Need a Burst of Creativity? Get Up and Get Walking

UPDATED: September 13, 2019
PUBLISHED: December 25, 2014

Stanford psychologists have discovered that when people walk, they increase their creativity by 60 percent compared to when they sit. Benefits occurred whether walking on a treadmill in a room facing a blank wall or striding outdoors in fresh air. After four experiments involving 176 college students, the researchers also learned that:

• Taking a hike as a timeout from work allows time to rethink—“re-conceptualize”—a project or problem from another  viewpoint.

• Strolling helps simply because it’s exercise, a known mood elevator. And a strong mood, especially a positive one, results in more novel ideas.

Creative juices keep flowing even when a person sits back down shortly afterward.

• Walking doesn’t aid the focused thinking required for single, correct answers—a straightforward math problem, for instance.

Study co-author Marily Oppezzo, a Stanford doctoral graduate who is now an adjunct faculty member at Santa Clara University, appraised the findings this way: “Not every task at work should be done while simultaneously walking, but those that require a fresh perspective or new ideas would benefit from it. We’re not saying walking can turn you into Michelangelo, but it could help you at the beginning stages of creativity.”

Famous Walkers

Walking might not make you the next Steve Jobs, but it couldn’t hurt. The late Apple founder and CEO liked to meet people and hold walking meetings. A few others who incorporated walking into their daily rituals include Ingmar Bergman, Mark Zuckerberg and Harry S. Truman, pictured below as well as Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ludwig van Beethoven Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Charles Dickens.

Check out 8 reasons why walks are good for relationships, too.