"During a simple 10 minute walk, it is amazing how ideas can be generated, solutions explored and areas discussed openly, effectively and with a great use of time that invigorates the body and mind".
There are many benefits to taking short walks during the school day. In this article, Dawn Vernon goes beyond the coffee break and talks about advantages to conducting meet-ins on the move.
"The walk around the countryside with a colleague coping with a personal crisis was invaluable to provide a different perspective to a difficult situation. We were able to discuss ideas to move forward in a more positive fame of mind whilst also benefiting the person by being away from the school environment".
The 'Walking the Way to Health Initiative' (WHI) is funded by the British Heart Foundation, Countryside Agency and New Opportunities Fund.
Why have 'Walking Meetings'?
- If room scheduling is difficult host a 'walking meeting' - 'Walk and Talk' and add steps to your walking day!
- It is an invaluable use of time.
- Walking stimulates oxygen flow around the body to increase your brain function so you can be more creative and it also increases your ability to solve problems faster.
- Being on the move allows the mind flexibility because you are looking around as you walk. This stimulates the right side of the brain and the visual sense gives a greater sense of perspective to a situation being discussed.
- Breathing is improved (standing and walking - rather than slumped in a chair!), which again improves brain function and increases energy.
- Being outdoors can increase confidentiality. You may feel more able to discuss issues without the fear of others listening and it avoids the meeting room with 'thin walls'!
- It provides an informal opportunity to learn from colleagues; discussing things in detail leads to interesting spin-offs.
- The walk meeting can be as long as you want; it can be just a few minutes or up to 30 minutes.
- You may find that you chat to colleagues that you've never really spoken to before.
- Break habits and change your normal way of doing things.
Ideas for 'Walking Meetings'
- Traditional meeting support (such as whiteboards) may be absent but meetings when you do not need to take notes can be easily organised around the school perimeter or in the countryside. Immediate thoughts, solutions to problems, action points can be jotted down on sticky notes kept in your pocket.
- Hold a 'Break Out' session. This is a great idea for an INSET day where large numbers may be involved in training or a traditional meeting setting. You could break the group into twos, threes or fours to walk for a designated time during the meeting. You might ask them to come up with for example, five ways to overcome a specific problem.
- Informal walking discussions before or after formal meetings can become a very focused learning situation.
- Mentor meetings and informal appraisals lend themselves well to being outside for a walk. You can discuss, listen, question, reflect, support, encourage and challenge whilst on the move.
- Have a few umbrellas available so the weather doesn't become a barrier!
- Warn your colleagues before the meeting, so that they can bring appropriate footwear and a coat.
- The meeting should still have an agenda and a sense of purpose - what is your intended outcome?
If you would like further details of the WHI campaign you can visit the web site: www.whi.org.uk or phone the Countryside Agency on 01242 533258.
Dawn is the training manager of the Walking the Way to Health initiative having originally taught PE for 10 years in state and independent schools. Her experience also includes being a trainer for Look After Your Heart: Look After Yourself (HEA) and working as a health promotion specialist in Wiltshire. She has an MSc in Exercise and Health Science. TEX