At a desk all day? Here's how you can combine work and exercise

If you struggle to find the time to stay fit during the working week you can benefit from taking your meetings on a walk

Woman on a walk during work
(Image credit: Getty)

Working an office job creates a very sedentary lifestyle for many, especially after the pandemic when our time spent indoors vastly increased. It can be a real struggle to find a break in your day for exercise - it's even harder to do this when it's still light outside. Fortunately, research has revealed that our brains can multitask while walking, meaning you can exercise outdoors and dial into your meetings. 

When WFH became the new 'normal' for everyone, people started investing in home-gym equipment to keep fit. Some decided to go all out and invest in cardio machines and bought one of the best elliptical machines to work out from their garage, while others went down the more space-efficient route and bought things like a set of the best adjustable dumbbells.

However, sometimes the working day can slip away from you and before you know it, it's bedtime and you haven't caught a moment to do anything active. This is why the simple task of taking yourself for a daily walk is a more manageable option and research tells us that you can work and walk at the same time, without sacrificing the quality of either activity.

Scientists at the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester recruited 22 young adults to either walk on a treadmill or manipulate objects on a table sitting down while they recorded position markers and simultaneously measured their brain activity. 

Workers walk and talk

(Image credit: Getty)

Using what they called a 'Mobile Brain/Body Imaging system' (MoBI) the researchers were able to record the participants' brain activity as they walked and reacted to cues to switch tasks. They used this same technique to record brain activity for the sitting down task.

The scientists measured brain activity between the cued tasks and concluded that as they performed the more difficult tasks, the neurophysiological difference was higher between walking and sitting. This revealed the adaptability of a healthy brain and how it prepares and performs tasks according to difficult levels.

The lead author of the study, Edward Freedman, Ph.D. said, "The MoBI allows us to better understand how the brain functions in everyday life. Looking at these findings to understand how a young healthy brain is able to switch tasks will give us better insight to what's going awry in a brain with a neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer's disease."

Next time you have a day full of meetings at work you should aim to take a minimum of one call outside. The study results suggest that your brain will be able to stay focused on both your work and the physical activity of walking.

Why don't you decide to nip out of the office with your colleague to walk and talk or if working from home, step away from your desk and walk around the block or local park for 30 minutes? You can even look into buying yourself a pair of best shoes for walking to ensure your feet are comfortable and supported while you work and walk.

If you want more good reason to take up walking during your workdays, here's another and it's all about boosting your creativity levels. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition analyzed four experiments, which all looked at walking and its effect on creativity. 

The researchers found from the results that participants boosted their 'creative ideation' most while walking, and especially while walking outside. They concluded, "Walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity and increasing physical activity."

If you don't find walking much of an exciting activity then you can give your walks more purpose or an end goal, such as reaching a certain number of steps you achieve in a walk. Most of the best fitness trackers on the market today are designed especially to record your number of steps as you move.

Jessica Downey

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her career in journalism began in local news and she holds a Masters in journalism. Jessica has previously written for Runners World, penning news and features on fitness, sportswear and nutrition. 

When she isn't writing up news and features for Fit&Well covering topics ranging from muscle building, to yoga, to female health and so on, she will be outdoors somewhere, testing out the latest fitness equipment and accessories to help others find top products for their own fitness journeys. Her testing pairs up nicely with her love for running. She recently branched out to running 10Ks and is trying to improve her time before moving on to larger races. Jessica also enjoys building on her strength in the gym and is a believer in health and wellness beginning in the kitchen. She shares all of this on her running Instagram account @jessrunshere which she uses for accountability and for connecting with like-minded fitness lovers.