When I worked in IT, my company started a "Walk at Lunch Wednesday" program. Not the catchiest name, but the idea was clear: get us out of our seats once in a while. To get us to participate, the company would give us entries into a raffle every time we did it. The prizes were pretty good: half days of vacation, gift cards, stuff like that. I'm not one to turn down a chance for prizes, so I was all in.
I'm also not one to win prizes, apparently, because I never won. But I did learn an important lesson: getting out of my chair in the middle of the day was a game-changer.
Mid-day exercise is a different ballgame
Don't get me wrong: it's not that I never exercised. I actually did quite a bit, but it was always at night after work. It wasn't ideal: I was already worn out by the end of the day, so my workout wasn't as good as it could have been, and it made it harder for me to fall asleep.
Switching to mid-day movement fixed both of those issues. And instead of energizing me right before bedtime, it energized me right before my afternoon slump would have hit. Instead of working through lunch (not productive in the least), I was prepared to power through the rest of the day. And it broke the monotony of the day in a way that helped the workday feel shorter.
It's not revolutionary, I know—plenty of studies have documented exactly what I experienced. But I didn't realize how much of an effect it would have on me. I started doing walks at lunch on non-Wednesdays (bold move, I know) and even threw in some runs on work-from-home days.
Implementing a "Walk at Lunch" program
If your company already has flexible work policies, it might seem like overkill to try to rally folks around a lunchtime walk. But here's the thing: just because people can leave their seats, it doesn't mean they will. Here are a few suggestions for getting your team to implement a program like this:
Offer incentives. They don't have to be as involved as ours were, but even just turning it into a competition (who takes the most steps in a week?) can incentivize people to move.
Make it flexible. Let people do the walking on their own terms—whatever day of the week or time of the day (during work hours!) works best for them.
Make it equitable. If you have hourly and salaried employees, be sure you let the walk time be part of your hourly workers' workday.
Encourage social interaction. If your team works remotely, have everyone hop on a call while walking. If you work in-office, encourage folks to walk together and make work topics off-limits for conversation. It's a great way to encourage team bonding without taking up precious outside-of-work hours.
Walking for work and for life
When I became a stay-at-home parent, the idea of exercising at night was laughable. Moving my body after a day of mental exhaustion? No thank you. But I also couldn't exercise first thing in the morning because I was inevitably exhausted from sleepless nights. (P.S. Kids are great, I swear.)
And I don't drink coffee—chocolate is my addiction and caffeine source. As tempting as it might be to re-energize with a chocolate chip cookie, that wasn't a habit I wanted to get into. So I decided to dip my toes back into the mid-day walks.
I'd drag my tired self out for a walk in the fresh air with my son, and I would immediately notice myself feeling more alert. A few years later, and I still take my walks. Getting us both outside during the day allows me to clear my head in preparation for working on my freelance projects during his naps or at night. It also ensures that we both see humans other than each other—as any stay-at-home parent knows, that's huge.
So whether you commute to an office, work remotely from a desk in your house, or spend your days caring for a tiny human, take a walk.