Have you ever been dealing with a particularly difficult situation and decided to take a walk to clear your head? Well, a new study from Stanford suggests that there is real scientific evidence that walking improves your creative thinking.
The recently published study was co-authored by Marily Oppezzo, a Stanford doctoral graduate in the field of educational psychology, and Daniel Schwartz, a professor of education at Stanford.
To test out the theory, the researchers compared levels of creative thinking under a number of different conditions: seated inside, seated outside and pushed in a wheelchair (to simulate the visual experience of walking), walking on a treadmill in a blank room and walking outside.
They measured creativity by assigning the participants a number of different tasks which required creative thinking. For example, participants were given several sets of three different objects and asked to think of uses for the objects other than their typical purpose. The fewer participants thought of a particular response, the more points it was given for creativity. They also eliminated responses that weren’t appropriate applications for the objects (saying that you could use a truck tire as a pinkie ring, for example).
The results: walking consistently created much higher levels of creativity than sitting. For the participants tested inside, walking on a treadmill increased creativity by 60% as compared to sitting.
In another test, participants were asked to come up with complex analogies from basic phrases. 100% of the participants walking outside were able to come up with at least one complex and completely original analogy, compared to just 50% of the participants seated inside.
The researchers did note, however, that walking didn’t seem to have any positive effects on the type of focused thinking we use when responding to problems with just one correct answer.
Read more from Stanford University here.