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Walking with your coach – research shows the benefits

Walking with your coach – research shows the benefits

I have written a couple of previous posts about walking with my coaching clients – what started it and why I do it. However, it wasn’t a random idea. I am a great advocate of evidence-based coaching and there is a good evidence-base from research into positive-psychology for getting out in the open air.

There are obvious health benefits in walking, jogging or running. However, not all of us are up to doing these for long periods. Also, I find that a lot of my ‘busy’ clients have acquired habits of walking too fast and speaking too quickly. One is associated with the other, as they are breathing shallowly instead of breathing properly. Wheelchair users who work in high-pressure, busy environments, also take to breathing shallowly and speaking quickly.

Getting out in the open air, especially in green and blue space (in parks or by water) can:

  • affect our mood, in a positive way – try looking at a river or the sea and then being angry….    
  • slow down our breathing – walk at a slower pace and your breathing will become slower and deeper.
  •  improve the speed we speak – what perception do your staff and customers get if you’re ‘prattling’?
  • reattach us with the outside world – we all become focused on our own little world. It is worth reconnecting with our wider environment. When the issue you’re dealing with feels overwhelming, remember that the environment around us was there before we were – and will still be there when we’ve gone! It’s a great way to get things in perspective.
  • improve our decision making – busy work makes busy minds makes poor decisions. The research evidence shows it.
  • reduce stress – to try this, before going for a meander, write down your stress level on a scale of 1 – 10. 1 being not stressed at all and 10 being very stressed. Now go for a walk in the nearest park or down by a river. In the worst case, take a walk down the street, look up and appreciate the architecture of the buildings. When you get back to work, note the difference in your stress level. I am not a betting person, but I’m sure it will be lower.

By walking at a slow pace my clients slow down their breathing, allowing them to talk slower and more deliberately. As they become use to this, we often find ourselves stopping and enjoying our surroundings whilst the client thinks. For wheelchair users, the same benefits can be achieved by them spending time in these environments by just going a little slower and focusing on their breathing. Unfortunately, I have been told by some clients that this is the only quality thinking time they get.

If you want to read more about the evidence-base of being in open spaces, referred to as ecopsychology, a good start would be  Palmer, S. (2015) Can ecopsychology research inform coaching and psychology practice? Coaching Psychology International Vol. 8, issue 1 pp. 11-15. This is easily found in a Google search and, like most research papers, refers to others.

Finally, the benefits of being in open space can be achieved, even if you work in city environments, such as central London. The picture of two unusual species of duck, below, was taken on 5th February in Kensington Gardens.

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