The science behind it is undeniable: Walking is good for you. It’s a safe, cheap, and accessible exercise, proven to lower mortality risk. If you care about your health, you should care about walking.
On paper, remote work offers plenty of chances to introduce walking into your day. Not having a commute should free up time that we could spend strolling. The flexibility of an async-first workspace should empower us to unplug for a walk at any time.
Yet, working from home often makes people more sedentary, not less. It’s Parkinson’s unescapable law: Work will expand to fill all the time you give it.
I’m not here to pontificate about how you should work less or scold you because you don’t make time for exercise. I’m the first to acknowledge that making time for long-term benefit activities is bloody hard.
What I’m here to do is share a few tactics you can use to walk more without any drastic change to your schedule.
- Read while walking
- Write while walking
- Walking meetings
- Virtual commute
Read While Walking
Knowledge work requires a considerable amount of reading. And even more so in a remote company with an async-first culture, where most discussions happen via long-form writing.
Write While Walking
You can employ text-to-speech to listen instead of reading, and you can use speech-to-text to dictate instead of writing.
You can go out for a walk and draft articles and RFCs using services like Otter.
The two techniques we just saw leverage smartphones as productivity tools, not sources of distraction. Checkout How To Turn Your Phone Into An Inspiration Machine.
Who said that remote meetings should be sedentary? Meetings are a great time to introduce movement in your workday.
One-on-one and other meetings involving only a few people are excellent candidates to be taken on the go. You can join in from your phone and go audio-only. Traditional calls don’t give access to the subtle body language you can pick up when video is enabled, so this tactic is best used when there is already an established level of trust and rapport between the participants.
A few other things to keep in mind when you take a meeting on the go:
- Moderate your pace and stay on a plain path–you don’t want to be panting while talking. – Make sure you stay in an area with good mobile coverage. – Plan the walking path according to the length of the meeting. Consider a path circling your work location so you’re always close if you need to go back in. – Make sure your phone and wireless earbuds are charged. It helps to keep them charging while at your desk.
You can introduce walking in meetings with many participants, too. In most company-wide meetings, only a few people do the talking. If you’re not one of them, you can use wireless headphones and pace around your home office.
When you worked in an office, the clock started when you got there, not when you left your house. Working from home removes the commute time, but that doesn’t mean you now have to spend that time working.
You can start and finish your workday with a walk. It doesn’t have to be a long walk either; a lap around the block will do just as well.
Alongside the obvious exercise benefit, a virtual commute separates your work time from your personal time. It can be a helpful way to prevent work from bleeding into the rest of your day and preventing you from recharging.
Bonus – Walk To Prime Creativity
I’m calling this a bonus tip because, unlike the others, it does require a bit of a schedule change. But you’ll see it pays off in better results afterward.
Before tackling a creative project, and note that problem-solving counts as creativity, go out for a walk.
Research suggests that walking boosts creativity both while walking and shortly after. The effect is even more prominent if you have access to nature.
Walking primes your brain for creativity, but only if that’s the only thing you do. For it to work, you need to let your mind wander. You can’t combine this tactic with those above.
Exercise should be non-negotiable, yet it can be challenging to make time for it. That is a problem in and of itself, a systemic issue we ought to address, but doing so takes time and might require significant life changes.
You can’t afford to wait till everything is perfect to finally start moving your body. Act now.
Some exercise is better than no exercise. There’s even research hinting that multiple short exercise bouts might deliver the same health benefits as a long one.
Every step counts.