New Trend for Fitness Buffs? Walk and Talk to Walk Your Talk

Between work, watching TV, internet surfing or playing computer games, Americans on average are sitting 9.3 hours/day, exceeding the 7.7 hours that we are sleeping. We take this way of life for granted, in the same way smoking used to be the social norm rather than the exception.

“Sitting has become the smoking of our generation,” argues author, blogger, and visionary Nilofer Merchant of Silicon Valley in this noteworthy TED Talk. The implication? Sitting on your butt is just as bad for you as those cigarette butts of yore (okay, bad pun).

While that might seem a ludicrous statement at first, consider these facts: Sitting long hours is estimated to contribute 10 percent of the risk of breast and colon cancer, 6 percent of the risk of heart disease, and 7 percent of the risk of Type 2 diabetes. And because everyone is sitting, we don’t even think to question our habits.

Since working for most people necessitates spending long hours at our desk, what’s the solution? Some companies are introducing ‘standing desks’ in an effort to give employees a break from long hours of sitting. But there are other options, Merchant notes.

Recently, she was invited to a meeting with someone who asked if she minded if they met while she walked her dog. This set off a light bulb for Merchant. We tend to separate work and exercise, but why not combine the two? Now, instead of scheduling meetings around conference tables or over coffee, she schedules walking meetings. Her work week now includes walking 20 to 30 miles between Monday and Friday.

“If you walk and talk, walk the talk, you’ll be surprised that fresh air drives fresh thinking, and you can bring into your life an extremely new set of ideas,” says Merchant.

Merchant is the author of 11 Rules for Creating Value in the #SocialEra, a book about reconciling forces that are typically seen as opposing. She is known for her ability to reframe opposite ideas, so that both can co-exist. Uniting work and exercise is just one example of how things we normally consider opposing really can exist together—all it takes is a little shift in perspective.

Merchant’s example is a good reminder to vary up your workday. Get a wireless headset, so you can move around while on the phone, or even just stand and stretch at your desk.  Find ways to move for at least 5 minutes an hour, whether it be to stretch, walk around the office, doing a simple desk yoga practice or even ‘just’ taking a few deep breaths. You will find that you stay more productive and focused throughout the day with energy to spare at the end of the day.

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