Do you ever sit at your desk frustrated with your inability to begin a paper? Think about the time you have spent brainstorming an advertising campaign or creating a new art project.
Well a new study from Stanford University found that walking leads to more creativity than sitting. Of course, people have anecdotally believed that exercise increases creativity for years. But there is now empirical evidence to back up these claims.
The study was co-authored by Marily Oppezzo, a Stanford doctoral graduate in educational psychology, and Daniel Schwartz, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education.
According to the New York Times, Oppezzo used to take walks to help herself think of thesis topics. This made her wonder if walking actually did help improve creativity.
This study found that it doesn’t matter if you walk on the beach, taking in the ocean breeze, or on a treadmill in front of a brick wall. Either way, it is the act of walking that makes the creative juices flow.
Researchers conducted four experiments and used 176 college students to complete creative tasks.
In one of the experiments, participants were tested first while sitting, then while walking on a treadmill. The creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when the person was walking, according to the study.
The last experiment measured creative output by testing people’s abilities to generate complex analogies to prompt phrases. According to the media release, “the most creative responses were those that captured the deep structure of the prompt.”
The study found that 100 percent of those who walked outside were able to generate at least one high-quality, novel analogy compared to 50 percent of those seated inside.
“We already know that physical activity is important and sitting too often is unhealthy. This study is another justification for integrating bouts of physical activity into the day, whether it’s recess at school or turning a meeting at work into a walking one,” Oppezzo said. “We’d be healthier, and maybe more innovative for it.”
According to HowStuffWorks’ website, the Surgeon General recommends that people achieve a goal of taking 10,000 steps a day to reduce risk for disease and help lead a longer, healthier life. All the more reason to implement walking meetings at work.
So remember this the next time you hit a roadblock while writing a paper or painting a masterpiece. Take a quick walk to get your creative juices flowing!
Hilary Burns is a senior at Wake Forest University from Cape Cod, Mass. Hilary has a passion for storytelling and has been published in multiple national publications including USA TODAY, Huffington Post and USAirways Magazine. She hopes to pursue a career in the exciting journalism industry after graduation in May 2014. When she isn’t writing or editing, Hilary is in a yoga class or planning a future dream trip to Europe.