If you are unable to come up with a catchy, creative way to present data or begin an article, take a walk. A brief stroll can significantly increase creativity. You can walk around the office or around the block. Either way it’s going to help.
Most of us know that exercise, generally improves thinking skills, both immediately and in the longer term. Studies have shown that people usually perform better after exercise on the ability to make decisions and organize thoughts. Prolonged exercise can cause mental fatigue though so don’t do a marathon and then go back to your cubicle.
Exercise has been linked to creativity for many years. The millenniums, writers and artists have said that they come up with their stuff during a walk.
“Daniel Schwartz, a professor in the Stanford Graduate School of Education, Dr. Oppezzo recruited a group of undergraduate students and set out to see if she could goose their creativity. Gathering her volunteers in a deliberately dull, unadorned room equipped with only a desk and (somewhat unusually) a treadmill, Dr. Oppezzo asked the students to sit and complete tests of creativity, which in psychological circles might involve tasks like rapidly coming up with alternative uses for common objects, such as a button. Then the participants walked on the treadmill, at an easy, self-selected pace that felt comfortable. The treadmill faced a blank wall. While walking, each student repeated the creativity tests, which required about eight minutes.” Almost every student’s creativity increased a ton when they walked. Most were able to generate about 60 percent more uses for an object.
“Most of us cannot conduct brainstorming sessions on treadmills. So Dr. Oppezzo next tested whether the effects lingered after a walk had ended. She had another group of students sit for two consecutive sessions of test-taking and subsequently walk for about eight minutes while tossing out ideas for object re-use, then sit and repeat the test. “After the second test walking still improved people’s ability to generate creative ideas, even when they sat down after their walk.
Dr. Oppezzo decided to run a third test and moved portions of the experiment outdoors. “When volunteers strolled Stanford’s pleasant, leafy campus for about eight minutes, they generated more creative ideas than when they sat either inside or outside for the same length of time. But they were not noticeably more creative as a result of their plain-air walk than when they subsequently walked on an indoor treadmill, facing a blank wall.”
The tests concluded that it’s the walking that matters and not the setting. Which is wonderful for everyone working in an office. You can walk wherever you want during your day, just make sure you walk.
Walking has its primary effect: creativity blooms more easily within a cleared up mind. A fifteen-minute walk every day will allow your brain to break through and have the freedom and innovation to come up with new ideas. If we think about the age of enlightenment and how many wonderful ideas were going on during that time, it isn’t surprising that they didn’t drive everywhere or sit in cubicles. There was room to work and they were encouraged to explore.