Walking; Exercise for your Head

Scenario: You get to work and there’s ????????????????an empty donut box in the break room. The coffee pot is empty. In your email, there are already four fires and an invitation to a three-hour meeting. By lunch time, it’s hard to hear what your coworkers are saying over the sound of steam coming out of your ears.

When the pressure is on, how do you keep your head from exploding? One of the best remedies out there is going for a walk. I’m not saying that a walk will magically refill the donut box, but it may offer a timely escape so you can reset your brain. In fact, walking every day is good preventive medicine. I usually walk five days a week. (Coincidentally, I also work five days a week.)

If you’re ready to take the cure, here are my top five tried and true tips:

  1. Pick a convenient time. I hear morning walks are nice, but there is no chance in H that I am going to get up extra early. Plus midday or right after work is usually when I need the chill time, not the morning. So I use half of my lunch hour to walk.
  2. Schedule your walking time on your calendar. Since I work at a computer, I schedule a recurring appointment using my email software. A reminder pops up five minutes before it’s time to head out the door. (By the way, I schedule my lunch, too.) Another option would be to set a similar alert on your cell phone.
  3. Wear comfortable shoes and have them at the ready. This is the point in the article where I get on my soapbox. I sold shoes back in olden times, so please believe me when I tell you wingtips, work boots, pumps, or flip-flops won’t cut it for walking. Running, walking, or cross-training shoes all work well. Make sure they fit well and have plenty of room for your toes. The insole should be thick and cushy to absorb some of the impact of your heel hitting the ground and save your knees. And the shoes should have a nonskid tread so you will be less likely to slip if you walk on a smooth or wet surface.

    In addition to the shoes I have at home, I keep a pair of walking shoes at my desk. That way, I always have the right footwear when it’s time to walk, and I don’t have the schlep them back and forth between work and home.If you want to buy new, snazzy shoes for walking, you certainly can, but you don’t have to.

    Once my good sports shoes start wearing out, I turn them into new designated walking shoes and take them into work. Then, the old walking shoes become beach or garden shoes (or go into the trash).

  4. Hook up with walking buddies. You might be surprised how many other people need to escape. Pick friends/coworkers who don’t mind listening to a vent from time to time, and be a good walking buddy yourself by being willing to listen. I meet my walking buddies at the same place and time every day. Since we’re all at computers, I usually send an instant message reminder to the group about 30 minutes in advance. It helps to know who to wait for and who’s not going to show.
  5. Be safe. Walking with friends also increases your personal safety. Be aware of your surroundings—traffic, people, things on the ground. Let other people know about your walk. Keep safety in mind when choosing routes. Bring your cell phone with you.

Like any prescription, this comes with a warning: Side effects may include weight loss, more energy, and feelings of wellbeing. If you experience any of these symptoms, keep up the good work!