I have my blue visor on, my sunscreen rubbed in and white walking shoes laced up. I'm strolling the shores of Lake Merritt in downtown Oakland, stealing a glimpse at the geese as my companion and I talk.

But we aren't just talking. We are conducting business. We are having what's called a walking meeting, and it's the good kind of multitasking: I'm working as I exercise and enjoy the outdoors. We're all so busy at home and at work, so reclaiming some fresh air and exercise during the workday is smart time management.

The health benefits of walking are well documented -- just 30 minutes a day, five days a week is enough to improve your health. Research has shown that regular brisk walking lowers blood pressure and the effects of depression. Walking reduces the risk of stroke and heart disease by 40 percent. Clearly, the more we walk and the farther our two feet take us, the more rewards we reap.

As an organization, Kaiser Permanente has been walking the "walk talk" in myriad ways. The most visible evidence is our Everybody Walk! program (www.everybodywalk.org). On the website, you'll find plenty of free resources, including a smartphone app.


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Now that I covered the health benefits, what are the business benefits of a walking meeting? I began holding walking meetings in 2007, soon after I came to work for regional health education at Kaiser Permanente's downtown Oakland offices. Our department's objective is to help our members take care of their own health, and we strive to set a good example of that.

Walking meetings were part of the culture when I arrived. I quickly realized that walking meetings were a wise path for me to take. I encounter fewer interruptions, distractions from my computer and smartphone and other work demands competing for my attention. I'm a kinetic learner, so the conversations and my thinking while walking are more alive. The change of atmosphere and movement stimulate my creativity.

I also found walking meetings have strengthened relationships with my team and helped foster new ones across the organization. Getting out of the traditional office setting has been conducive to connecting with people in a different light. And when I visit colleagues in our medical centers, I make sure to take walking tours there so I can best understand their environment.

Six years after my first walking meeting, I now hold two or three a week. I'm always ready for a meeting-on-the-go. I keep T-shirts, yoga pants, visors, shoes and sunscreen in my office. Decide on your own routine, but since I like to build in time to change, I find walking meetings work best around the lunch hour.

I encourage those who want to try walking meetings to find a favorite route. Choose a park, a quiet street or just a destination route that ends in picking up lunch or coffee.

But remember: Only certain meetings are fit for walking. The ones that work best are more conversational, such as check-ins, brainstorms, "getting to know you" or shared problem-solving sessions. This is not the time for discipline or negotiations. As with any productive meeting, it's always a good idea to conclude your walk-and-talk with a summary of how each participant is going to follow up.

Every time I return from a walking meeting, I feel great. I was able to get work done while getting a mini workout. With my head clear from a walk, I can then focus better in the office. Try it. You may find you're at your most productive in sneakers.

Kathleen Eyre is the managing director of health education at Kaiser Permanente Northern California in Oakland.