Everyone encounters those days that no matter what you do you can’t seem to shake off the fog. Here’ a tip: to get that haze to lift, try taking a walk.
A recent study, coauthored by Stanford researchers Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz, found through four separate experiments that walking has a large impact on creativity (average walking time for experiments was 15 minutes).
In the first test, 48 community college and private university students were selected to complete a word challenge. Then, students were asked to walk on a treadmill and complete an almost identical task. The research showed an almost 60% increase in creativity when subjects first took a walk and completed the task after sitting back down.
In the second experiment, Oppezzo and Schwartz also asked students to complete a word test. This time, the students completed both tests sitting down. The subjects who sat for both trials showed no marked improvements.
For experiment #3, Oppezzo and Schwartz wanted to test whether walking outside (versus on a treadmill) changed the results of the word test. People did indeed respond to outside stimuli, though it was inconclusive whether it produced better results than walking indoors.
For the final experiment, participants were asked to come up with analogies for a given phrase. In this test, participants sat indoors, walked on a treadmill, walked outside, and were pushed in a wheelchair outside. The results from this trial held true to previous results. Those who walked came up with creative responses 95% of the time (those who walked outside came up with creative responses 100% of the time). The researchers noted subjects walking outside were even more talkative than those who completed the test inside. On the other hand, those who sat indoors had a creative response of 50%. Those subjects rolled in a wheelchair didn’t appear to be effected by the stimuli and thus didn’t provide as creative responses compared to when they were walking. The researchers explained rolling oneself could increase creativity, but needs to be tested further.
Oppezzo and Schwartz believe the formation of novel ideas from walking demonstrates the strong interconnectivity between the two. They proposed walking allows us to free our mind, where exercise might not be able to do that. This is based on the natural ease in which most people walk.
So the next time you’re staring blankly at the computer wondering what to title your spreadsheet, try taking a walk. Even if you don’t come up with a Nobel Prize-worthy idea, at least you’ll get a little exercise.