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Recent Findings Suggest That Walking Leads To Better Creativity

It’s common knowledge that a walk in the park can help relax you and open your mind, but recent research has confirmed that walking can actually help foster personal creativity. Many great minds of the modern age like certain founders of networking websites and computer companies have stated that they got the idea for their now multimillion and billion dollar companies while enjoying a walk. Researchers from Stanford University would agree with these money makers and say that walkers have an advanced creative output of up to 60%.

Reported Findings

Dr. Marily Oppezzo and Professor Daniel Schwartz from Stanford grad school recently published their findings in the journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition. 176 college students were studied during this research, and tasks were completed to determine creative thinking. These tasks are the same ones used to discover levels of creativity in other studies as well. Participants in the study were placed in a number of activities including sitting in wheelchairs, sitting on stationary objects, non-aerobic walking, walking outside, walking on a treadmill, and other situations. Each session, walking and sitting, lasted for 6 to 15 minutes. After this time testing took place; one of these particular tests is called divergent thinking, which causes subjects to think of as many uses for a specified object as possible in a 4 minute span. 3 different objects were used, and the outcomes reported that there were far more uses given for items during walking tasks than sitting tasks. Medical News Today reports: “In one particular experiment carried out indoors, participants walking on a treadmill scored an average of 60% higher on divergent thinking creativity than when they were sitting.”

In a separate experiment subjects were tested with prompts that had to be responded to with analogies of a complex nature. The more a given analogy corresponded to the prompt, the higher the score received. During this time researchers found that all participants were able to use one highly complex analogy while walking outside, while only 50% did so while seated inside.

Surprising Results

When the research for this study began, researchers assumed that the findings, if positive, would lead them to learn that walking outside was a more creative experience than walking inside. This may be because previous studies have found that being in nature has been a cause for creativity and relaxation as well, but the findings didn’t support this theory. In fact, what they learned was that while it made a big difference whether subjects were walking or sitting, it didn’t matter at all whether they did the walking inside or outside. Gretchen Reynolds of The New York Times says: “When volunteers strolled Stanford’s pleasant, leafy campus for about eight minutes, they generated more creative ideas than when they sat either inside or outside for the same length of time.”

There were no noticeable findings stating that there was any difference between walking inside where it was closed off and stuffy to outside where there was fresh air or scenery. This means that even if you’re only able to make it to the gym for thirty minutes between work and home each day, or in the morning before you head into the office, you’ll have a much better line of creative thought. This could be helpful for school aged students, as well as adults who need creative thinking for career tasks or even at home with their children. In fact, the length of time it took for positive results to appear suggests that 30 minutes isn’t even necessary, and a quick 5-10 minute stroll through an office building or around the block might help when you’re having difficulty thinking as well.

Other Methods Of Creativity Boosting

Many cultures, including this one relies on different foods as creativity boosters, expressing interest over the nutritious effects of fish on the brain, or green vegetables on deep thinking. Ancient civilizations believed in different herbs having powers to focus energy and creativity, while others swore by things like cocoa as a way to find expression and creative thought. August McLaughlin of livestrong.com expresses: “People who deem themselves "starving artists" may be starving more than their bodies. Their creativity may also be suffering. Contrary to popular belief, many artists rely on nutritious foods.”

Other studies have proposed that similar to the walking study, other forms of exercise may have the ability to extend focus and creativity. In fact, some fitness techniques that have adapted from ancient and religious practices have become modern obsessions like yoga and other meditation activities. Yoga is an especially expressive workout as it allows you to focus on mind and body simultaneously and many of the yoga practices are founded on smooth streamlined motion which takes concentration and calm.

This study and many others like it have opened the door to the concept of mental and physical action being linked together, and may promote an active lifestyle as a benefit to cognitive function and a better working life. If people began to understand the full impact that sitting in a desk chair all day had, not only on their bodies, but on their brains as well, they would be more likely to get out and do things during break times. This behavioral analysis could also alter “couch potato syndrome” in those who arrive home from work and want to do nothing more than sit on the couch and watch television. It may seem relaxing to allow your mind to drift into oblivion and refuse original thought in the place of preprogrammed images and stories, but you’d get much more out of a walk in the park.

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