If you want to make yourself 60% more creative, get off your butt and walk around.
Yes, 60% is the staggering number by which a Stanford study found walking improves creativity over sitting.
Researchers Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz found that walking, both indoors and out, boosted the creative juices.
Stanford News reports, “The act of walking itself, and not the environment, was the main factor. Across the board, creativity levels were consistently and significantly higher for those walking compared to those sitting.”
Subjects completed tasks in different conditions: sitting inside, walking on a treadmill inside, walking outside, or being rolled outside in a wheelchair. Researchers reportedly put the seated participants in wheelchairs outside to present the same kind of visual movement as walking.
An “overwhelming majority” were more creative while walking, and it didn’t matter as much as expected whether they were inside or out.
“I thought walking outside would blow everything out of the water, but walking on a treadmill in a small, boring room still had strong results, which surprised me,” Oppezzo said.
The experiments used tasks commonly employed by cognitive researchers to measure creativity, such as coming up with alternative uses for an object. In some cases, the people walking were 100 % – or 2x – more creative.
Oppezzo and Schwartz wrote in the study published this week in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, “Many people anecdotally claim they do their best thinking when walking. We finally may be taking a step, or two, toward discovering why.”
It’s well known that both late Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg like to hold walking meetings.
Not all thought processes were improved, however. “While the study showed that walking benefited creative brainstorming, it did not have a positive effect on the kind of focused thinking required for single, correct answers.”
Oppezzo said, “This isn’t to say that every task at work should be done while simultaneously walking, but those that require a fresh perspective or new ideas would benefit from it.”
Other research about sitting for too many hours during the day being dangerous has been making the news over the past couple of years. A widely circulated infographic by Medical Billing and Coding released in 2011 warned that those who sit for 6 hours a day or more are 40% more likely to die within 15 years than those who sit for 3 hours or less.
Now you have even more reason to get up and move around.
Oppezzo said, “We already know that physical activity is important and sitting too often is unhealthy. This study is another justification for integrating bouts of physical activity into the day, whether it’s recess at school or turning a meeting at work into a walking on. We’d be healthier, and maybe more innovative for it.”