If there was something simple you could do generate epic ideas similar to the likes of Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, would you do it? What if we told you it’s as simple as going for a walk? New research in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition shows that walking boosts creative thinking, which is perhaps why both tech gurus used to hold meetings while walking.
The good news is that the act of walking -- even on a treadmill -- does the trick! Dr. Marily Oppexxo and Daniel Schwartz, professors at Stanford Graduate School of Education found that compared with sitting down, walking indoors on a treadmill facing a blank wall or walking outdoors in the fresh air produced twice as many creative responses. If there was ever a reason to get up from your desk or couch, this may just be it.
“Walking outside would blow everything out of the water, but walking on a treadmill in a small, boring room, still had strong results, which surprised me,” Dr. Oppezzo said, when commenting on the fact that theirs seems to be the first study to look specifically at non-aerobic walking. That’s right. No need to necessarily break a sweat to get those creative juices flowing: Simply get outside or on the treadmill and see what pops into your head.
What kinds of ideas or thoughts can be produced? Those with the most possible solutions, also known as divergent thinking. In one particular study conducted indoors, participants walking on a treadmill scored an average of 60 percent higher on divergent thinking creativity than when they were sitting. But what about other kinds of thinking that your job and daily life may require? You know, the kind of thought that needs single, focused answers called “convergent” thinking. Well, that’s where being inside and sitting may be beneficial.
To test the effect of walking versus sitting on convergent thinking, the testing was done by giving the participants three words and having them come up with what linked all three. For example, if they were given the words “Swiss, cake and cottage,” the answer is “cheese” but walking produced slightly worse scores then sitting for this one.
Lucky for us all, we're in the time of year when the sun's practically begging us to get outside. Fitness fanatic Kris Wolff, CPT, NASM, has 4 easy ways to be more active everyday (and hence, more creative):
Plan an after dinner walk with your spouse or partner: "My husband and I do laps around the neighborhood and talk about our days, the kids and life in general," said Wolff. "It's often the only time we connect these days with our crazy schedules. It certainly doesn't happen daily but we try to fit several in a week."
Incorporate walking, jogging, or sprinting into your weight workouts: "I've discovered the magic of adding 'finishers' to my resistance workouts. I also love to throw some cardio intervals in as a form of active recovery from whatever I've been doing. It's a great way to include some cardiovascular exercise as well as clear your head."
Take a walking lunch at work: Wolff suggests grabbing a smoothie or quick bite with a coworker or friend. It gets you up, gets you walking, and you get a tasty treat in the process.
Play! Wolff stresses the importance of using time with your children as active time. She herself makes it a point to get out there and play sports with her boys, even though they're "better than her." No kids? No problem. Make more dates that include fitness, like a workout class, bike ride around town, or a gym date, with friends instead of those that have you sitting still at a bar.