Taking your class for a walk may boost communication, wellbeing

Two recent studies examine the benefits of walking

Taking your classroom outside—and going for a walk—is likely to not only improve fitness, but ease communication and reduce stress, a new study from Sweden finds.  

As part of a challenge to reduce the amount of time staff spent sitting, Olle Bälter, a lecturer at Sweden's KTH Royal Institute of Technology, began taking one of his seminar classes outside.

In a survey of students in the class, Bälter found they were more energized after the walking and were more comfortable communicating. Specifically, 17 of 23 students said communication was improved, and 21 reported feeling more energized than after a regular seminar.

"Students feel freer to talk when they are outdoors than when they are in the classroom," Bälter observed.

Students agreed. "Even those who were too shy to speak in larger groups" contributed more outside, said sophomore Frida Haugsbakk.

The health benefits of regular walking are well known, but recent studies are providing more confirmation that they aid in creativity and emotional wellbeing as well. Researchers from University of Birmingham recently ran a controlled trial examining the moods of people immediately after they took 30-minute walk at lunch.  

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The researchers found walkers were more enthusiastic, had reduced tension, and felt better equipped to deal with the day's challenges. Moreover, study author Thogersen-Ntoumani says it is likely those emotional benefits translate to better productivity.

"We would expect that people who walked at lunchtime would be more productive," he said (Andrei, ZME Science, 1/22; Science Daily, 1/26).

The takeaway: Walking not only increases your health and emotional wellbeing, but also might improve the classroom experience, according to two recent studies.

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