by Daphne Grech Cumbo

I’m excited to announce that we are adding a wellness aspect to Up Your Level which we will be introducing during the course of the year.  You will be seeing regular blogs around wellbeing that will share tips on improving performance, productivity and happiness while reducing stress through self-care. Please do share any feedback or requests on topics you’d love to read ! 

We will address simple ways to start your wellness pathway and integrate it into your lifestyle.  In this article we talk about boosting your mental performance through the simple act of walking: Walk your way into a Productive Day! 

My Morning 

I woke up to the sound of heavy rain, got myself and my daughter up and ready to head out (a bit later than planned) only to realise I forgot a clean mask, so back in we go and out again. Increased traffic as expected, but we get to school, the rain stops and the first portion of the morning is done. Now it’s time to begin my work day, typically busy during the first official working week of the year. 

Once I get out of the car, a fresh breeze fills my nostrils with the wonderful scent of fresh rain carrying the crisp smells of nature from the little valley between my town and the next. I hadn’t done any movement yet and knew I had a long sedentary day ahead. I locked my bag in the car, and set off towards the valley walking in the quiet residential streets. I observed the chickens walking in the street from the nearby farm, the olive trees in the valley, the private front gardens through majestic gates saluted by the resident dogs, the grey clouds in the sky and felt the crisp cool air whipping around my face. The movement generated by walking made me warm inside and I opened my jacket to let more of that clean, fresh air in. Thoughts of the day came into my mind: I mentally planned the course of the day and thought up this blog, generating ideas, making it flow and focusing on the message I wanted to share through it. 

Half an hour later I was sitting at my desk feeling re-energised, focused and positive about the day !

What impact can a little walk have on your day ?

There are many benefits of walking, besides the physical ones, some of which are directly related to our performance and productivity.

Creative Flow

Irish neuroscientist Shane O’Mara is very passionate about walking and discovered that it unlocks the cognitive powers of the brain like nothing else. Our senses are sharpened when we get up and walk and it fuels our creativity. Walking just before engaging in a creative task or one that requires focus and concentration can really maximise your performance. You can read the full effect of walking on the brain in this article, where Amy from The Guardian takes a stroll with the neuroscientist to delve deeper into his research and how we can use it to maximise our own performance. 

Health & Longevity 

Walking is also a common factor in the way of life of people from the 5 original Blue Zones. The Blue Zones are places where life expectancy is high, disease is low and they live long, healthy and happy lives. Researchers flock to study these populations who are living better lives compared to the rest of the Western world to find out what they are doing differently. One of the Blue Zone studies show that walking, even just 2 hours a week, can drastically reduce the risk of disease, lengthen your life expectancy and as a result, increase your productive days positively! 

Stress Reduction & Energy 

Would having less stress help you be more productive during your day? Walking increases the amount of oxygen your body brings in which raises energy levels. The increased blood flow to the brain releases “happy” chemicals that boost your mood and lower your stress response. You are therefore left feeling calmer, more energetic and positive, that will only help you fulfil a productive day! 

3 quick ways to factor walks into your working days:

1. Begin your work day with a walk  

This does NOT have to be an exercise walk. You don’t have to worry about showering & changing after, and it’s often easier to get it done before your day gets too busy. You can take a brisk walk before opening your laptop to fire up your creativity. If you have 30 minutes great, if you have 5 it’s also great. If you have to skip a morning don’t beat yourself up, you can always take a walking lunch break or do it after work! 

2. Take the stairs at every opportunity!                                                                                                  

Avoiding the elevator when and if you physically can, is a great way to get some steps into your day and your heart pumping. If you carry a heavy bag in to work see how you can spread the weight that it’s comfortable to carry up the stairs. Alternatively, put the bag down and take the staircase hands-free as though you forgot something downstairs! Making a habit out of this will really increase your daily movement.

3. Get up from your desk to walk at regular intervals                                                                       

Set a time that suits you which can be every hour, 90 minutes or after a chunk of work. You can walk to the kitchen, to the bathroom or just to walk across your work space and do some gentle quick stretches. It’s amazing how many steps you can make in that short space just by repeating !

Opportunity Cost

If you still think you’re too busy to include regular walks, just think about the opportunity cost of not doing it. Brain “fog”, drowsiness, stress, irritability and creative blocks are just a handful of things that can directly impact your productive day …possibly not in the most productive way !

The next step

Do let me know if I managed to get my intended message across to you! If you enjoyed it and want to read further into walking as a wellness tool, look out for the next blog where we talk about elevating the benefits of walking in your free time. We will also share a walking plan to help you get to your personal walking target without disrupting your time!