When trying to come up with a fresh idea, have you ever found that pacing around the room sometimes helps?
Don’t worry if the answer is “yes,” you’re not necessarily crazy. In fact, according to Stanford researchers, there’s a reason for this curious habit.
A new study has found walking can help stimulate creative thinking according to Marily Oppezzo, a Stanford doctoral graduate in educational psychology, and Daniel Schwartz, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education.
According to the study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition:
“… across the board, creativity levels were consistently and significantly higher for those walking compared to those sitting.”
Surprisingly, environment is not a significant factor when walking creativity, but rather just the act itself. Whether walking on a treadmill facing a blank wall or taking a stroll outside, subjects gave twice as many creative responses as an individual sitting down.
“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.”
The research included 176 participants and comprised of four experiments that attempted to gauge creative thinking.
Three relied on “divergent thinking,” such as finding alternate uses of a given object. According to the study, participants creative output increased by an average of 60 percent when walking as opposed to sitting.
The fourth experiment tested the participants’ ability to construct complex analogies when presented with phrases.
Every person who walked came up with at least one idea that no other participant used, while only half of those sitting were able to do so.
While there appears to be a correlation between walking and creativity, other types of thinking, such as focused thinking, are not positively affected by walking.
When performing a word association task, those sitting down performed better than those who were sitting, according to the study.
Oppezzo says walking should be used to think outside the box:
“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.”