By Chanel S. Weaver, Public Affairs OfficeDecember 18, 2013
One of the most common reasons many individuals do not exercise is because they don't have time in their schedule. Between working long hours, taking care of family needs, and tending to community obligations and other personal needs, there is no additional time in the day to implement a workout routine.
But a group of personnel at the U.S. Army Public Health Command have discovered a way to incorporate fitness into the day by approaching work differently. While many individuals scour buildings looking for a meeting space, these individuals conduct their meeting outdoors--and they walk while they talk. All are members of the USAPHC's Health Promotion and Wellness Portfolio.
"We like to call it our outdoor boardroom," said Col. Heidi Warrington, program manager for the Army Public Health Nursing Program.
These outdoor boardrooms are becoming a popular meeting place within the USAPHC--especially since they allow employees to take a break from the monotony of sitting at a computer for eight hours.
"When we step out of the office, and walk and talk, it breeds collaboration and allows us to brainstorm freely," said Lauren Kropp, a program evaluator at the USAPHC.
Maj. Kari Bruley, an Army public health nurse, said being outdoors causes USAPHC employees to stay focused on the mission.
"The 'outdoor office' lends itself to free thinking with few interruptions or boundaries, all the while exercising the body and mind," said Bruley.
In addition to the opportunities for contemplation and collaboration, these outdoor walking meetings allow USAPHC employees to build and sustain good health.
"After 45 minutes to one hour of walking and talking, we find that we have walked over two miles," said Maj. Lakisha Flagg, also an Army public health nurse.
"Walking and talking has become a collegial venue for us [public health nurses] to incorporate physical activity while comfortably and creatively working through both routine and complex mission requirements," said Bruley.
USAPHC personnel say walking meetings afford them an opportunity to squeeze in fitness when they can.
"We continually look for ways to help our Soldiers create environments where healthy change can take place," said Laura Vasquez, USAPHC program evaluator.
"By participating in these walking meetings, we have an opportunity to practice what we preach."
The outdoor meetings can also be conducted solo.
Dr. Steven Bullock, program manager for the Public Health Assessment Program, holds daily running meetings with himself.
"I typically run each day with my voice recorder," said Bullock. "While I am running, I record myself as I reflect on the day's events and dictate the things I have remaining to do that day," said Bullock.
He said the solo outdoor running allows him to prioritize his actions, and helps him to be more efficient at accomplishing tasks.
The former Army officer enjoys these meetings with his recorder because they provide a dual benefit in keeping him fit and healthy.
"I run in all sort of weather--rain or shine--sun or snow," said Bullock. "I really think it is a good use of my lunch hour to increase physical activity and avoid sitting for long periods of time."
Regular physical activity--along with adequate sleep and healthy nutrition--are the three pillars of Army Medicine's Performance Triad. Personnel who include these essentials to their daily routine are able to optimize their health.
Many USAPHC employees say they are grateful to work for an organization with such flexibility.
"I enjoy incorporating walking into my day," said Wana Jin, a program evaluator. "I haven't experienced this emphasis on health and wellness in other places where I've worked."
Laura Mitvalsky manages the Health Promotion and Wellness Portfolio at the USAPHC, and encourages her employees to be active during the day. Many of her staff members wear pedometers to see if they can meet Army Surgeon General Patricia D. Horoho's recommendation to take 10,000 steps daily.
"These outdoor meetings are wonderful, because they allow our employees to get away from the distractions of the office, focus solely on the issue and topic at hand, and build and sustain good health habits in the workplace," said Mitvalsky.
Lauren Shirey, public health accreditation lead and program evaluator, said she enjoys incorporating walking into her day.
"It's great to work for an organization where we can accomplish the mission and support our health and wellness goals at the same time," said Shirey. "Anyone is capable of leading a healthy lifestyle if they think outside of the box."