While we take pride in sharing the message that a healthy lifestyle is important, it’s also critical to follow that advice and live a healthy lifestyle! Highmark Health employees don’t just talk the talk — we also walk the talk (#IWalktheTalk). In this series, individual employees share their stories and tips on achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle — and also what makes them tick when it comes to health.

As employees and leaders in the health care industry here at Highmark Health, we have opportunities to “Walk the Talk” on our journey to healthier lives. Here’s a simple idea the two of us (Gina Dansak and Sydnee Bagovich) have used to get a little exercise — and boost our spirits and productivity — during the workday: Take a meeting outside.

Man and woman dressed for work having a meeting as they walk outsideIn our jobs — and most workplaces we’ve ever heard about — meetings with managers or co-workers are pretty much a daily reality. If you think about how often you are in meetings, the hours can really add up.

So, why not try just one of those hours in a different setting that requires everyone to walk a little farther than just down the hall? In addition to the physical activity helping you feel more energized during the workday, consider these other potential benefits:

  • Different environments inspire new ideas and solutions
  • Meeting participants are likely to be more alert and engaged after a stroll
  • Everyone can reconnect with the general beauty, fresh air and natural light of the outdoors
  • You fit some “fitness” into your day without requiring any extra time commitment

Put Some Stairs on Your Meeting Agenda

Sydnee changing shoes

Sydnee puts on her walking shoes to take her workday outdoors.

Sydnee here with one of my favorite tips. I walk the stairs every morning up to my desk on the 12th floor of the Highmark building here in Pittsburgh.

Now, I didn’t walk to the 12th floor from day one. At first, I would just walk to 3, 4, 5 … as far as I could go before being winded — then grab the elevator for the rest of the way.

One day, I decided to go a little farther. I found that once I made it past 5, my heart rate settled down, and I could keep going. Eventually, I arrived at the day where I decided that I was going for it, and I went all the way to 12. And then I did it again. And again. Now it is my routine.

In fact, I take the stairs anytime I can. Now, I know not everyone works in a building as tall as the Highmark building, but the basic idea is if you have stairs — use ‘em! Going to a meeting? Take the stairs. Out to lunch? Take the stairs.

But, you say, that takes time! Well, yes it does, but I was surprised at how much time it doesn’t take. I timed myself up and down the stairs to the 12th floor. It took me a little over four minutes to go up, and a little over two minutes to go down. That is just walking at a pretty regular pace. For extra fun, I time myself and try to beat my best time.

The bottom line is that, depending on the number of flights you climb, and how busy your elevators are, using the stairs may not take much more time, and may even take less time, than waiting for the elevator, and then stopping at other floors for others to get in and out.

Try it! Even if you just climb two or three flights, consider how many more healthy steps you’ve built into your day by making this choice instead of taking the elevator!

Don’t Settle for an Unhealthy Sit-uation

Let’s face it — many modern jobs involve spending most of our days sitting in front of a computer. And too much sitting has been shown to be … not too healthy. In fact, an expert quoted in a Washington Post article notes that, “Metabolism slows down 90 percent after 30 minutes of sitting. The enzymes that move the bad fat from your arteries to your muscles, where it can get burned off, slow down. The muscles in your lower body are turned off. And after two hours, good cholesterol drops 20 percent.”

Gina lacing up her sneakers outside

Gina is out of her seat, out of the building and lacing up for a healthy walk.

The bad news is that’s just the tip of the iceberg — there are plenty of other health hazards related to long periods of sitting. The good news is that there is much that we can do — and even fairly simple things can make a difference. For example, a CNN article points out that, “A growing amount of research suggests that just standing — even if you don’t walk around — can give health benefits. To get the right balance, sit 20 minutes out of every half hour at work, stand for eight and move around for at least two minutes.”

That is good information and good guidelines! Sometimes, we need to start healthier habits with baby steps, but awareness is the first step.

Once you vow that you’re not going to sit there and take it anymore, you’ll probably find yourself coming up with lots of good reasons to get up and move around. Here are a couple of our favorites:

  • Have a team meeting? Take the stairs down together, stop somewhere for a coffee or tea, head to a location outside, and find a table, bench, or ledge as necessary to start your meeting.
  • Conference call where you don’t have to take notes? Dial in from your mobile, and participate while taking a walk. You could even find a local park or walking path to enjoy while you “attend” the meeting. The fountain at Point State Park near the Highmark building in Pittsburgh is one of our favorites. If you have never done this, it is quite amazing to realize that you can fully participate in a phone meeting while getting in touch with the tranquility and nature beyond our cubicle walls, computers and conference rooms.
  • Quick conversation? Not all meetings during the workday are “official” meetings. Sometimes you just need to discuss a project or share some information with a co-worker. Instead of writing a long email or dealing with the challenges of “cubicle conversations,” just head down the stairs and lap around the block once or twice while you talk. You’ll get the same amount of work done and both enjoy it more — especially if there happens to be beautiful, blue sky and sunshine!
Gina and Sydnee walking outside

Gina and Sydnee literally “walking the talk” by demonstrating the joys of taking a meeting outside.

Taking Time for Your Health Is Good for Everyone

In the workplace and at home, sometimes we don’t make ourselves a priority because we are so focused on giving our time and energy to our teams, co-workers, families and friends. Giving to others and contributing to the greater good is wonderful — but it’s important to remember that taking time to take care of ourselves does not necessarily mean we’re doing less for others. In fact, when we invest in keeping ourselves healthy, we can be at our best and do even more for the people and projects that we care about most. It is a win-win!