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Dr. Michael Evans, Nilofer Merchant and Jennifer Keesmaat

March 19, 2013 by Speakers' Spotlight

Talk the Walk

Speakers’ Spotlight’s co-founder, Martin Perelmuter, weighs-in with his thoughts on a recent trend he’s seen among our speakers and the impact their thoughts are having world-wide:

One of the things I enjoy most about our work at Speakers’ Spotlight is the opportunity to interact with clients from a broad range of industries and fields, and speakers from a cross-section of disciplines and experiences. This provides us with a birds-eye view of the trends that are shaping and affecting all aspects of society. I recently noticed that one of the things that most people do on a daily basis–without ever thinking about it–has been popping up in interesting and unexpected ways. I’m talking about walking, and here are three recent examples:

 

23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?
A little more than  a year ago, in December 2011, Dr. Michael Evans, a Toronto family doctor, posted a video on YouTube entitled “23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?”. It went viral, and has been viewed more than three million times since its release:

As recently reported in The Globe and Mail, the video is “reaching hundreds of thousands more in French, Spanish and Italian, while the Arabic-language version launched in June was the fifth most-watched video that week and has now reached almost two million views. The nine-minute video offers a miracle cure that slices through rates of diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and depression: half an hour of walking.”

 

Walk to School

A few months later, in May 2012, renowned urbanist (and now the City of Toronto’s Chief Planner) Jennifer Keesmaat delivered a TEDx talk entitled “Walk to School.” In this talk, Jennifer’s passion for building sustainable communities is evident, as she reminds us of a simple yet meaningful pastime–the walk to school.

Keesmaat posits that at a very basic level, walking to school is a good indicator of what kind of culture we have in our communities. Today, the vast majority (approximately 90%) of kids are driven to school, whereas in the previous generation it was the exact opposite–nearly 90% of kids walked. In one generation we’ve almost wiped out a practice that is so important. Walking to school helps kids develop autonomy, combats childhood obesity, and reduces our environmental footprint. Three big ways  that this simple act can have a profound impact on our lives and the world around us.

 

Sitting Is the Smoking of Our Generation

A couple of months ago, on January 14, 2013, Nilofer Merchant wrote a Harvard Business Review Blog entitled, “Sitting Is the Smoking of Our Generation,” and a few weeks later she delivered a TED talk on this topic. Her key idea is quite simple: she was spending way too much time in front of her computer, and when she had face-to-face meetings, they were typically done around a conference table, sometimes at an airport lounge, and quite often at coffee shops. Four years ago, she made a simple change when she switched one meeting from a coffee meeting to a walking-meeting. She liked it so much it became a regular addition to her calendar; she now averages four such meetings, and 20 to 30 miles each week. She describes it as “life-changing.”

And after a few hundred of these meetings, Nilofer started noticing some unanticipated side benefits. First, she finds that she can actually listen better when she is walking next to someone than when she’s across from them in some coffee shop. Second, the simple act of moving also means her mobile device mostly stays put away. Undivided attention is perhaps today’s scarcest resource, and hiking meetings allow her to invest that resource very differently.  And, finally she almost always ends the hike joyful. The number one thing she’s heard people say (especially if they’ve resisted this kind of meeting in the past) is “That was the most creative time I’ve had in a long time.”

 

So there you have it. A medical doctor, a city planner, and a business strategist are all talking about walking. I find it ironic that in this highly wired, hyper-connected world, something as basic as walking can be the key to improved personal, professional, and community health. If you have any questions, or would like to discuss these ideas with me, give me a shout, and we can go for a walk and talk about it.