We know walking is good for our physical and mental health, but did you know it’s also great for creative thinking? Kali Anthony talks about the benefits of taking a walk.
I’ve always loved a good walk. Some people go to the gym, some people love boot camp. Me? The only exercise I’ve ever persisted with, is walking. We all know of its health benefits, boosting cardiovascular fitness, losing weight. Walking is almost the great panacea, said to reduce cancer risk.
In his book, In Praise of Walking, Neuroscientist Shane O’Mara is evangelical about the merits of a good meander in tapping the powers of your mind and body. In fact, he prefers walking for health, to the gym any day.
But finding time for walking is hard. Especially when you feel like it takes precious time away from your writing, no matter that we all know we need to exercise. When you’re time poor, it seems you never have a spare moment to think about your words. This all hit a vicious cycle for me until a bad back forced me into treading the pavement, because sitting still was hurting me. I took to walking around an hour a day. Not in a stretch, broken up in 20 minute or so chunks! Trying to make up for a job stuck behind a desk and a passion for writing which also keeps me sitting on my backside.
You know what? For a while I ruminated about work, but as I wandered in the sunshine at lunch, and in the moonlight after dinner walking my dog, a funny thing happened. I started thinking about my stories again.
Not just the story I was working on. At night when the possums were about and flying foxes flew overhead, I began to immerse myself in thoughts paranormal. All of a sudden I had ideas for a series of paranormal romance (which is not my genre, if you were asking!) During the day, walking though the city at lunch, the ideas for my contemporary romance abounded. And this all got me wondering.
Was it the walking which helped my creativity?
Neitsche said, “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” Turns out, he was right. My anecdotal observations on the benefits of walking to my creative process, is backed up by research. In the Stanford study, Give Your Ideas Some Legs, researchers found that walking did indeed help creativity. When walking was compared to sitting, walking was found to improve divergent thinking required for creative thought, by a whopping 60%. The best thing? You didn’t have to walk very long to get the benefits. Even 15 minutes would do. Creative thinking carries on past when you stop walking. There’s a handy hangover effect, so creativity continues on even if you’re no longer moving.
In summary, “Walking outside produced the most novel and highest quality analogies… Walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity and increasing physical activity.”
If you want to know why walking works, it has a lot to do with increased blood flow to the brain, but walking also seems to connect new neural pathways. Whilst walking on a treadmill has real benefits, what has been found have most benefit, is a directionless ramble outside.
So, stuck on a story? Instead of weeping into your delectable cup of coffee, throw on a pair of walking shoes, get outdoors and hit your strides.
You never know, on a good walk you might get your next big idea!
Kali Anthony is an aspiring author and senior editor for The Pink Heart Society. You can follow Kali on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
When you're stuck on a story have you tried going for a walk? Has it helped your creativity? We'd love to hear from you here or on social media using #CreativeSteps