect of a natural endorphin and is linked to lowering stress, blood pressure, and the risk of chronic diseases. In a study published in Nature Scientific Reports, people who spent two to five hours per week outside reported being healthier and happier.
The respondents didn’t have to spend long periods outside. The benefits were cumulative. This is encouraging for people who don’t have a lot of free time but still want advantages of being outside.
This slow but steady approach mirrors the new physical activity guidelines by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which recommends people get at least 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise, and emphasizes that any activity that increases the heart rate counts, regardless of minimum time.
Incorporating Movement Into The Workday
Having short bursts of exercise provides health benefits that are crucial for employees, especially those who work in offices. Prolonged sitting has been linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases, so finding opportunities to move, especially outside, during the workday provides significant advantages.
A pilot study at The University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine found that swapping one regular meeting for a walking meeting benefited cardiovascular health and could be especially useful when the group needed to be creative. Since going outside in nature decreases stress, it gives more opportunity to think innovatively.
As business leaders look for ways to increase employee well-being, walking meetings can be an easy activity to incorporate into the day.
Walking Meeting Tips
A successful walking meeting starts with a little planning.
- Start with one meeting per week, and schedule the session for a group that has one to three people, so everyone can hear and participate as you move.
- Plan the route, avoiding noisy streets. Provide or encourage participants to bring water.
- Let attendees know in advance that you will be meeting outside and on the move—and that they should wear comfortable shoes.
- Provide relevant documentation about the meeting in advance so participants can review it and not have to bring it to the meeting.
- Designate one person to be a scribe.
- Set a comfortable pace for participants.
- Provide follow up notes from the meeting.
The additional advantage of walking meetings is that by their nature, leaders become role-models in incorporating healthy behaviors during the workday. As leaders organize walking meetings, they make it more likely that employees will follow suit.