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Thinking on the Move

There is definitely something about being on the move which gets us to think differently about things.

I've recently contributed to a book on coaching outdoors (will share the link when it's published) and it got me thinking about all the benefits. Walking coaching offers a triple whammy: Coaching + Being in Nature + Exercise!

So, what potential benefits do we know about?

Firstly, there's all the well evidenced health benefits:

  • A typical two hour walk will burn about 500 calories

  • It gets our hearts pumping a little quicker and as such we get more oxygen to our body and brain

  • Being in nature and walking reduces blood pressure and has positive impacts on stress and anxiety

  • Exercise releases endorphins which elevate mood and increase psychological resilience

But more specifically, what are the potential benefits having your coaching session whilst walking?

  • A study by Oppezzo and Schwartz (2014) demonstrated between 81-100% of people to be more creative walking than sitting. (Video below)

  • Berman (2008) validated the Attention Restoration Theory by showing that time in nature improved our ability to focus

  • Berg and Beute (2021) specifically explored coaching whilst walking and concluded it was effective in lowering burnout symptoms

Over my years of offering walking coaching, I've definitely seen all of the above and more. There's something about being out of the office which makes the whole experience less formal. Being in nature relaxes both me and the client.

The novel environment likely brings the creativity to solve problems in a way that would not have been obvious in the office.

The experience of walking with someone rather that sitting opposite them puts less pressure on making eye contact and allows our brain to roam a little more freely. A study by Stanford noted that Zoom Fatigue was predominantly attributed to the intensity of eye contact. I've even noticed that walking side by side, a less 'confrontational' positioning, means that people feel like they can share more about what is going on.

Stream of consciousness seems to flow a little more easily and silences feel more productive and not at all socially awkward. This can be liberating for the extravert who always feels the need to fill silences or indeed the introvert who discovers that they give themselves permission to stay in their head for a little longer comforted by the fact that we're both engaged in another activity.

Being outside shifts our perspective on things. We realise both how big the world is and how small we are by comparison. I've worked with clients who seem to have a direct correlation between our elevation and their ability to see further along the horizons of their life and work. The recent trend in Awe Walks further cementing this phenomenon.

Being outside also offers an abundance of metaphor that people can use to bring depth to their thinking. The weather, foliage or terrain can help a client find the words which describe what is going on for them in any moment. I guess it all depends on what works for the individual.

So, whether you're going for a walk with a colleague for your one2ones, debriefing after a tough day with your partner or friends or coming for a coaching session with me... Never forget that just maybe, being outside and walking will offer you the breakthrough you've been looking for!

As always... Thanks for reading!

Tips from the video

  • Pick a problem or topic to brainstorm

  • Walk at a comfortable pace WHILE you are brainstorming

  • Come up with as many ideas as you can

  • Speak and record your ideas

  • Cap your time

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