Why employers should promote workplace walking

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Once simply considered a dismissive solution to life’s woes, “just walk it off” can become a message with a proactive purpose, as well as a way to resolve conflict in the workplace. A benefit to both physical and mental health, walking is ideal for any fitness and commitment level.

Employers would be wise to promote it as a form of movement within their workforce. It’s one of the most inclusive physical activities, requires no cost outside of proper footwear and, perhaps, sun protection and is a proven way to improve mood and cognitive function.

Encouraging health improvement through an activity as non-threatening as walking is an ideal way to boost the focus on workplace wellness. Everyone can succeed at some level, so employers can move on to the next wellness program with a workforce full of positive experiences or they can at least use the activity to promote a culture of movement.

Walking provides the body with cardiovascular exercise and it also improves muscle development, balance, posture and core stability. The benefits also extend to managing chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Those conditions benefit from regular physical activity but they don’t always allow for trendier, high-impact programs. Walking allows individuals with those conditions to maintain an exercise routine without further compromising their health. Walking is also an equipment-free form of exercise, so those concerned about their financial health would be smart to consider it as an option as well.

Employers can take advantage of walking as a simple solution to many health concerns. They can do so by encouraging employees to:

  • Take walking breaks instead of sitting in the common room;
  • Schedule walking meetings based on discussion, rather than technology or visual aids;
  • Take five-minute movement breaks in the afternoon to refocus and help improve circulation;
  • Walk or run to work by providing a shower or changing area in the workplace; and
  • Create a step challenge to reward and acknowledge those improving their level of walking activity through a year-long campaign.

Almost more important than improving physical health, walking also provides a range of mental-health rewards. Going for a walk gives people time to sort out their thoughts, even if they’re in the middle of a crowded gym or fitness facility.

Those living with depression, excessive stress and anxiety can benefit significantly from walking. Even just 20 minutes a day (ideally outdoors in order to reap the additional benefits of immersing themselves in nature) can drastically improve mood and overall outlook on life. Including friends in the walk can help maintain social and emotional connections, a crucial component to good mental health.

Walking can also provide great perspective to those going through tough times. Just having the freedom and ability to go for a walk is something those living in other parts of the world may not have, and even that powerful thought alone can improve people’s perceptions of their own situations.

If employees are having trouble prioritizing either their physical or mental health over their workload, it’s in an employer’s best interest to encourage them to take a new perspective. Poor health affects performance at work on a much larger scale through absenteeism and presenteeism, so it actually benefits the employer when employees prioritize their overall health and take the time, when needed, to improve it.

Walking is one of the easiest and least time-consuming activities to promote. It benefits both physical and mental well-being, so there’s really no need for employees to choose a health priority. Just tell them to walk it off.

Karley Middleton ‎is a wellness consultant at HUB International STRATA Benefits Consulting in Winnipeg.

Transcontinental Media G.P.