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Walking increases creativity by 60%: a study from Stanford University

Learn about a 2014 study from Stanford University that discovered the benefits of walking on creative thinking.

Antah yog corporate wellbeing walking and creativity

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Creativity is an essential aspect of human life that allows us to develop new ideas, perspectives, and solutions to problems. Getting into a creative mindset is one of the greatest obstacles to being creative for work or business. Walking makes our bodies feel better, and we think more clearly. Ensure that your electronic devices are muted to appreciate the walk. Once external distractions are removed, stress and anxiety subside, and our minds can relax. This level of relaxation is where most miracles occur.

We spend most of our time connected to electronic gadgets, such as computers and laptops for work and smartphones for “pleasure” But are we ever genuinely resting or unplugging if we immediately switch to another device after spending the entire day on one?

To reach the brilliance within ourselves, we must reflect on our thoughts, comprehend our emotions and motivations, and align with our authentic, genuine selves. This process is facilitated by walking, and the effects will manifest themselves in our job. Take a few moments toward the conclusion of your walk to reflect on your creative development and how far you have come since you began your trek.

But have you ever considered how physical activity, such as walking, could affect your creativity? A study from Stanford University in 2014 shed some light on this topic, and the results were fascinating.

Other studies have examined how aerobic exercise protects cognitive function over time. Until now, there did not appear to be a study that specifically compared the effects of non-aerobic walking and sitting on the simultaneous generation of new creative ideas.

In one of the trials, it was discovered that a person walking indoors – on a treadmill in a room facing a blank wall – or outdoors in the fresh air generated twice as many creative responses as a person sitting.

This article will discuss the study’s key findings and how walking can increase your creative output.

The study included four separate experiments that tested the effects of walking on creative thinking. The results showed that walking boosts creative thinking in real-time and shortly after.

Experiment 1: Comparison of Walking and Stationary Sitting

In the first study, individuals performed a divergent creativity assignment while seated and walking on a treadmill. Participants were asked to do a convergent thinking task while sitting and walking to test if walking had a selective effect on creative ideation instead of general cognition. The results showed that most participants benefited from walking compared to stationary sitting. Walking outdoors or even on a treadmill increased creative abilities for 81% of the participants in the study.

Experiment 2: Measuring Creative Output

The second experiment repeated the sit-then-walk condition of the first experiment (sit–tread). In a second condition (sit–sit), participants were instructed to sit for both sessions to evaluate whether practice effects existed. In a third condition, participants walked before sitting (tread–sit) to compare those who sat or walked during the initial session. The second experiment aimed to measure the creative output of participants while they were walking. The results showed that the creative output increased by an average of 60% when the person was walking.

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Experiment 3: Measuring Creative Output While Walking

The third experiment was similar to the second one but aimed to measure creative output while the participants walked. The results showed that the creative output increased by an average of 60% when the person was walking. The majority of individuals do not favor a treadmill desk. Walking through a setting, such as a shopping center, a building, or the open air, is more likely. To assess the applicability of the current findings, participants in this study walked outside. The outdoors can provide mental and emotional refreshments. Attention restoration theory (ART) postulates that strolling in natural areas elicits “soft curiosity,” which does not need direct attention and permits the renewal of directed attention capacities. A study indicated that, compared to a walk in the city, a natural stroll restored people’s previously depleted attentional capacities, resulting in enhanced performance when not walking.

Experiment 4: Generating Complex Analogies

Experiment 4 distinguished between the effects of outdoor movement and physical walking. Each participant fulfilled one of four criteria. In the sitting outside condition (Sit Out), participants were pushed down the same university path in a wheelchair as those in the walking outside condition (Walkout). Consequently, both groups experienced the dynamic flow of outdoor stimulation, but only one group walked. In addition, the study comprised an indoor treadmill condition (Walk In) and an indoor sitting condition (Sit In) (Sit In).

The Benefits of Walking for Creativity

So, why does walking increase creative output by 60%? The researchers behind the study suggested that walking can help to stimulate the brain and improve its ability to generate new ideas. It also allows individuals to escape their surroundings and environments, providing a new perspective and fresh ideas.

In addition, walking can increase blood flow to the brain, which can improve cognitive function and increase creativity. It can also reduce stress levels and increase the release of endorphins, which can boost mood and enhance creative thinking.

Many of history’s greatest thinkers and authors were known for their long daily walks, with some walking for several hours. You do not need to go to these lengths to get a boost in creativity: the study found that short walks of 5 to 16 minutes had positive effects on creativity.

While the studies mentioned above provide some evidence to suggest that walking can boost creativity, it’s important to note that walking is not a magic pill for creativity. The studies do not suggest that simply walking will suddenly turn you into a creative genius. Instead, the studies suggest that physical activity, including walking, can positively impact creativity. It’s also worth noting that the studies do not explain why walking might boost creativity.

About the Author

Picture of Sanjeev Yadav, M.A. Yoga, P.G. Psych., DNHE
Sanjeev Yadav, M.A. Yoga, P.G. Psych., DNHE

Mr. Sanjeev is a yoga professional specializing in applied yoga, psychology, and human excellence with over more than 8 years of experience as a health and life coach, well-being trainer, and psycho-yogic counselor. He is completing his Ph.D. dissertation in Yoga.

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