Learning While Walking

People looking at learning materials while up and about

No we're not having a laugh, in fact we are quite serious about this. A lot has been written about working while walking over the last few years. So why not push the concept a little further and ponder the benefits of learning while walking?

In the July/August 2014 issue of Training magazine in an article entitled Training on the Move Marc Hequet posed an interesting question. "Which would you rather do:" he asked, "Take a walk? Or sit in a meeting or training session (in person or virtual)?"

There's probably a lot of different responses to this. But as Hequet goes on to point out sitting down is a decidedly unhealthy thing to do for prolonged periods of time. Hequet cites a 2012 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine which found that of 220,000 adults who sat for more than eight hours a day 15 percent had a greater risk of dying within three years than those who sat for less than four hours a day. And there is also research that people sit for 9.3 hours per day and sleep for 7.7 hours - there is little activity going on during this time.

A recent BBC program The Truth About Exercise hosted by Michael Mosley featured a fascinating segment on the perils of inactivity. Mosley interviewed Dr James Levine Professor of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester whose team of researchers have determined that most calorie loss occurs not necessarily through exercise but rather through activity. They have developed the concept of NEAT - Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenics. The basic premise behind NEAT is that your body fat increases when you don't burn calories - fairly obvious. Levine points out that calories are burned (thermogenesis) through activity and that there are two levels of activity - exercise activity (such as sports and gym work) and non-exercise activity. Levine feels that non-exercise activity is the greater way to burn calories since it is constant and occurs most of the day as opposed to playing sports or gym work which is only short duration. Non-exercise activity can be related to the work you do or leisure activities such as walking and gardening. For Levine the worst thing you can do is to remain sedentary in a chair all day. His research has found calories are burnt as follows based on occupation: chair-bound people burn 300 calories per day; seated people with no option of moving burn 700, seated people with the option of discretionary movement burn 1,000; people who work standing (cashiers, homemakers, etc) burn 1,400 calories; and strenuous workers such as farmers burn 2,300 calories.

So, research has proven that getting off your proverbial and moving about is definitely healthier for you. You probably already knew this anyway. But if you have an office-based job how can you get more movement into your daily life?

Hequet in his Training magazine article suggest that having a training session or meeting while walking would be beneficial when it comes to "brainstorming, visioning, reflection, goal-setting, networking, etc". He uses Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, as an example and says he "may" have done his teaching while standing up. Aristotle had an association with the Peripatetics school which, according to Hequet, is Greek for "walking around" or sheltered walkway. Probably a bit of a stretch then when he tries to accredit the deeds of Alexander the Great, one of Aristotle's more famous students, to getting up and moving about!

But Hequet does cite more current consultants who meet and train while on the move. Nilofer Merchant, a business professional, blogged in the Harvard Business Review that she changed from having meetings at a coffee shop to having them while walking. Merchant wrote "I now average four such meetings and 20 to 30 miles each week". Must be long meetings!

According to Hequet Matthew Ferrara a consultant from Andover, MA, claims that a walking meeting or training session "pulls people away from their smartphones, laptops, and tablets, as well as removes them from potential in-office interruptions".

But while all of the talk thus far has been about meetings and training on the move we feel there might also be great opportunity for learning while on the move. As more and more learning is placed on online and as those online resources are adapted for different devices such as smartphones and tablets why not do your learning while taking a stroll? Although you will need to take care and watch out for light poles, fire hydrants, and stairs!

As always the Americans have managed to come up with the ultimate way of working and learning on the move. If the weather's inclement or you're afraid of running into a fire hydrant, then you can always invest in a Treadmill Desk from TrekDesk. It is worth having a look at their website at www.trekdesk.com. A Treadmill Desk, as its name suggests, is a desk that fits over a treadmill. As you walk on the treadmill you can be at your desk which can have all of the bits and pieces that you'd have on a normal desk. The idea is that you do your work (or your learning) while walking on the treadmill - how cool! As TrekDesk's marketing says: "The Weight is Over".