When characters go for walks in literature, it often signals a period of character development. Walks often function as metaphors for epiphanies and revelations. The transformational power of walking isn’t only for characters in Jane Austen novels. In real life, many people claim they generate their best ideas and do their best thinking when walking.
New research illustrates that the link between creativity and walking isn’t merely anecdotal. A Stanford study found that walking boosts creative inspiration. The participants who walked rather than sat consistently gave more creative responses on tests used to measure creative thinking, such as thinking of alternate uses for common objects and coming up with original analogies to capture complex ideas. In fact, a person’s creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when walking.
To determine whether the act of walking itself was the source of creative inspiration rather than being outside, the researchers compared responses from participants walking on a treadmill indoors facing a blank wall and walking outdoors in fresh air with responses of participants sitting inside or being pushed in a wheelchair outside. Interestingly, being inside or outside didn’t make a difference. The participants who walked whether inside or outside had strong results compared to those sitting.
If you need a boost of creativity, go take a walk. Of course another great option is a treadmill desk. I recently got one and am loving it. I already feel more creative but perhaps I should limit my expectations. As one of the researchers said,
We’re not saying walking can turn you into Michelangelo, but it could help you at the beginning stages of creativity.
All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.