I Took Walking Breaks At Work Every Day For A Month, And Here's What Happened

Who knew taking a few minutes away from your desk could make such a difference?

November 16, 2016
Kayla Lewkowicz
Kayla Lewkowicz

As a former college athlete, I ought to take fitness seriously—and I do, to a point. I manage to exercise almost every morning, and I use a standing desk at work, so I probably (hopefully?) won't die from sitting all day. And yet, I could do better. After all, staring at a computer all day can't be good for anyone's physical or mental health. 

So this past September, I gave myself a challenge: Step away from work for at least five minutes every day for a month—and leave the cell phone behind. My goal was to get out of the office and into the sunshine and just be present. I work in Cambridge, MA, and fall here is beautiful, not to mention bustling (thanks to the arrival of new students at Harvard and MIT). Spending my entire workday indoors seemed like a crime. Here's what happened when I finally forced myself to get out and get moving. 

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I had trouble stepping away.

It's really hard to rip yourself away from your desk when it seems like you have a million things to do. The first day of the challenge, I felt so guilty for leaving my desk—and leaving the office—even though I had blocked off calendar time and talked to my team about my challenge. I worried that I'd seem like a slacker (for taking a 10-minute break), and I couldn't shake that feeling for several weeks. Slowly, my guilt started to fade. I realized that most things can wait a measly 10 minutes. 

Related: How To Start Walking When You Have 50+ Pounds To Lose

I needed walking shoes.

walking boots
Kayla Lewkowicz

Although I claimed to be committed to taking daily walking breaks, by the end of the first week I found myself making excuses. While some of them (like the weather and my workload) seemed out of my hands, I realized that "I'm not wearing the right shoes" was fixable. Even though my company is pretty casual, I still like to wear heels (hey, a 5'2" girl needs any boost she can get). Ditching my pumps for flip-flops or flats made it a lot easier for me to want to walk around and get away from my desk. (You need to do these 5 foot exercises if you never wear sneakers.)

 

I stopped getting headaches.

As a content marketer and social media guru, my computer is my lifeline. While I knew I spent a lot of time online, I didn't realize how intensely I was staring at the screen. The result: killer headaches. (My doctor actually prescribed special glasses to help, but since I don't need them to see, I often forget to put them on.) By taking regular walking breaks, my eyes got a break, too—and my head pain vanished like magic. 

Related: 16 Highly Effective Migraine Solutions

I got to know the city better.

cambridge
Kayla Lewkowicz

 

I may work in Cambridge, but I live out in the boonies, and sometimes city life can be intimidating. The first week of the challenge, I was nervous to stray too far from the office—what if I got lost and was away from work even longer than I had budgeted? But slowly I started to feel like more of a local and less of a tourist. 

Once I got more comfortable, I started venturing further, discovering hidden parks and wandering into Flour bakery (one of the most famous in Boston) to grab a fresh loaf of bread for dinner. Finding great places to eat, things to do, and places to go inspired me to visit the city outside of work hours, too. And rather than rely on my phone for directions, I could relax and explore, confident I knew my way around. 

I started walking even more.

What started out as walking five minutes a day turned into 10 which turned into 20 or longer. Though I was careful not to disappear from work for too long, on beautiful days I hesitated to cut my walk too short. 

Related: 7 Incredible Results You'll Get From Walking 30 Minutes A Day

I became more productive.

Although I was sometimes hesitant to leave my desk because I was so busy, I found that doing so actually helped me get more done. For starters, getting rid of the splitting headaches surely made a difference. But I also found that taking breaks helped me focus. One day, I was under the gun trying to plan a big conference. I had no idea how I was going to finish all of our speaker agreements and get them out the door in time, and it would have been easy to skip my daily walk. I'm glad that I didn't. Taking a few minutes to clear my mind and find some sunshine gave me a chance to reset myself. I returned to my desk with renewed energy, ready to tackle the task at hand.  

I decided not to quit after 30 days.

Even though I was just experimenting for the month, taking a midday walk has now become a part of my routine. No matter how hectic things are, I look forward to taking a quick mental break and can't imagine giving it up. Will I stick with it when fall turns to winter? I may not brave a blizzard, but I'd like to think that this is an afternoon appointment generally worth keeping. 

This article was originally published by our partners at Prevention.