There are many good reasons to walk to work. Fresh air, exercise, and the opportunity to clear your mind.

Remarkably, statistics from the Australian Commuting Survey showed that walking is the second most popular commuting method for Australians after driving, with 26.6% of survey respondents indicating they usually walk to work.

Obviously, a lot more people drive to work (according to the survey, more than 65%), and if you’re one of those people, and you don’t need to be, there is some compelling evidence to suggest you could experience real benefit from making the switch to walking.

Walking is good exercise

It has long been known that walking is a good form of exercise. Beyond the widely reported study which found that walking for 30 minutes per day could potentially increase longevity by up to seven years, another study concluded that exercising for up to 150 minutes per week could increase a person’s lifespan, even for people who were otherwise considered to be unhealthy.

Walking is meditative

If you need any evidence that walking is a good way to help calm the mind, it’s only necessary to consider that many Buddhist monks use walking as a meditative practice. Many respected medical and research organisations, including the Mayo Clinic, Harvard University, and the American Heart Association have published information indicating that meditation can be beneficial in reducing stress.

But what’s the link to productivity?

Excellent question. Researchers at Stanford University performed a study that concluded that walking improves creativity. In fact they concluded that the creative output of walkers increased by a whopping 60%.

Other research found that aerobic exercise of any kind will have beneficial results on cognitive processes, or in other words, it helps you think better. For example, if you’re a writer and a particular project seems to escape you, a quick jog to break up your day can help provide the inspiration you need. Similarly any office worker would be familiar with ‘afternoonitis’. Your attention is waning, the harsh lighting isn’t helping your concentration and having another coffee seems a little dangerous. You don’t have to work up a sweat, but a brisk walk during your lunch break will do wonders for your productivity.

While this doesn’t mean you have to be an athlete to maintain high levels of productivity throughout the work day, the more in shape you are the you will be less susceptible to fatigue. This in turn means you’ll be more mentally alert, less tired, and will just generally feel better. If your job involves a lot of sitting down, it’s easy to neglect your fitness. However injecting exercise into your daily routine will keep your mind sharp and attention focused on the day at hand.

By walking to work in the morning, you can free yourself from distractions and prepare your mind for the day ahead.

Putting all of this together, it is clear that walking to work can help to boost your productivity, and this is true no matter what kind of work you actually do. Of course this needs to be managed with a little common sense. If your home is too far from your work to walk the distance, you should consider using public transport or driving part of the way, and then enjoy the benefits of walking the rest of the way.

Why it works

Apart from the calming and meditative effects of walking (which can help to reduce stress, symptoms of hypertension, and so on), regular walking also results in physiological adaptations.  These changes actually affect the way blood circulates around your body.

As physical fitness increases, the resting heart rate becomes lower, and the body also starts manufacturing extra capillaries to make circulation more efficient. The result is that the heart needs to beat fewer times per minute to move the same volume of blood, and the increased capillary network also reduces blood pressure.

The cumulative effect of all these physiological changes is that oxygen and nutrients are transported more efficiently, and waste products and negative hormones such as cortisol are removed from tissues more rapidly. In simple terms, it means you’ll feel more alert, less fatigued, and you will experience a general sense of well-being.

How walking to work benefits managers and employees

If you’re not currently walking to work, you may be missing out on the health and productivity benefits provided by walking. Among the known benefits of physical exercise, including walking, are:

  • Improvement in mental alertness
  • Improvement in creativity
  • Improvement in cognitive function
  • Delayed onset of fatigue as fitness increases
  • Reduced risk of illness
  • Faster recovery from minor illness

Employers can benefit from encouraging employees to stay fit and healthy, including making information available about the positive gains that can be achieved from walking to work.

Those individuals who act upon this advice are almost surely going to experience improvements in their productivity, as well as in their general health and well-being.