Nilofer Merchant begins her TED2013 talk
with a statement intended to shock: “What you’re doing right now, at this very moment, is killing you.” On average, she says, we sit even more than we sleep, and then she declares what is now something of a cliché: “Sitting has become the smoking of our generation.” However, statements become clichés for a reason— because they’re true. Merchant’s right: sitting down all day is killing us. We all know it, but we still all do it because for most of us, it’s an essential part of our 9-5 lives. Thankfully, Merchant proposes a small change that can lead to a big impact: If you’ve got a meeting, take a walk. It’s as simple as that.
Merchant herself walks about 20-30 miles a week during her various weekly meetings, a feat that she declares “doable, viable and sustainable.” Indeed: it’s free, it’s fun and it’s healthy. Who wouldn’t choose to spend an hour walking outside in the sunshine over an hour sitting under florescent lights in a sterile conference room? We should constantly challenge ourselves to look for ways to move more during the workday, and walking meetings are a great way to do just that.
In addition to keeping you active, walking outside during a meeting can lead to outside-of-the-box thinking. Merchant wistfully muses, “Fresh air brings fresh thinking,” and all quaintness aside, changing locations and environments can certainly help to trigger different reactions and thought processes in the brain. If you remove a dull conference room or a stifling cubicle from the equation, then you might come up with a new idea or solve a difficult problem, simply because you approached it from a different point of view.
Moreover, Merchant mentions that when she first thought about having to sit all day at work, she approached it as a battle of opposites: obligation versus health. She noticed that we tend to hold problems in strict opposition to one another- a sort of this or that mentality- which doesn’t have to be the case. Opposing sides can be equally true in their own ways. In this particular circumstance, Merchant simply melded the two supposed opposites together: healthy obligation = walking meeting. Follow her example and discover ways to fuse opposites as you’re looking for ways to move more during the workday.
And go on and give Merchant’s idea a try: walk and talk during your next meeting. You’ll be happier, healthier and more productive as a result. Not to mention the creative and innovative ideas that will likely come to fruition thanks to your newly dynamic environment.