It can be all too easy to stay sitting at our desks during our lunch breaks. But even though staying at your computer can often feel like the more productive option, it actually gets in the way of your ability to perform at your best.
Studies have shown that using your lunch breaks to get out and about can have a positive impact on everything from your concentration and creativity to your overall enjoyment of the work you’re doing. This is because walking is associated with a whole host of positive effects on both physical and mental health.
One of the most apparent benefits is that making time to go for a walk is a great way to squeeze some regular exercise into your daily routine. Just 10 minutes of walking per day can reduce health risks and help improve your basic fitness, which is good for both your body and overall sense of wellbeing.
The benefits of even the most low-intensity exercise are well-documented: it can boost serotonin and dopamine levels, help manage stress, and gives you something positive to focus on. Getting out for a walk at lunchtime can also help you get some much-needed distance from your work, giving you the headspace you need to think about it more clearly when you get back. It’s an easy and enjoyable way to reduce anxiety levels and release tension.
Not only that, but it’s a nice way to fit some you-time into an otherwise hectic day. Walking for an hour gives you time to listen to that album, audiobook or podcast you’ve been meaning to get to, to practise a few minutes of mindfulness, or just to think more clearly about the work you need to do.
Doing any one of these things while walking is a form of multitasking, and so can boost cognition and improve working memory. You’ll also likely get more enjoyment out of them than you would on a stressful commute.
If you walk around the area surrounding your office you might even stumble across places you may otherwise not have found, like a cool cafe or a new favourite lunch spot.
All of these things together have been found to effectively boost the things that help you work at your best, including creativity, energy and focus. In the middle of the day, when your eyes have been glued to a screen and your brain has been working at full capacity for several hours already, these benefits are key to helping you get the most out of your work life.
In fact, a recent study of 51 office workers found that every single participant enjoyed their afternoon work more if they used their lunch break to get out of the office and go for a walk.
But even though going for a walk at lunchtime is the ideal, it’s not always doable. If that’s the case, walking part or all of the way to and from work can bring about those same benefits, and even just getting away from your desk and stretching your legs around the office can keep you from getting groggy.