Taking a walk may lead to more creativity than sitting

April 24, 2014
Science Daily/American Psychological Association (APA)
When the task at hand requires some imagination, taking a walk may lead to more creative thinking than sitting, according to research. "Many people anecdotally claim they do their best thinking when walking," said one author. "With this study, we finally may be taking a step or two toward discovering why."

To see if walking was the source of creative inspiration rather than being outdoors, another experiment with 40 participants compared responses of students walking outside or inside on a treadmill with the responses of students being pushed in a wheelchair outside and sitting inside. Again, the students who walked, whether indoors or outside, came up with more creative responses than those either sitting inside or being pushed in a wheelchair outdoors. "While being outdoors has many cognitive benefits, walking appears to have a very specific benefit of improving creativity," said Oppezzo.

More research will be necessary to explain how walking improves creativity, the authors said. They speculated that future studies would likely determine a complex pathway that extends from the physical act of walking to physiological changes to the cognitive control of imagination. "Incorporating physical activity into our lives is not only beneficial for our hearts but our brains as well. This research suggests an easy and productive way to weave it into certain work activities," Oppezzo said.

While previous research has shown that regular aerobic exercise may protect cognitive abilities, these researchers examined whether simply walking could temporarily improve some types of thinking, such as free-flowing thought compared to focused concentration. "Asking someone to take a 30-minute run to improve creativity at work would be an unpopular prescription for many people," Schwartz said. "We wanted to see if a simple walk might lead to more free-flowing thoughts and more creativity."

Of the students tested for creativity while walking, 100 percent came up with more creative ideas in one experiment, while 95 percent, 88 percent and 81 percent of the walker groups in the other experiments had more creative responses compared with when they were sitting. If a response was unique among all responses from the group, it was considered novel. Researchers also gauged a participant's total number of responses and whether a response was feasible and appropriate to the constraints of the task. For example, "Putting lighter fluid in soup is novel, but it is not very appropriate," Oppezzo said.
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140424101556.htm

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