Take a hike! The benefits of a lunchtime walk
“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking” – Nietzsche
How often do you eat lunch in the office, moving only a few paces between the office kitchen and your desk?
Although the days are getting longer and spring is in sight at last, it can still be tempting to stay cloistered at your desk, not venturing outside until you emerge into the winter gloom at the end of the day. But as the Norwegian proverb says, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing” – so wrap up warm and a brisk walk can do wonders for the rest of your day.
Researchers at the University of Birmingham found that walking for just 30 minutes in your lunch break can help to boost your mood, increasing your positivity, enthusiasm and focus. Walking isn’t just beneficial for physical health, it’s also good for the brain. And the benefits last longer than the rest of the afternoon: a growing body of neuroscience shows that frequent exercise has powerful, long-lasting effects.
Neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki studies the brain’s plasticity and how exercise promotes new neurotransmitters which have beneficial effects now and for your future. There are the immediate effects, like an energy boost and improved mood, which you can tap into from a single exercise session: exercise stimulates the production of endorphins which have a positive impact on mood.
But if you keep up a regular exercise routine, it starts to change the brain’s physiology and function: with consistent exercise, the hippocampus (the part of the brain which is associated with memory and emotions) actually produces new brain cells. This can improve long-term memory and even help to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
As well as the health benefits, walking seems to be intrinsically linked with creativity. In fact, recent research from Stanford found that walking can increase creative thinking by up to 60%, backing up anecdotal evidence that the best thinking often happens while on the move. From Thoreau to Nietzsche, for centuries authors and philosophers have espoused the value of walking, setting the mind free to wander and allowing space for the brain to come up with creative inspiration.
Reportedly, it takes 66 days on average to form a habit. So, perhaps this lunchtime – instead of grabbing a sandwich and scrolling through Facebook – you should step away from your desk and try turning a lunchtime walk into your new daily habit. Who knows, you could be reaping the benefits for years to come.