Walk This Way—How Walking Improves Creative Output


Some people lock themselves in their room for a weekend to foster creativity, but I can never sit in one place when I’m on the verge of a good idea--I just have to get moving. Whenever thinking needs to be done, my body’s response it always “Up and at ‘em!”

And so I find myself pacing around my apartment, moving from room to room in a trance—and in maybe half an hour I’ll have a rich foundation to tackle a creative problem with new perspective.

It’s not a conscious decision; it’s an instinct. And according to researchers at Sanford University, it’s not just me: walking is actually good for firing up your creative juices!

The results of a study published earlier this year in the APA’s Journal of Experimental Psychology showed that creative thinking improves while a person walks. They measured creative output via a "Divergent thinking" test that gauges how well one generates new, creative ideas by exploring many different solutions.

Sanford psychologists asked the participants of the study to come up with as many alternate uses for a given item as they could.

According to the study, the participants’ creative output increased 60% when walking. That’s some serious brain power—but it doesn’t improve every mode of thought.

For example, when asked to do convergent thinking (thinking that requires a single correct answer as opposed to lots of creative ones), walking only made things worse

That walking increases creative output isn’t exactly news for a lot of writers and composers out there; but I was surprised the study found that walking outdoors doesn't improve creativity any more than walking indoors. In other words, it's the act of walking that sets the mind working, not the environment.

Still, if the weather’s nice and you’ve writing to do, a quick stroll around the block wouldn’t go amiss.