They don’t require yoga pants or a shower, but the research is clear: Walking meetings count as exercise.
“If corporations were to adopt this ubiquitously, you just start to think of those health benefits adding up,” says James Levine, co-director of obesity solutions at the Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University. “It’s an amazingly simple thing and it costs nothing.”
Walking meetings are typically held with two or three people over a set route and period—often 30 minutes. They can take place at a nearby park or even in office hallways. Some people are using walking meetings to boost their daily step counts. Others are spurred by mounting research on the physical and mental benefits of being more mobile at work.
One of the few studies on walking meetings, published this year, demonstrated their potential. The three-week study, co-written by Dr. Alberto J. Caban-Martinez, a physician and scientistat the University of Miami, showed a 10-minute gain among the 17 participants in weekly physical activity after they added walking meetings.
The more participants engaged in moderate physical activity at work, the less likely they were to miss work for health reasons, according to the study, published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease. Being sedentary for long stretches is linked with obesity, Type 2 diabetes and a range of other conditions.
Walking meetings have been outlined in a TED Talk and encouraged in a Funny or Die video with the cast of “The West Wing,” whose characters were known for their frequent walk-and-talks. The 2015 federal dietary guidelines suggested people use walking meetings to increase physical activity.
Meetings, phone calls and email have come to consume more than 90% of the working time of managers and some other workers, such as consultants. Many of those meetings and calls could be conducted while walking, experts say.