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Walk

Walking isn't just great exercise, it can exercise the mind and help it wander onto a new creative path.

Photo by Nicola Fioravanti on Unsplash


Walking is one of the best things you can do for your body. Mainly because it's free and doesn't require much effort or skill beyond putting one foot in front of another (which does require previous experience).


I have it on good authority from tons of creatives I know, and many I've read about, that a daily walk is their essential creative hack - either to clear out the current work clutter, or to be inspired for another splurge.


They're not just imagining this either. Researchers from Stanford University looked at the levels of creativity in people while they were walking, compared to those who were parked on a seat. They found that the walkers increased their creativity levels by 60%. That's one giant stride towards some new ideas. Apparently these creative juices kept flowing for some time after they sat down too. Nice.


Interestingly, this positive impact was felt whether the person was walking outside or walking indoors on a treadmill for example. Many of us don't have a treadmill of course, but if it's raining outside you can still reap some bipedal benefits with a few laps of the lounge, or an amble around your abode.


Heading off on foot has certainly had its high profile fans over the years.


​"All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking."

So said Nietzsche, who happened to know a thing or two about thinking.


Nikola Tesla, J.K. Rowling, Ernest Hemingway, Steve Jobs, David Mitchell, Snoop Dogg - all have gone on record to say how important walking is to their creative process.


We've looked before at how the act of getting sweaty can get the brain pumping as well as the blood. But why does walking rate so highly for mental stimulation over any other form of exercise?


Whether you're stomping or strolling, you're engaging both hemispheres of the brain as you alternate your legs on the left and right side of your body. It's rhythmical in nature, which is an action known to lower brainwave frequency. And since your left and right brain hemispheres are also responsible for analytical and creative thinking respectively, walking may simply be a way of forcing your grey matter to have a cognitive tea break - letting your unconscious do its thing and pull together some ideas while you tiptoe through the tulips.


For me this makes sense, because it always feels like walking is a form of meditation - even if I'm listening to music, a podcast or walking and talking with someone else.


Neurologist Vinod Deshmukh calls this meditative state a "pause and unload" for our minds, helping us to avoid getting stuck in unhelpful patterns of thinking.


Walking may even be directly linked to our evolved ability to think creatively. In this article from Brain World (great name) they reference a paper by several international researchers called Thinking, Walking, Talking: Integratory Motor and Cognitive Brain Function. The research suggests our ability to walk upright automatically may have evolved at the same point as we developed sophisticated thinking using our left and right brain, since we have to switch between left and right to walk in a straight line.


But whatever the reason behind its numerous benefits, if you want some instant help with creativity, get your shoes on and go for a saunter.

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