Start Walking During Your Lunch Break

To combat afternoon slumps in enthusiasm and focus, take a walk during the lunch hour.

A new study finds that even gentle lunchtime strolls can perceptibly — and immediately — buoy people’s moods and ability to handle stress at work.

It is not news, of course, that walking is healthy and that people who walk or otherwise exercise regularly tend to be more calm, alert and happy than people who are inactive.

But many past studies of the effects of walking and other exercise on mood have focused on somewhat long-term, gradual outcomes, looking at how weeks or months of exercise change people emotionally.

Fewer studies have examined more-abrupt, day-to-day and even hour-by-hour changes in people’s moods, depending on whether they exercise, and even fewer have focused on these effects while people are at work, even though most of us spend a majority of our waking hours in an office.

So, for the new study, which was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports this month, researchers at the University of Birmingham and other universities began by recruiting sedentary office workers at the university.

Potential volunteers were told that they would need to be available to walk for 30 minutes during their usual lunch hour three times a week.

Most of the resulting 56 volunteers were middle-aged women. It can be difficult to attract men to join walking programs, said Cecilie Thogersen-Ntoumani, the study’s lead author and now a professor of exercise science at Curtin University in Perth, Australia. Walking may not strike some men as strenuous enough to bother with, she said. But she and her colleagues did attract four sedentary middle-aged men to the experiment.

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary