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Nature Research in the News: Hiking Meetings & How Trees Impact Health

Nilofer Merchant writes recently in the Harvard Business Review that sitting is the smoking of our generation, it is literally killing us. She proposes that meetings should be held walking, or even hiking. This concept corresponds with the ECO-Human Resource Development framework I have developed, that being outside, particularly in nature, offers many advantages to the workplace.

We sit an average of 9.3 hours a day, compared to 7.7 hours of sleep. The most prevalent aspect of work is sitting. Merchant states, “this lack of physical activity is directly tied to 6% of the impact for heart diseases, 7% for type 2 diabetes, and 10% for breast cancer, or colon cancer. You might already know that the death rate associated with obesity in the US is now 35 million. But do you know what it is in relationship to Tobacco? Just 3.5 million.” She reports that an Australian study found that each additional hour of television a person sat and watched per day, the risk of dying rose by 11%. The quality of our life and health is directly related to living an active lifestyle.

Merchant suggests that we have walking or hiking meetings instead of sitting in a conference room. Exercise helps stimulate the brain, hiking has been found to enhance creativity, and being outside just makes us feel good. It is time to move our meetings outside and experience the benefits for our health, productivity, as well as morale. We need a “take your work outside day”, a new take on the “mobile meeting”.

Many people associate quality of life with the presence of nature. It turns out that the amount of trees in your neighborhood does more than just lift your spirits, they help you live longer. Lindsay Abrams reports in a recent article in The Atlantic that the emerald ash borer destroyed over 100 million trees in Michigan starting in 2002. “The U.S. Forest Service looked at mortality rates in counties affected by the emerald ash borer, and they found increased mortality rates. Specifically, more people were dying of cardiovascular and lower respiratory tract illness — the first and third most common causes of death in the U.S. As the infestation took over in each of these places, the connection to poor health strengthened.”

Research studies have associated spending time in nature with reduced stress, increases in natural killer cells which help prevent the formation of tumors, and heightened  mental health. This study shows that as we loss trees, it impacts health. Maintaining trees in our communities should be at the top of our local, state and national policy agendas. The benefits of trees and nearby nature directly impact so many facets of human health and economic well-being.

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