Walking Beats Sitting in Boosting Creativity

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Have you heard that there’s a link between brain power and exercise? I’ve increasingly seen these reports, especially in relation to trying to prevent dementia. However, you can experience more immediate benefits – like boosted brain power -- from walking.

    That may seem surprising, but new research out of Santa Clara University provides some compelling evidence why it’s really important to walk on a regular basis! These researchers conducted four experiments to see if there was a relationship between walking and brain power.

     In the first experiment, the researchers asked participants to complete assessments that looked at creative thinking and analytical thinking. These assessments were done while the participants were seated and then again while they were walking on a treadmill. The researchers found an 81-percent increase in the participants’ scores on creativity and a 23-percent increase on the scores on convergent thinking when they were assessed while walking.

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    The second experiment involved asking participants to complete the assessment of creativity three different times. In one instance, participants sat for a specified time and then walked for a regulated time period. The second trial involved walking for a specified time and then sitting for a specific time period. The third instance involved being seated for the entire specified time. The researchers found that walking again increased creativity. Furthermore, study participants who walked first and then were seated experienced a creative boost for a longer period of time.

    In the third experiment, researchers followed the same protocols but asked participants to walk outdoors instead of on a treadmill. Again, the participants showed greater creativity after walking.

    The final experiment assessed participants’ creativity in making analogies. The participants were assessed in four different settings:  sitting inside, walking on a treadmill inside, walking outside, or being rolled in a wheelchair outside. The researchers found that participants offered the most creative and highest quality analogies while walking outside.

    That’s four different experiments, all with the same result. “Walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity and increasing physical activity,” the researchers said.

    Not surprisingly, your physical health and emotional health also benefit from walking. Other researchers have found that walking lowers the rate of weight gain, helps maintain energy levels, boosts mood, strengthens memory, protects cardiovascular health and may decrease the risk of some types of cancer.

    So how can you start incorporating walking into your life? The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute developed a 12-week walking program that is easy to incorporate into your routine. The first week involves walking 15 minutes at various rates. Each following week, you increase the time you walk until you eventually walk for 40 minutes total. Each walk is broken down into a timed warm-up, a period of brisk walking and a 5-minute cool-down walk.

  • There are some other things to consider if you’re going to start a walking program. These include:

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    • Wear the proper shoes.  Opt for flexible, lightweight exercise shoes (walking shoes or cross trainers) instead of running shoes, which are often stiff and not designed for walking.
    • Use a pedometer, fitness bracelet or smart phone app to track your steps or mileage. Doing so has been found to prompt people to walk more each day.
    • Walk outdoors when possible since it provides a more effective workout than a treadmill. That’s because you have to deal with uneven and different terrains -- think about the challenges of walking in sand – as well as wind.
    • Walk downhill so you can build strength in your quadriceps and shins.
    • If you are walking outside, be sure to put on sunscreen to protect your skin and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.
    • Carrying weights while walking is not encouraged because it can increase the risk of shoulder injury.

    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

    National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. (ND). Sample walking program.

    Oppezzo, M. & Schwartz, D.L. (2014). Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition.

    Rubin, C. (2014). Walk this way. Real Simple.

Published On: May 05, 2014