By Savandhi Silva, volunteer writer
If you’ve been working remotely these past few months, you may have found that you have had less of a reason to go outside and your step count may be suffering as a result. Afterall, if your workstation is your kitchen table or your couch, why get ready to go outside in the morning when you can be at work a few minutes after waking up?
But as we adjust to our new routine of working from home, the importance of incorporating some movement and fresh air into our daily routines has become clear. Getting outside for a walk around the block before work can provide some mental space between home and work life and help us be more productive.
Through the Smart Commute program, pointA is hosting a webinar on the benefits of walking, how to plan your route and apps to help you track your progress. Learn more here.
Benefits of outdoor activity
Refreshes the mind
Getting outdoors helps you ‘get out’ of your head and your feelings of being stuck in your work. Observing nature and the world around you can give you a sense of calm and can help you reframe your task and come up with new ideas.
Reduces stress, anxiety and depression
Exercise can help you feel less stressed because it reduces levels of adrenaline and cortisol. A study in the journal of American College of Sports Medicine found that just a 30-minute walk is enough to improve the mood of someone with major depressive disorder. Simple outdoor physical activity has been found to lead to the release of ‘happy’ endorphins which make you less anxious and depressed and reduce rumination over negative experiences.
If you experience a creative block, then take a walk. Outdoor activities that allow our minds to wander have been found to open the mind to innovative ideas. A Stanford study found that walking increases one’s creative output by an average of 60 percent.
Helps you focus
Taking a break by going for a walk can help you focus better. One study found that kids’ brains showed more activity in the areas responsible for focus and attention after going for a brisk walk.
How to make your time outdoors more interesting
Practice a workout move
While some folks may enjoy the simplicity of a walk on its own, others prefer to get sweating. Practicing a fresh move can add variety to your walk and make you feel more toned and athletic. So maybe try doing a quick set of lunges in the park on Monday, squats on Tuesday, and so on.
Take some pictures
Get your camera out and take pictures of what you notice. The act of noticing your surroundings can help you be more mindful and helps keep you in the present moment.
Quiet time outdoors is also a good time to practice awareness. Try to shift your focus onto your breath; notice what you see and hear. Feel grateful for the little things you observe and thank yourself for anything you’ve accomplished during the day.
Discover your neighbourhood
Take this chance to really get to know your own neighbourhood. Figure out new shortcuts, look for murals, or find new parks.
Call a friend or try doing a walking meeting
Working remotely doesn’t mean you have to be tied to your computer all day. Try doing your next meeting by phone and going for a walk, or call a friend or co-worker just to catch up while you take a break outside.
Use an app to track your progress and earn rewards
Some smartphones have built-in health apps and fitness trackers such as Apple Health and Samsung Health that can track your daily step count. Other fitness trackers include Fitbit, Apple Watch, Samsung Watch and Garmin.
Stepbet is a fitness game that motivates you to be active by syncing with your fitness apps and trackers to calculate your activity. With this app, you can bet on yourself to meet your personalized step goals during a game each week. If you meet your goal, you can win a cash prize.
Higi is another similar rewards system. It syncs with your fitness app and you earn points towards rewards on health and wellness brands.
You can learn more tips and benefits of walking during our webinar on Wednesday, August 12 at 12:00 p.m. – 12:30 p.m. This webinar is part of a larger campaign, Design the New Normal, which is focused on helping those who live or work in York Region adjust to the new normal of life during the COVID-19 pandemic.