Walking and thinking, thinking and walking
How many of us find that our ideas and creativity tend to flow more while taking a walk, mowing the lawn, hanging the washing or taking the bins out?
A study from the University of Stanford found that the act of walking, not necessarily the environment, significantly boosts creative inspiration. Whether indoors or outdoors, walking returned a 60% average increase in creative output, compared to sitting.
This is not new. Our old friend Aristotle founded the Peripatetic School in 335 BCE, named after the peripatoi, covered and colonnaded ‘walkways’ of the Lyceum in Athens where members met to discuss philosophical ideas. Even before the school was established, Aristotle would meet with his teacher, Plato, down by the harbour in Piraeus for ‘contemplation walks’. At work, Aristotle was also fond of a stroll, he habitually walked while lecturing.
Fast-forward to the 20th Century and we find German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche doing the same. He maintained that his most stimulating thoughts were inspired by long, strenuous walks through the German and Italian Alps. He wrote “A sedentary life is the real sin…Only those thoughts that come by walking have any value”.
If you are reading this while walking, we applaud you (although watch the kerb or check for headroom). So much of our modern waking day is spent sedentary, zoning in on a screen, with senses stimulated nearly 18 hours a day. Walking, or physical movement, brings respite from this, as well as the opportunity to play with ideas, explore concepts and challenge our thinking.
The physiological benefits of movement are well documented: think heart, blood, oxygen, muscles, organs. But, unlike some forms of movement, walking is relatively effortless, truly allowing the mind to wander and think creatively. We are released from the boundaries of purely logical thinking, or the temptation to reach for a distraction (book, device, earpods etc.) and we engage with our whole brain.
Think on your feet. Being able-bodied is something to value and make the best use of. The screen can always wait for five minutes.
“When I stop I cease to think, my mind only works with my legs” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau