Health benefits of walking meetings

People with office jobs sitting most of the day at a desk often have little opportunity to increase their physical activity.  That may soon change if office managers embrace the results of a study from the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami in Florida looking at the implementation of walking meetings for office workers. 

“This walking meeting pilot study provides early evidence that white-collar workers find it feasible and acceptable to convert a traditional seated meeting into a walking meeting,” stated principal investigator Alberto J. Caban-Martinez, assistant professor of public health sciences.

The study published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease recruited 18 office workers who conducted weekly meetings and had them wear accelerometers to measure physical activity levels over 3 consecutive weeks.  The first week the participants did not implement a walking meeting but during the second and third week, it was implemented.

For the study, the researchers gave the participants a seven-point walking meeting (WaM) protocol which was as follows:

1.      Set a time and place to meet before the WaM

2.      Prepare an agenda and bring it with you

3.      To make the walk more comfortable, bring items such as water, sunscreen, sunglasses, and wear comfortable shoes

4.      Assign roles: for example, one person keeps an eye on time, another takes notes, another leads the walk route

5.      Follow the prescribed walk route

6.      Walk for a minimum of 30 minutes

7.      After the WaM, sit to wrap up meeting and do any final tasks such as paperwork that cannot be done while walking

What was found was that the simple act of changing a seated meeting each week into a walking meeting increased workplace physical activity levels by 10 minutes.  It was also found that the WaM were well-accepted by the workers, easy to implement and feasible to conduct during working hours.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans both recommend some form of physical activity for adults of at least 150 minutes each week of moderate-intensity exercise but only about half of all Americans meet the criteria.  For office workers who spend an average of 7.6 hours a day at work with the majority of it spent sitting, the concept of walking meetings may be one way for businesses to promote healthy practices increasing physical activity and improving overall health and fitness in employees while reducing their risk of chronic diseases.

As health insurance premiums continue to rapidly rise for many small to medium size business owners, this could be one part of a solution to getting and keeping their employees healthier.

By being innovative and encouraging physical activity interventions like walking meetings in the workplace, this can be a win-win for both the employee who can counter the negative health effects of sitting most of the day while the employer has a healthier, happier workforce with reduced sick days and workers compensation claims.