Innovation That Matters

Innovation Culture Bulletin: Walk the walk

Work & Lifestyle

This month we take a look at how physical health can benefit creativity, and explore ways to incorporate walking into congested city living.

“The moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.” — Henry David Thoreau

Urbanization has fundamentally changed the way in which we move around our environment. The majority of cities are designed to favor motor vehicles, often squeezing any remaining walking space into tiny strips of pavement, where we awkwardly sidestep, give way, or occasionally just walk straight into one another. But instead of cursing the head-bent commuter that bumped our shoulders, or the mouthful of fumes we accidentally inhale, there are still ways for us to make the most of cities that have come to prioritize pedestrians last.

In an essay titled “The End of Walking,” Antonia Malchik argues that there is nothing “more human, more natural, more fundamental to our freedom,” than moving around by foot. Human beings evolved to tread at a steady pace, seeking food and shade. It is a natural instinct, and we do it without thinking, arms swinging to the rhythm of our steps.

It is said that even walking just 30 minutes a day can have a great impact on our cardiovascular and mental health. But that’s not all — just like writing by hand, walking is a complex action that connects our cognitive processes and sensory inputs. “The transfer of information from foot to brain, between the inner ear and visual reception, is mind-boggling difficult to calculate,” Malchik explains.

But unless you live in a large city with a well-oiled public transport infrastructure, the chances to incorporate on-foot travel into your daily commute are slim. So how do we make sure we incorporate physical activity in our daily lives, and make the most of cities that prioritize vehicles? Our Innovation Bulletin Five this month has some suggestions.

1. Navigate smartly. We have written about many platforms that help commuters plan their routes according to different needs and preferences. Though it may seem difficult to part with the precious time in the morning, try to introduce a short walk or cycle into a part of your commute (it doesn’t have to be everyday) — but plan your travel so that it is enjoyable and stress-free. Walkonomics will help walkers in major cities find the most tree-lined route — our Spotify playlist this week could set the scene for you too.

2. Get some thinking done on your walk. Before you depart for your (hopefully idyllic and enjoyable) walk, mentally prepare a few difficult-to-tackle tasks to think about. You may find that the fresh oxygen in your brain and new sensory stimuli will prime you for optimum problem-solving and innovative thinking.

3. Moving and shaking. “Sitting is the new smoking” is a phrase we’re all tired of hearing, but improving your posture and standing up every now and then increases blood flow to the brain, and could provide you with a dose of fresh energy for tackling tough problems. Offer to answer the door for deliveries, and try to get up and stretch your legs every hour, especially when you’re having a stressful day. Standing desks, a surfboard chair or posture improving wearable could help too.

4. A gamified health scheme for the office. Not only could health initiatives lower insurance costs for the company, the positive effects on team bonding and employee engagement could be very valuable. As part of our partnership with 1% for the Planet, the Springwise team donned some fashionable wading gear to help build homes for trout the other week. Perhaps a similar outing would be perfect for your office — there are plenty of drier alternatives if that doesn’t appeal…

5. P2P your vehicle with the office. Rideshare apps are becoming more and more popular, and now drivers can even share the costs of insurance with trusted peers, like your colleagues. A new scheme from Ford is also enabling up to six drivers to share the cost of owning one car. Choose one that suits you and your office, even if it’s just giving a few colleagues access to your car — Cuvva could help you on this with their one-hour, in-app insurance plan. Sharing a car will mean the vehicle is less available than if you owned one outright, which is a good way of ensuring you vary your commute regularly.

As always, we would love to hear any stories or thoughts you have. Our Spotify playlist this week is filled with well-paced music that will put you in the mood for a stroll.