Is walking beneficial for creative thinking? You have surely seen famous people holding meetings on foot, and you have probably walked back and forth occasionally when lacking inspiration, or trying to figure out a solution to a problem. A new study provides an explanation for this phenomenon.
Recently, a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, Cognition, explained the creative potential of walking. Named “Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking”, the study included four experiments which demonstrated that walking increases creative ideation in real time. Whether indoors or outdoors, the act of walking increases creative thinking and behavior.
Quoting Nietzche’s saying “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking”, researchers concluded that creativity levels were significantly higher for those walking in comparison to those sitting. “Many people anecdotally claim they do their best thinking when walking. We finally may be taking a step, or two, toward discovering why,” researchers from Stanford wrote, adding, „The effect is not simply due to the increased perceptual stimulation of moving through an environment, but rather it is due to walking.“
We already know that aerobic activity (running) brings great benefits to both body and mind, however, by now no study was researching the benefits of mild activities such as walking. Non-aerobic walking, for instance walking outdoors in the fresh air, produces extraordinary creative responses (twice as many responses compared to a person sitting down).
Moreover, walking on a treadmill also brings great creative response, “walking on a treadmill in a small, boring room still had strong results, which surprised me,” said Marily Oppezzo, a co-author of the study. Even shortly after a walk, creative process is continued, researchers indicated. In these four experiments, 176 college students and other adults were asked to compile tasks commonly used to test creative thinking.
In order to gauge creative thinking, participants were placed differently, walking indoors on a treadmill and sitting indoors (facing a blank wall) and walking outdoors and sitting indoors (being pushed in a wheelchairs). The researchers then compared these different combinations to get results.
Testing “Divergent Thinking”
In three of these experiments, the researchers tested “divergent thinking”, a thought process or method used to provoke creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions (such as alternatives). The majority of the participants were more creative in these three experiments while walking, the study concluded. In one experiment, which was the combination of indoor sitting and walking on a treadmill, the creative output was increased by an average of 60 percent when a person was walking.
The researchers also measured people’s abilities to generate complex analogies for prompt phrases in the fourth experiment. The result showed that 100 percent of those participants who walked outside managed to generate at least one high-quality new analogy.
The study showed that there is no link between walking and focused thinking
Walking has benefits for creative brainstorming, on the other side, it doesn’t have positive effects on focus thinking, that is on thinking that requires single, correct answers. “Walking is an easy-to-implement strategy to increase appropriate novel idea generation. When there is a premium on generation new ideas in the workday, it should be beneficial to incorporate walks,” explains the study. The study will surely lead to further research, and perhaps include other mild physical activities.
What do you think? Will you start walking more often?
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