The 40-hour work week can certainly get the best of us. Between deadlines, never-ending meetings, long nights, and early mornings the stress of our day-to-day lives can sometimes feel overwhelming. But, there’s one incredibly easy thing you can do to instantly feel calmer during your workday melee: Take a walk. A really, really, short walk.
According to research, taking a brief walk during your lunch break can have some tremendous mental and physical health benefits. And the best part is, it doesn’t have to be long. Just 15 minutes of walking has proven benefits you simply can’t ignore.
In a 2015 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, researchers from the University of Birmingham split 56 volunteers made up of mostly middle-aged women into two groups. The first group started a 10-week walking program where they walked during their lunch hour for 30 minutes three times a week. The second group acted as a control.
As The New York Times explained, the scientists monitored the participant’s moods using a specially-designed app where the volunteers answered questions such as how they were feeling at the moment, their enthusiasm and workload for the day.
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And, as one would expect, those who walked reported much higher happiness levels than those who didn’t.
According to The Times, following a lunchtime walk, the participants reportedly felt “enthusiastic, less tense, and generally more relaxed and able to cope than on afternoons when they hadn’t walked and even compared with their own moods from a morning before a walk.”
“There is now quite strong research evidence that feeling more positive and enthusiastic at work is very important to productivity,” Cecilie Thogersen-Ntoumani, the study’s lead author, told The Times. “So we would expect that people who walked at lunchtime would be more productive.”
But, if you are for some reason unable to step away for a walk, there’s something even easier you can do to improve your mood and your work life: Practice mindfulness.
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology followed two groups of people, one who walked and one who practiced mindful relaxation during their lunch breaks. The team found that both activities resulted in higher levels of wellbeing and improved productivity.
However, it also found that those who simply practiced mindful relaxation for 15 minutes a day experienced even higher stress relief than the walkers.
Not sure how to practice mindful relaxation? Try downloading an app like Headspace and follow along for a few minutes a day. You’ll get the hang of it in no time.
Now, you have no more excuses. Just make sure to get up from your desk, or even simply turn away from your computer, for a few minutes today. You can thank us for your higher productivity, lower stress levels, and increased happiness later.