Need Some New Ideas? Take A Walk

Need Some New Ideas? Take A Walk

Taking a walking meeting isn't just good for getting you out of your chair -- a new study shows that it could also be better for your creativity.

Researchers from Stanford University's Graduate School of Education found that study participants gave more creative responses to questions meant to gauge creative thinking when they were walking, versus sitting.

"Asking someone to take a 30-minute run to improve creativity at work would be an unpopular prescription for many people," study researcher Daniel L. Schwartz, Ph.D., said in a statement. "We wanted to see if a simple walk might lead to more free-flowing thoughts and more creativity."

The study included several experiments, involving 176 people overall. For one of the experiments, 48 college students participated in two tasks: In one, they were asked to come up with alternate uses for common items, such as a button or a tire, in order to test creativity. In the second task, the participants came up with a word that combined three other words (for instance, given the words "cottage," "Swiss" and "cake," the answer would then be "cheese"). The participants completed the tasks while sitting in a room facing a blank wall, as well as while on a treadmill facing a blank wall.

Researchers found that the participants performed better on the first task when they were on the treadmill, but mildly worse on second task when they were on the treadmill. Specifically, 81 percent of the study participants were more creative in the first task when they were walking on the treadmill.

"Walking had a large effect on creativity. Most of the participants benefited from walking compared with sitting, and the average increase in creative output was around 60 [percent]," the researchers wrote in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition study. "When walking, people also generated more uses, good and bad. Simply talking more, however, was not the sole mechanism for the increased activity. When walking, people generated more uses, and more of those uses were novel and appropriate."

In another experiment in the study, researchers looked to see whether the "outdoors" part of walking outdoors boosted creativity more than the "walking" part. They found that it was more the walking that seemed to spur the creative ideas, versus the being outdoors. However, researchers noted that "walking appears to prompt high structure and novelty, whereas the outdoors seems to influence novelty."

Similarly, a study conducted by researchers from Leiden University last year showed that regular exercisers have greater creativity and perform better on cognitive tests than sedentary people.

"We found that people who are doing exercise on a regular basis outperform those who don't," study researcher Lorenza Colzato told The Telegraph. "We think that physical exercise trains your brain to become more flexible in finding creative solutions."

In another study, published in 2012 in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers from the University of Utah found that making time to unplug and recharge in nature could also help to boost creativity.

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