[Written by Peter Nielsen].
We’ve often stressed that exercise and walking improve cognitive skills, both immediately and in the longer term. We already know that; we take a long walks to ‘get rid of the cobwebs’ after long work sessions, when we’re emotionally worn down or have a difficult problems to solve. Many studies support the idea that walking boosts brain health … now we know that boost includes the creative thought functions too!
New research demonstrates a clear correlation between walking and creative thinking. In a series of experiments, researchers from Stanford University in California compared levels of creativity in people while they were walking and while they were sitting. The study, which was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, found another great reason for walking as part of a well-rounded fitness regimen. It boosts your creativity!
Researchers from Stanford University conducted a series of four experiments that included 176 participants. The group was comprised of college students and other adults who walked or sat in outdoor and indoor environments. Participants were also asked to complete their walking and sitting sessions using a specific mix of walking and sitting. During the sessions, participants were engaged in tasks that are used to measure the creative thought process. The tasks all focused on divergent thinking creativity — coming up with ideas by thinking of multiple possible solutions – in three experiments. Answers were rated by originality and usefulness. The walkers ranked higher on divergent thinking creativity than when they were sitting! In one indoor experiment, the participants walked on a treadmill and scored an average of 60% higher on divergent thinking creativity than when they were sitting!
A fourth experiment tested a more complex type of creativity in which participants respond to simple cues with complex analogies. The study found that 100% of the participants walking outdoors came up with at least one high-quality complex analogy, compared with thinking of 50% high-quality complex analogies when they were sitting indoors!
Researchers are not sure exactly why a casual walk has such a strong effect on the creative thinking process, but you can add this to your list of reasons to take a walk.
Take a walk, you’ll be healthier, happier and more creative!
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