The philosopher Frederick Nietzsche said, “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking,” an observation just validated by new research.
Behavioral scientists at Stanford University recently put the connection between walking and creativity to the test. They found that participants who walked for as little as eight minutes before brainstorming were 60 percent more creative during the session than participants who hadn’t walked. The researchers observed that the creativity boost lingered, effectively altering the quality of mental output for hours after the walk had ended. The study’s findings were published last month in The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition.
Creativity is one advantage that can be achieved with a short stroll; weight control and increased lifespan is another. A 2011New York Times article entitled, “Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?” discussed the health hazards of sedentary life and featured new research demonstrating that a two-minute walk around the workplace every 20 minutes was more beneficial to health and weight control than an hour of gym after work. Any opportunity to stand instead of sit — such as the commute home — will deliver a health benefit (and giving up obsessively angling for a seat might also relieve some stress).
So often what stops us from altering our behavior is the belief that transformation can only be achieved through drastic action. Yet both of these studies concluded that it doesn’t take a lot of walking to reap a lot of benefit — a small move delivers a big change. If you can find 15 minutes to walk — by getting off the bus a few stops sooner, parking in the furthest reaches of the parking lot or taking the dog out for an extra spin, you’ll improve your creativity, fitness, mood and come to relish opportunities to walk instead of ride and stand instead of sit. Taking frequent walks around your workplace will keep your mind sharp, your metabolism humming and perhaps extend your lifespan. These changes could be truly transforming, and the key to success is to be so reasonable in your commitment that it’s easy to stick with it. Practice makes permanent.
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